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3 Creative Exercises to Make Change Stick in 2019

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Jan 03 2019

Ever since I was little, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to mix up my New Year’s resolution routine—from vision boards and journey maps to classic spreadsheets and lists of lists. But setting resolutions and actually sticking to them can be very different things.

Whether you’re looking to be more productive at work or make a more personal change, it helps to have a roadmap. Here are three low-fi methods to help you stick with your intentions for the New Year.

1. Start at the finish line

“Designing Your Life” (DYL) is a popular Stanford d.school course (and now, best-selling book) that helps you leverage design thinking to creatively envision your future. The curriculum guides you to identify and flesh out several different paths (or “odyssey plans”) that your future might take, in order to discover what’s possible and gain clarity about what matters most.

We can apply this same process to 2019. What are various directions that the next 365 days might take? What decisions or moments might guide the path ahead?

Try this:

  • Close your eyes and visualize where you might be at the end of 2019, in as many as three different scenarios.
  • Choose the path that excites you most, and write a eulogy, looking back on the passing of 2019. What did you learn, do, and experience? What events or opportunities created meaningful twists and turns along the way?
  • Reflect on the eulogy and see if you can identify any surprising patterns or trends in the language. These might hint at a few of your New Year’s resolutions or areas that matter to you for 2019.
  • Store the eulogy in a place where you’ll stumble upon it throughout the year, or seal the letter in an envelope to open one year from today.

2. Step into your discomfort zone

Doing things that scare us can be healthy and inspiring. Take Jia Jiang, who overcame his fear of rejection by spending 100 days asking for what he thought he would never receive—everything from a “burger refill” at a restaurant to a live radio interview. Not only did he gain confidence in asking for what he truly wanted, but he even walked away with some critical yeses to his asks, opening the door for him to do things he never thought possible.

What fears do you want to conquer in 2019? Here’s one way to get started:

  • Draw three concentric circles on a piece of paper, like a target. The innermost circle is your comfort zone. As you move farther from the bullseye, you get farther outside your comfort zone. Everything outside the circle or by the edges of the paper are activities you need the most courage to do.
  • Starting from the center and extending to the outermost ring, write down five to 10 activities in each area that you want to do but might need a little extra nudge to make happen.
  • Compare your comfort zone map with a partner. Did you flag skydiving as “level-three scary,” only to find that it’s squarely within your partner’s innermost comfort zone? Maybe they could show you the ropes. See if there are also activities where the opposite is true, and your partner can lean on you in return.

3. Break up with it

Do you have a proclivity for showing up late all the time, or a tendency to scroll mindlessly through your Instagram feed in the morning, rather than starting your day intentionally? Do you have a behavior, activity, or even a physical belonging that you want to say goodbye to in 2019, so that you can make room for what you really want?

Once you know what you want to break up with, try this:

  • Write a breakup letter. As you’re writing, consider: Why are you done with this behavior, activity, or thing, and what’s going to replace it? Why is this change so critical to make in 2019? How will you make sure that you don’t end up getting back together again? Sign the letter at the end and date it, as you would with a formal contract or pledge.
  • Keep the letter in a place where you’ll be reminded to follow through, like on your nightstand or in your wallet.
  • Katie Kirsch

    Business Development Associate, IDEO Palo Alto
    A designer, marketer, and girls leadership coach, Katie is happiest helping others turn passion into purpose and bring impact-driven ideas to life.
  • Max Lackner

    Visual Interaction Design Intern, IDEO Palo Alto
    In the space between design and research, Max explores, communicates and visualizes the future worlds we are heading towards—whether realistic, utopian or dystopian—in order to raise awareness on today’s actions and their long-term effects.
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