Jennifer C Vigil

Reboot your New Year's resolutions

How to reboot your new year’s resolutions

Have you hit the mid-February New Year’s resolution wall? You are not alone if you have lost focus on your resolutions for 2020. Did you know that 80% of people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions by mid-February?

There is hope for turning it around. It is not too late to do a reboot on your goals for 2020.

I am lucky, I have support. I am part of an artist mastermind group. We have been together for over 3 years now. We hold an annual retreat in the first part of February in Santa Fe. One of our members, Sallyann Paschall, generously hosts us each year.

We block out 4 days each February to get together and make a plan for the year (arriving on a Thursday and leaving after breakfast Sunday). Each retreat is centered around a different theme. This year we focused on Mapping Your Creative Plan. Each of us over the past few years has mentioned new work that we wanted to make. Some of us have made some progress but overall many of us struggle with carving out time from our regular production schedule to make the new work.

Despite setting our goals for 2020 in early January, it is during this annual retreat that we focus and get clarity on what matters most and make a plan to get it done. We also discuss what is holding us back. This takes courage and vulnerability to admit what we don’t know, what isn’t working, and to ask for help. Why is it always easier to see the answers for others? I guess that is why the retreat works. We get feedback from others who help us see the obvious which escapes us.

Ambitious Artists' Cafe Retreat 2020

So what does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions and you getting back on track?

It doesn’t matter when you start but that you start.

It is to remind you that perfect isn’t a goal or the destination. Change is about the journey, the road you take and the small shifts you make along the way that make lasting change possible.

So if you find that your New Year’s resolutions failed to take root, it may not be you but your approach.

Instead of focusing on specific changes, consider choosing 3 words that will act as a focus and guide your actions and choices for the year.

3 words to guide your goals

For the past 4  years, I have been using Chris Brogan’s 3-word approach to goal setting. All the changes and goals I make are guided by the 3 words I choose at the beginning of the year. I wrote about my 3-step process of choosing your 3 words in a previous post, The Shocking Truth About New Year’s Resolutions.  Check out the process and let me know in the comments about how it worked for you.

The goal is that the words act as a guidepost in evaluating your actions. When you are trying to decide if you should take on a project consider whether it aligns with your 3 words.

It is interesting how some words reappear over time. I noticed that when a word reappears in a subsequent year, that often I am embracing a particular nuance of the word’s meaning, homing in on a particular idea to get greater clarity.

my 3 words for 2020: strategic, community, create

I’ll admit, I really struggled with my 3 words this year. I spent a lot of time reflecting, journaling and discussing with my accountability buddy about what was most important to me and what changes I most wanted to make in 2020. Lots of people have been obsessed with the play on the year 2020 aka 20/20 vision with goals and words that are about clarity, focus, seeing, etc. None of that really resonated with me. Just because it is clever, doesn’t mean it fit for me and my journey.

Instead, I have been reflecting on where I want to be in 10, 20 years. What will I regret not doing? What brings me the most meaning and satisfaction?

As you consider your 3 words think about your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years? Small shifts now can yield big results over time.

The more I focused on those questions, the clearer I got on my words and ultimately my goals. So what do these 3 words, strategic, community, and create mean to me and my goals for the year?


Do you ever feel like you spend too much of your time reacting instead of acting?

Do you tell yourself that next time you will plan ahead and not wait until the last minute to get that project done?

Or do you buy into the idea that you can only create good work when the deadline is looming like a boulder about to fall on you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, like I did, maybe being more strategic is what you need to do too.

I have found that being strategic is difficult because it goes against our desire for quick wins aka pre-crastination.

What is pre-crastination?

Pre-crastination was coined by the psychologist, David Rosenbaum, in a 2014 study entitled Pre-crastination: Hastening Subgoal Completion at the Expense of Extra Physical Effort. His study found that our need to begin a task, to check something off, often overrides our logic. In the study, students were told to pick up a bucket from either the left or right side of the alley and carry it to the end of the alley. They were encouraged to choose the easiest possible solution. One bucket was close by the starting point and the other was closer to the end of the alley. Surprisingly a number of students picked the bucket closest to them up which meant they had to carry it farther.

A similar study by psychologist, Lisa Fournier, asked students to pick up two buckets full of balls and bring them back to the starting point. One was 3 feet away and the other 10 feet away. About 80% of the students picked up the bucket closest first, carried to the one 10 feet away and then carried both back to the starting point which was more exertion than necessary.

The researchers concluded that people have a tendency to take on extra work for the pay off of reducing their mental-load. It is a tactic that many people unconsciously employ when their to-do list grows too long. The result is that the more that we have to do, the greater the chances that we will do some things too soon, probably badly, just to get the satisfaction of reducing the list. We go for the quick dopamine fix of checking something off rather than making the more strategic moves.

how to you stop pre-crastinating and become more strategic?

Here’s the thing. Shifting your behavior away from pre-crastinating to being more strategic takes more thought and planning but it is essential if you want to move forward on your goals.

You need to determine:

  • what is worth your time
  • what to delegate or hire someone to do
  • what just needs to be dropped from the list altogether.

I get it, it’s hard. That is why it is my word this year.

Do I love the high from completing and crossing a task off my list?

Do I later realize that I pre-crastinated and wasted time doing something that robbed time away from something strategically more important to me professionally and personally?

So what am I doing to change that????

Well for starters I am having lots of conversations with my partner and my accountability buddy. I also ask my mastermind group what is more strategic when I am struggling to make a decision on what is the best use of my time. For some reason, I can answer that question for other people but can’t always see the obvious for myself 😛

For example, I have a gallery in Tucson that has been interested in my work for years. Every November one of the owners comes by my booth at the Tucson Museum of Art’s Holiday Artisans Market and asks me if I am ready yet to give him work. Initially, I used to say, “I’ll give you something in January.” Then the March show would roll around and I still wasn’t ahead enough with production to give him work. So I finally admitted to him that I just wasn’t ready.

This past November I told him I was ready and would have work for him in January. I have two shows every spring, one at Tohono Chul arboretum in February and the Tucson Museum of Art’s Artisans Market in March. These are the “quick check off” items.  For years I have focused on the prize of the sales from these shows. They are the easy payoffs but not the long-term strategic move.

The truth is, having my work in a gallery that has daily visitors IS the strategic move!

So what has been tripping me up?

That pre-crastination tendency.

I know if I have “X” amount of work at a show, I will make a certain amount of money. The gallery is the unknown. But it could mean regular monthly income! How is that not the obvious winner? Why haven’t I prioritized this years before?


I also haven’t been strategic enough in my production planning to get ahead. Hence, the theme of our mastermind retreat earlier this month. The retreat focus was more than just making room for new work, it was about getting real about our current production, what we need to make to feed our current galleries and shows AND making time for new work.

As the owner of Giacobbe-Fritz Gallery, Deborah Fritz shared with us during our retreat, we should have a 70/30 split in our production schedule. 70% of our time should be dedicated to making work that already sells and has a market and 30% of our studio time should spent creating new work. Once that starts regularly selling, it moves to the 70% slot and we can choose to let go of older styles if we want.

Are you curious if I gave him work in January…

The answer is no. But I do have an appointment to give him work next week (that is the last week of February). And I had to laugh when I got his reply to my email asking when would be a good time to drop work off next week. His reply…


The second email sent immediately after that…

“Sorry, bit of a shock!! Awesome!!!”

This year being strategic means choosing tasks, opportunities, priorities, basically what I do each day that will get me to my long-term goals.

What are those goals:

  • Create new work in different media around the themes I have been writing about in my journal.
  • Nurturing and mentoring artists through coaching, retreats, classes, and mastermind groups.
  • Professional development. Taking workshops and classes that help me grow creatively.
  • Traveling more. Spending time out of the U.S. Sharing travel opportunities with others by offering retreats. I love connecting with people and enjoy getting to know new people and places. I also like to plan and organize. So leading destination retreats that help people connect with their creative passions and dreams, that allow them to recharge and be inspired brings me great joy. We all need to connect with people who feed our souls. Creating opportunities for that connection is my goal.
  • Connecting more with my artist community, the virtual one, and my local community. Spending more time with people who fill my soul and inspire me.

Based on my long-term goals, my next two words seem obvious.


I realized how important connecting with people is to my happiness. Well, to everyone’s happiness and longevity, really. We are supposedly so connected now with technology but research shows that much of that online interaction doesn’t really count or register internally as true social connection.

The truth is we really need to focus on the in-person little social interactions available to us daily. Susan Pinker discussed this in her Ted talk The Secret to Living Longer May Be in Your Social Life.

The chart below shows the research results she shared on which factors had the biggest impact on our longevity.

Notice the number one item is social integration. She defines that as the little social interactions that we have or could have daily. For example, making small talk with:

  • the cashier at the grocery store
  • the barista where you get your coffee
  • your neighbor when you get your mail
  • your server at a restaurant
  • the person sitting next to you on the bus or train
  • the person standing next to you in line

The second biggest factor is having close relationships, ideally 3. Then we get into lifestyle and environmental factors. Connecting and interacting with others surprisingly are way more important than exercise to our longevity.

connection matters

That is the takeaway. In-person, real-time connections make the biggest impact on your longevity and your happiness.

For me, that translates into being strategic about creating and nurturing communities in my life. The Ambitious Artists’ Cafe Mastermind that I organize with a friend is one of my lifelines. It keeps me connected, grounded and inspired. I used to worry about making sure everyone was happy. That was when we had 20 members. Then I realized that we really only had a core of about 8-10 people who really actively participated in the group and those are the people who matter, who we serve.

Strategic again.

What do they want and need (which included me)? It has made all the difference.

I also am working on creating more opportunities for others to come together. My annual retreat in Florence, Italy (registration is open for 2020) is one way that I can create and hold space for people to connect and be part of a community.

Teaching workshops in-person, coaching artists, and visiting artists in their studios to help them write about their work are all ways I create communities and stay connected.


It seems that all 3 words I chose this year overlap in some way. I am strategic in the communities I create and who I serve. Being strategic with my time means that I can do what matters most to me and my art business.

I have to be strategic with my studio time if I am going to have time to create the new work that I am called to make. It is with community support, my mastermind group, and my accountability partner, that I am able to stay focused on my creative goals.

Attending art workshops in the UK this May is a way for me to nurture the relationships that I formed last May at another workshop with this same artist, Gillian Lee Smith, while also expanding my skills. I have added to my larger art community through meeting and staying in contact with artists I met at last year’s Gillian workshop.

Workshops also allow me uninterrupted time and space to focus on creating. My goal is to set aside at least 30% of my studio time for making new work, exploring new media and reaching outside my creative comfort zone.

I will be in Europe for 8 weeks this summer. My travels start with 2 workshops in the UK, one in Northumberland and the second in the Shetland Isles both with Gillian. I will build on that creative mojo as I travel to London, Paris, and then Italy spending time daily creating, drawing, and painting while also working on my Italian.

I will be scouting out new restaurants, hidden treasures, and adventures for my Florence retreat. During my travels, I will be looking for ways that I can create community connection for my retreat participants, ways for them and me to find inspiration, to open up to new creative possibilities and find ways to be strategic with their creative practice and their time.

I’d love to have you join me in Florence, Italy October 13-20, 2020, and be part of my community of curious creators. For more information click here.

So if you are feeling a February New Year’s resolution hangover, that moment when you realize that you overestimated what you could commit to, now is the perfect time to reboot. Ditch the long list of ambitious new habits. Instead, focus on what 3 words help you reach your long-term goals.


  • Actionable words.
  • No phrases.
  • Exactly 3.
  • Don’t change them mid-year. Take your time in choosing them.

They are your words and only have to have meaning for you. Write them down and put them up where you see them daily.

Use them to evaluate your decisions. If something doesn’t align, say no.

Please share your three words for the year in the comments and how they support your goals.

UPDATE: I brought my work to the gallery on February 27, 2020. He would’ve taken everything in my three totes but I held back a few items for the show the next day. Woohoo, I can finally check that off my list!


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