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BLOGCarrot and Stick Resolutions

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, MotivationalTagged as: ,

If you’re like many people, you will make a New Year’s Resolution: start this project, finish that project, exercise more, eat less, etc. Yet despite our best intentions, too often there is little follow-through, and the resolution is quietly abandoned. How can you make your resolutions – or any goal you commit to – stick?

Translating resolution to action is far easier when you add four extra ingredients: Intention, Carrots, Sticks, and Commitment.

Reasonable Intention: It makes no sense to intend to do something that is impossible or unreasonable. If you have mandatory early morning meetings each day, then you can’t go to the gym at precisely that time. Your intentions should be something that is physically possible for you to do (or stop doing).

Carrot: If you intend to go jogging two times weekly, then reward yourself. A new jacket in three months might be just enough incentive to keep you going if your resolve starts to falter. And when you do get that jacket, the jacket itself will mean much more: it becomes a symbol of your achievement.

Stick: In the same way that a Carrot provides an incentive to act, the Stick imposes a cost for inaction. Choose a penalty that is meaningful and would “hurt” each time it is incurred. This might mean foregoing two days of Starbucks coffee, doing unpleasant tasks for others, etc.

Public Commitment: Often we keep our promises to ourselves: then when we don’t follow through, no one ever finds out. Instead, make a public commitment to your colleagues and friends; not only will these people keep you honest, but they can be your biggest supporters. Side benefit: when you follow through, you strengthen your reputation as a promise-keeper.


Many people have long given up setting professional or personal goals. This week, try it again, but don’t just choose a goal – also do it intentionally, choose a carrot, stick, and make a public commitment.

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