One year ends, a new one begins and about 50% of us take part in a ritualized listing of New Year’s resolutions.

But do resolutions work? Like everything else, there’s conflicting research on this. Some studies show that resolutions are effective. Others say, not so much.

For me, New Year’s Resolutions aren’t worth the paper I write them on. Yet, I keep hearing that setting specific, measurable, time-bound goals is the right thing to do. I learned in the workplace, in coach training, and in countless popular and professional books and articles. So it must be true, right?

Maybe not. Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, cites a Harvard Business School working paper that reviewed the research on goal setting. It concluded that “…a narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation.”

I assume that’s not what we’re aiming for! Bregman thinks it’s better to choose a broad area of focus that taps into our inner motivations. Resist creating goals, he suggests. Instead, stay open to what happens as you pursue activities within your area of focus.

Bregman’s idea sounds simple: identify  “…the things you want to spend your time doing …and spend your time doing those things. The rest takes care of itself.” He says we’ll achieve at least as much as we would have through goal-setting , and that we’ll enjoy the process a lot more.

I’m not saying to  ditch goal-setting if it works for you. But if it doesn’t, maybe Bregman’s approach is one worth trying. Either way, if there are changes or achievements we’d like to make this  year there are a some things we can do increase the likelihood of success.

  • Reflect on our experiences in 2015 and identify what we learned from them.
  • Use what we discover through this process to identify what we truly want to do, change or achieve in 2016.
  • Do this work with support and encouragement from others.

Whether you identify areas of focus, or set measurable, time-specific goals — or do both— is up to you.

You’re invited to  do this as a “write-along.” Each week, for the next few weeks I’ll offer you some new prompts. You’ll respond to the prompts on your own and at your own pace. Others will be doing the same. In addition to, or instead of writing, you can respond to the prompts by doodling, drawings, taking pictures or recording videos.

Where’s’s the support part? You are invited to  post what you’re doing, discovering and wondering about  in a “secret” Facebook group. There we can  support each other’s learning, motivation and progress. Members of a secret group have to be approved by an  administrator (me). No one outside the group can see it or our posts (though the posts will show up in your timeline – where only you can see them).

Are you in? Just send me a request to join the group. If you want to respond to the prompts on your own without joining the group, of course you’re welcome to do that.

Try spending about 10-15 minutes a day (or more if you wish) doing this until you feel you are done with each prompt.

Here are the first prompts. Respond to all three, even if at first it seems like you don’t have anything to say. This is more than just completing the sentence. Follow your thoughts where they take you, writing/working continuously for 10-15 minutes. Or longer if you like.

  • The greatest gift of 2015 was…
  • In 2015 I surprised myself by…
  • In 2015 I learned that…

Enjoy!