Write Your Personal Business

It’s that time of year again. The pressure is on to make New Year’s resolutions: Lose weight. Get to meetings on time. Interact more with your direct reports. A few goals are put on a list…and are forgotten by January 3rd. While this annual ritual of reflection is well intentioned, it rarely changes behavior because it focuses on what you do (or should do), not the deeper question of why you do it.

I’ve discovered an alternative to New Year’s resolutions, one that addresses that disconnect between the what and the why and can spark real change. It’s the personal manifesto, and it particularly valuable for those who aspire to lead.

Michael Hess, founder of sales management firm Core 6 Advisors, introduced me to the idea. The manifesto is a tool that he uses with sales managers and salespeople to help them focus on their true personal and professional aspirations as well as what it will take to achieve success.

The genesis for Hess was a collection of quotes and thoughts he had written on Post-its and stuck on his computer monitor. As Hess began to spend less time at his desk, he put all those notes on a sheet of paper, kept folded in his wallet, so that could reflect on them wherever he was. Along the way, he realized what an essential compass these scribbled words had become. They weren’t just notes, they were the fodder for his personal manifesto.

A manifesto is a rigorous written account of where you are, where you would like to be, and why. Unlike New Year’s resolutions, the personal manifesto isn’t tied to the time of year or to specific acts. It is a way to keep yourself focused, thoughtful, and on-track through the ups-and-downs of a busy life. And it can be amended as needed.