Don’t Just Make Resolutions; Achieve those Goals

November 24, 2020


Have you made resolutions to avoid certain temptations, or achieve particular goals this year? 

Now that we’re nearing the end of the year, hands up if you’re among the many who have made resolutions for the year ahead.  Next, if you’ve developed a plan to achieve those resolutions, use one or both those hands to pat yourself on the back; you deserve it. For, while resolutions generate great attention each December, it’s a disciplined approach to habit formation that supports the success of such resolutions – or, in other words, the achievement of goals.

Think about this in the context of any job search you’ve undertaken; it’s likely that you did much more than simply resolve to secure such positions. Many assistants who work their way up the ladder to EA, MA, PA or Office Manager roles do so by mapping out and then acting upon career plans that involve a series of incremental goals, discipline and good habits.

So, how to move from a resolution or goal to incorporating habits that increase the likelihood of success?

There are many theories related to successful development and maintenance of habits; some suggest that commitment to a new or modified routine for number of days leads to effective development of a habit. As you sift through various approaches before deciding what works for you, it may be worth considering business coach Tom Bartow’s thoughts, below, on three phases of habit formation.

The honeymoon: Riding a positive wave of intention or inspiration, perhaps at the beginning of a new year or following a conference with peers, we begin work on making positive life changes.

The fight-through: After the first blush of inspiration, we may find it difficult to block the return of former habits and  maintain new practices. How to work through this stage? Be prepared; anticipate that there will be struggles and choose how you respond to them.

  1. Acknowledge that you’re in such a stage. The theory is that, each time we make a conscious choice to resist temptation or revert to an unwanted habit, we’re also setting the stage to win the next such struggle. Each time we choose to let ourself lose a particular round of this stage, though (“It’s only one session I’m missing”, “I deserve a break” and so on), we’re making it easier to lose the next round.
  2. Bartow suggests bringing emotion into the fight. Ask yourself, How will I feel if I do this/if I don’t do this? If you find your motivation waning, you may want to project what your life will look five years down the road if you don’t continue with the changes you’ve begun making.  Take a cold, hard look and ask yourself whether you’ll be satisfied with such a future.

Second nature: While we may encounter disruptions (holidays, illness) that can imply a temporary return to fighting through struggles,  daily commitment leads to development of habits. Be aware of the potential for seduction of success (“I’ve got this!”) or discouragement; here Bartow suggests reverting to the successful strategies tapped into during phase two.


  • About the Author:Shelagh Donnelly educates and inspire assistants on topics ranging from meetings and minutes to business acumen, cybersecurity and working with boards. She helps assistants nurture their adaptability, productivity and resilience in order to enjoy the career and continue to add value even as roles evolve. An international speaker, Shelagh worked with C-level executives for more than 25 years and is recognized for her governance expertise. Shelagh founded her globally read Exceptional EA website in 2013, and is the author of the upcoming book, The Resilient Assistant.   

This article first appeared in Exceptional EA, a globally respected professional development resource for administrative professionals. Visit to find out more and tell her we sent you


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