"Stage" Your New Year's Resolution Now!

Drag racing is an incredible sensory sport. You not only see the race, you feel it, hear it, taste it and smell it. This is especially true when the most powerful cars - those burning nitromethane rather than gasoline - prepare for their runs.

Drag racers prepare for their quarter-mile runs by staging burn-outs at the starting line. Revving their engines and spinning their tires, they put on a spectacular show for their fans, but the smoke, noise and vibration have a practical purpose too. It gives the crews a last chance to make sure that everything is connected and responding properly, and just as importantly, that the tires have enough traction - stick - to transform torque into speed. If a dragster attempted his run with cold tires that hadn't been heated by spinning at the starting line, his tires would slip when he jammed on the accelerator, and his opponent would leave him in the dust.

A similar thing often happens with New Year's resolutions. We come to the starting line with cold tires, jam on the accelerator, and our best intentions get us nowhere. We create a lot of noise and smoke, but we don't reach our goals, because we didn't properly prepare ourselves.

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Research shows that, though nearly half of us set New Year's resolutions, only 8-12% succeed.

Reasons for failure are many. Some people have yet to develop the discipline to stick to a goal. Yet others set unrealistic goals, while still others set proper goals, but fail to plan properly for their execution.

I believe that many fail, because they get discouraged when they sense failure and recognize that as the beginning of the end of yet another resolution. After all, most of us fail most of the time when attempting a resolution. If this happens to us every year, we have to do something different to give ourselves a better chance of success.

This year, consider starting your New Year's resolution in the last month or so of the year. Think of it as heating your tires before officially arriving at the starting line. When you wake up on New Year's Day, you'll be more prepared than ever to finally achieve a New Year's resolution.

As an example, consider what is likely the most common resolution set at the beginning of the year, losing weight. Instead of waiting, like most people do until they're bloated from overeating during the holidays, start your diet on Thanksgiving Day. Sure, dieting during the holidays isn't easy, but if you are to achieve your goal by December 31 of the next year, you are going to have to learn to moderate intake during that time anyway. Imagine the confidence you'll gain if you prove to yourself that you can diet during the holidays. January and February will fly by, and when the holidays roll around at the end of the next year, you will know how to avoid temptations.

Of course, many of us will fail early during the resolution period. Get that out of the way in the last few weeks of the year. Think of it like the drag racer staging before he inches up to the starting line. It's far better to discover a lose cable in the moments before the race than after the green flag drops.

My resolution for 2014 is to write more consistently, at least one page per day. It's not all that hard when I have a nice quiet day in the office and write consistently over the weekend. Unfortunately, I rarely have a nice quiet day in the office, and writing rarely wiggles into my weekend. To get seven pages per week, I have to track my pace and plan accordingly.

Because I want to start 2014 on pace and with a plan, I started working on the resolution during the last two weeks of October. I created a spreadsheet with an inventory of the writing projects I have underway. On each line is also the page count and date of the last time I spent time working on the project. The spreadsheet keeps an automatic tally of my output each time I update the day's work.

I am not on the page-per-day pace yet, but I'm a lot closer than I was a few weeks ago, and I'm completing projects more quickly, because I'm organized and my pace is improving. When January 1 rolls around, I will have positioned myself for success. Will you?

-- Mitch Arnold