Resolutions don’t work. Try this exercise instead…

As excited and (toxically) positive as many people get about the new year, creating resolutions, designing vision boards, and posting on Instagram about how they’re going to “Crush it!” this year, I know the reality may feel quite different for you.

If there were a single image to represent my personal 2023, it would be the following:


Yeah…2023 was kind of a dumpster fire.

No doubt it will be difficult to top what was potentially the worst year in Hollywood’s history, but as much as I’d like to believe that when we flip the calendar to January 2024 we’re also flipping the switch to a brand year rife with endless possibilities, I think it’s unrealistic to expect everything to go back to “normal” overnight.

Even if we were entering a more “normal” year, I wouldn’t recommend creating resolutions – not because I want you to limit your potential (my job is to help you unlock your potential!) – but because resolutions just don’t work.

If you haven’t already heard one of my many unofficial TED talks about why resolutions are a waste of your time,

Here’s a quick summary of why creating resolutions has a 90%+ failure rate:

  1. Resolutions are too vague.
  2. Resolutions focus on outcome, not the process.
  3. Resolutions are uninspiring.
  4. Resolutions prioritize perfection over progress.
  5. Resolutions rely on motivation, discipline, and willpower rather than systems.

Given how challenging it will be for all of us to regain the momentum we’ve lost over the last year (or three?), I’d like to share with you a simple (yet powerful) exercise that I do every year that is far more successful than creating new year’s resolutions.

I call this yearly review exercise “Future Reflection,” and it’s designed to help you tap into your creativity and storytelling abilities to paint a clear & vivid picture of the more fulfilling career and life you want to design.

How to Conduct Your “Future Reflection”

The key to this exercise is writing the answers to the following prompts as if it’s one year from today. You are not writing in the future tense, you are writing in the past tense as if this is already your new reality.

Example: Rather than writing, “I want to get healthy” (the most common failed resolution every year), you would instead write “I’ve lost 20 pounds this year, I’m exercising regularly again, and I have more energy than I’ve had in years.”

The more you write about your goals as if you’ve already achieved them, the more you’ll trick your brain into believing your goals are possible.

Here’s the first introductory question to get you started:

  • What is the date today, how old are you, and how do you feel about where your life is right now?

Here’s my response:

  • “Today is January 1st, 2025, I just turned 45 years old last November, and I’m excited (and a little nervous) to say this is the year I officially retired from editing film & television (having recently finished editing the final season of Cobra Kai).”

Next, here are the ten areas you’ll write about as if it’s one year from today:

  1. Your Health – Physical, Mental, & Emotional
  2. Your Career
  3. Your Finances
  4. Your Relationships
  5. Your Social Life
  6. Your Passions
  7. Your Spirituality
  8. Your Impact
  9. Your Work-Life Balance
  10. Your Actions

While you can approach any (or all) of these ten areas however you’d like, here are ten specific prompts to get you started:

  1. Describe the current state of your health from the following perspectives: Physical, Mental, & Emotional.
  2. How are things going with your career? What accomplishments are you the most proud of this year?
  3. How would you describe the current state of your finances? What financial goals did you achieve this year?
  4. How would you describe the quality of your most important relationships? (Spouse, family, close friends, etc)
  5. How would you describe the quality of your social life outside of work?
  6. What hobbies/interests/passions did you pursue this year? Any notable accomplishments to share?
  7. Regardless of your specific beliefs, how would you describe your relationship with your spirituality/religion this year?
  8. What positive impact have your actions had on the world this year?
  9. How would you describe the current state of your work-life balance?
  10. What regular habits & behaviors (whether daily, weekly, or otherwise) contributed to all of the areas above?

Yup…this process takes work.

This is not a 30 minute exercise where you set vague resolutions that you’ll break by January 19th (aka “Quitter’s Day”).

If you want to be the head writer of the next chapter of your life, you have to put words on paper – ideas have no value without execution. The effort will pay off because by writing down your goals you increase your chances of achieving them by 42%!


Just like “taking” a car reservation versus actually “holding” the reservation, anyone can set resolutions…it’s the follow through that counts.

If you want real results, the most effective “life hack” is doing the work.

Your next action steps

👉 Set aside 10-15 minutes to reflect on each prompt above. Spread this exercise out over the next few days until you’ve answered all ten questions. If you do so, by next Monday you’ll have a clear vision for the next year to come so you can start building clear systems around your goals.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”