In ancient Roman Mythology Janus was the god of beginning and transition.  His temple was opened at the beginning of war and closed during times of peace.  His image had two faces, one looking back at the past and one looking forward toward the future.

The month of January is named after Janus, the god of beginnings, and according to Roman Mythology he is the one that ushers in new beginnings.  January or new beginnings lead us to the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. 

For many people making New Year’s resolutions is a way of making a fresh start.   Last Year, a Co-worker made a huge list of New Year’s resolutions.  In the elevator on the way to his floor he excitedly exclaimed, “So far, I have kept to my New Year’s resolutions, I am eating healthy, I am working out, and I am paying off my credit cards.  Today is only January 3rd; I hope I can keep this good streak going!”  As we all too often know, we may start out with good intentions, but life’s distractions soon take a hold of us and we fail in reaching our goals and we often put off resetting those goals until the next New Year’s Day.  One woman’s prayer sounded like this, “Dear God, I am on a good streak right now, so far I have not offended anyone, I have stuck to my diet, I have not yelled at my kids, and I have kept a positive outlook on life.  I am going to get out of bed now, I can’t promise that this streak will continue so forgive me in advance.”

Why is it so hard to stick to and accomplish our goals in life?  Every new year we start off with grandiose objectives for ourselves only to be disappointed with failure a few months, days, or even hours into the new year.  Many will read books about achieving their goals and even use S.M.A.R.T guidance for setting goals, keeping their goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  Still the chances are slim for success. 

There is hope!  There are professional goal setters and achievers in the world, we call them project managers.  We project managers excel in setting, executing, and achieving goals.  If you think about it, that is really what we do for a living.  We project managers have built methodologies around achieving our objectives, we have sophisticated control tools, tracking systems, reporting, and whole organizations built around setting and achieving organizational goals.  

So, with this expertise, do we project managers have trouble reaching our personal goals?  I surveyed project managers and I asked them if they were successful in keeping and achieving their New Year’s Resolutions.  At least 60% said no. What?!!  How could this be?  We are professional goal setters and achievers.  Organizations rely on us to help them realize their goals, whether those goals are new buildings, an enhanced software release, a new product, a new fighter jet, or a football stadium.  How can we, of all people, fail at setting and achieving our own goals in our own lives?  Let’s be honest here, I can’t be the only Project Management geek who has used Primavera, MS Project, or At Task to track and control a goal in my personal life.  

If you are one of the 60% that has problems reaching goals or if you know someone who can’t keep a New Year’s resolution, here are some helpful tips:

I suggest that when setting goals, we should be like the god Janus, we should look to the past for lessons learned and look toward the future for opportunities of growth.  Our past shows us what did or did not work, and our future vision should be the imagery of what we hope to attain, the value we hope to add.  Additionally, I feel we should have a third face that focuses on the present, the here and now.  The present is where we are, this is the only place in our mortality that we can act.  Now is the time to make things happen, now is the time to make the decisions, now is the time to commit.

Procrastination can derail our goals and good intentions.  The reason most people procrastinate is because of the fear of failure.  We must accept the notion that we will have failure, but we can look back on our failures as learning experiences and look forward with the knowledge that we will not repeat that mistake.  With each failure in the past we learn how not to do things in the future and here in the present we can take the actions necessary to avoid that failure again.

                The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second-best time is now.”

                                                                                                                                -Old English Proverb

When looking forward, how can we achieve our desired future?  To help, let us apply our principles of good project management.

 All our daily activities or actions lead to some sort of outcome or consequence whether positive or negative.  Let’s focus on the positive flow. Those outcomes or consequences create benefits and benefits create overall value.   

In product / project management we focus on the value we can deliver to our customers.  We painstakingly perform market/persona research to determine what customers value. The definition of customer value suggests that there are two aspects to customer value: desired value and perceived value. Desired value refers to what customers desire in a product or service. Perceived value is the benefit that a customer believes he or she received from a product after it was purchased.  

In good product management to understand how to deliver that value we work the model backwards.  We project managers also live by this rule when planning and that rule is: “start with the end in mind.” Understand the intended value, then describe the intended benefits, the desired outcomes, and what activities we would need to create those outcomes.  If these activities are different than our current activities, then we have identified changes that need to be made to improve and reach our future outcomes. 

In our personal lives we can do the same.  Identify and envision the desired value and perceived value.  What would your life be like if your values were met?  Let’s say your New Year’s Resolution is to lose 20 pounds in 2 months, after eating too many sugar cookies and fruit cake over the Holidays.  A goal like this would pass the acid test of a S.M.A.R.T goal.  It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  Yet how can we approach it better to ensure we keep to our goal.  Instead of planning to lose 20 pounds let’s first envision the value of losing weight, both desired and perceived. The desired value is a new state of health and fitness, the perceived value is that we will feel better about ourselves, become more confident, and have a better self-image.  Picture that value with visual cues, examples from others, and any data about losing weight and good health.  Use that as your objective instead of just picking some numeric value, 20 pounds, as it would be measured by the scale. 

Next, identify all the benefits.  The benefits could be; the ability to fit into those designer jeans, looser fitting clothes, easier breathing when going up the stairs, strength, health, positive self-image, confidence, and that “Wow, I look hot!” when you walk by a mirror (perceived value). 

Outcomes are muscle tone, loss of the midriff flab, and increased cardio endurance. 

The sum of the activities that lead to the outcomes, benefits, and overall value are?  List them.  Walking, hiking, hitting the gym, taking the stairs, cycling, eating right, etc…

Now as a project manager we know what to do with activities.  Put them in a project plan, schedule them, and track performance!!!  When tracking performance, make sure you have the appropriate measurement system. The flaw in choosing a scale as the measurement system for losing weight is that when people begin working out, they begin to build muscle.  After working out for a while they step on the scale and become discouraged to see that they have gained a bit of weight instead of losing weight.  Muscle weighs more than fat, so as they work out their muscle weight goes up as their body fat goes down, but the total fat weight reduction is not noticeable because of the increase of muscle mass.  So, validate your measurement system so you truly know what your progress is.

As we execute our personal projects look to our past and document areas of failure or lessons learned and identify them as future risks.  In the “now,” commit to action, follow your schedule, and track performance.  If you are worried about discouragement, like experiencing a set-back or missed milestone, put together your own change management process to get back on track.  Use the skills and tools you use in your daily job to create successful personal goal achievement plans.  We are the experts in managing projects so why not use our principles, processes, and tools for managing our personal projects.  Projectize parts of your life.  Important safety tip: Don’t projectize everything, leave room for spontaneous actions.  For example, if your spouse says, “hey let’s go for a walk to the café on the street corner” forget the project plan and go to the café.  You should have enough contingency built into your plan as to deal with these type of risk events…  and trust me the risk event that would happen if you did not go to the café will outweigh any risk event on your schedule.

With January coming up, try a new formalized approach to New Year’s Resolutions and use your project managment skills.  The next question to ask yourself is this:  Is achieving my life’s goals an Agile approach or a Waterfall?


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Stan D. Prueitt

Stan D. Prueitt

Contributing Author

Stan D. Prueitt, a performance consultant in Process Improvement, Organizational Design, Human Design, and Project Management; holds motivational seminars, life coach workshops, Lean Six Sigma certifications, and performance seminars across the country.  Stan draws upon his colorful past experiences and associations to blend simplicity, common sense, eternal principles, humor, energy, and wisdom into a strait forward approach to self and team improvement.  His mentors and Martial Arts Masters have forged Stan into a wealth of experience and knowledge of which he freely shares.  Students of his seminars leave with recharged spiritual batteries, focused purpose, energy for new opportunity, new understanding, and a tool set to become an effective change-agent in their own lives or organizations.    

 While currently leading enterprise integration and organization and process performance initiatives for the LDS Church Educational Department, Stan still finds time to consult to private and municipal organizations on the side.   Previously he was not only a Director of Project Management at the Los Alamos National Laboratory but also one of the leaders in the Lean Six Sigma program.  Stan led a team to restructure the organization to focus on process centricity, performance, enterprise project management, and to move the overall maturity of the organization from level 1 to level 5 of the enterprise maturity model. 

As a true efficiency expert Stan wears many hats, he is a published author of 4 books, co-founder of two publicly traded renewable energy research firms, president of Thunder Ridge Wildlife Refuge, holder of one US patent and inventor of two classified weapons program inventions, adventure TV show host, Lean Six Sigma master black belt, Lean Six Sigma and Performance Management instructor, master instructor and holder of six black belts in the Martial Arts, owner of USLLC Tactical Marital Arts training center, professional off-road race driver, entrepreneur of two successful franchise chains, radio show host,  project manager for research projects, motivational speaker, certified law enforcement officer, husband and loving father of five.


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