New Year Resolutions… In Depth (1 of 3)

New Year Resolutions… In Depth (1 of 3)
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New Year Resolutions… In Depth (1 of 3)

Consider putting down your pen, and not writing any New Year’s resolutions for 2017… until you’ve read this.

You may have heard: “Visualize the future you want,” “Get a vision board,” “Think positive,” “Use the Secret.”

None of those work… without first doing the essential preparatory steps.

If we invent a powerful future (one up to our true potential) it will 9 times out of 10 be unrealized, being compromised by our baggage we bring with us from the past.  Without first getting complete with our past, we will continue to fall short of any big goals because we’re trying to build a house on shifting sand.

It’s only after we understand and accept where we’ve been… and why… and are able to set that all to the side peacefully… that there exists a foundation on which to build new possibilities with staying power.  This is what people mean when they say things like, “Create from nothing.”

It takes courage to look back honestly.  This type of shadow work is important.

So, if you are so inclinde… push your New Year’s resolution list into the recycling bin and start here instead.

3 Steps for Lasting Resolutions

  1. Understand and Appreciate Your 2016
  2. Describing Your Ideal Future (easier than you think)
  3. What Inspires You and Aligns in 2017

For me, the order of these 3 steps are strongly influenced by taking 3 workshops from Landmark Worldwide, referred to as their Curriculum for Living.  It consists of The Forum (completing the past), The Advanced Course (creating a powerful future), and Self-Expression & Leadership (training others to see you as that new future).  Although not these exercises specifically, the thought process I used here was shaped in big ways by my experience taking these 3 courses, in this order, and experiencing directly how effective it was.

Understand and Appreciate Your 2016

Today, I grabbed my pen and wrote down every significant occurrence I could think of from this past year (2016) – decisions, changes, milestones, events, etc.  No rules.  Just whatever came to mind.

Then, I pulled up my calendar and started at January 1st.  Scrolling through month by month, I jotted down any big meetings, trips, training, etc. that had slipped my mind.

After I had a list, I labeled each instance based on how it related to the area of my life: Career, Reading, Spirituality, Travel, Health and Relationships.  Those were mine – make your own list.  The important point is to find buckets to organize your major happenings of the past year into.

You may notice that an area of your life that you thought was important to you got almost completely ignored this past year.  Before you add it to your list for next year… admit to yourself that other stuff was more important to you this year.  You chose other stuff first, plain and simple.  Why?  Don’t blow past this exercise.  If you don’t understand the root cause, writing it on your list next year will just mean you will have unfinished goals to look at in 2018.

For instance, in 2015, I had largely ignored my health.  Sure, I did some stuff.  But I had a knee injury and had convinced myself that what I needed was rest.  That turned into almost a year of no real exercise plan.  It was the realization that “I need rest” had become an excuse.  I was also feeling “busy,” and not-exercising was framed as kind of a useful thing that freed up my time to work more.  When I saw that, it made me cringe.  So, I knew that I would re-frame “I need rest” and “I’m busy” to be something like “my knee is healing and feels great” and “I’m working smart so I have time to take care of myself and people I care about.”

Last, I re-organized my list by buckets and sat with each section for awhile.  I tried to really get a feeling for any themes running through each area of my life in the past year.

  • What did each item have in common?
  • How was that area of my life going?
  • Which things were becoming more and less important for me here?

Then, I wrote this blog post to share with you.  My only hope is it solidifies my own learning, and provides value to you on your own journey.

I invite you to not just think positive.  Don’t set New Year’s Resolutions and forget them in a month.

Look back with intent, first.  Find completion, so you can move forward powerfully in steps 2 and 3 (next blogs).


  • Iowa Sustainable Business Forum (
    • Staffed the association I founded all year with great programming
    • Took “Build Your Board” training from the community foundation and organized 2 strategic planning sessions to strengthen the organization
  • A Garden for Every School (
    • Fully funded the free training being completed, hosted teacher focus group, and made improvements to all videos and worksheets
    • Put system in place for Keep Iowa Beautiful staff to promote the free program to local schools, including offering financial incentives
  • Meredith Corporation
    • Another successful year moving sustainability projects forward
    • Created an ambassadors program across the country at their locations
  • Hope for the Hungry (
    • Revived this local foods and hunger-fighting conference I helped found 8 years ago
    • Re-branded for new host, Eat Greater Des Moines, as the Feed Greater Des Moines conference and created a planning binder so the organization can run it annually
  • New Clients
  • Speaking
    • Iowa State University MBA Skills course on Sustainable Business
    • University of Iowa JPEC program staff on Sustainable Innovation
    • University of Iowa marketing class, served as a judge on their electric vehicle case study competition with Alliant Energy
  • Career Development
    • Attended Accelerate Des Moines conference for startups
    • Attended Wil Blechman conference on childhood hunger
    • Read the following books: What Makes People Tick by Chris Rose, Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg, The Soul of Money by Lynn Twist, Shell Games by Jeffrey Copeland, Muscatine’s Pearl Button Industry by Melanie Alexander, and The Muscatine Button Worker’s Strike of 1911-12 by Kate Rousmaniere
  • Natural Capital Committee
    • I was not super active as a co-chair, but focused my efforts on getting the state of Iowa to make a public water quality database accessible to developers so that educational and business institutions can baseline the Nutrient Reduction Strategy and create community organizing tools around visualized local water quality information
  • Revenues
    • This year was around $77,000 – which for my S-corporation is not as good as last, considering that doesn’t include the costs of doing business… but I still feel fortunate, as a few big projects wrapped up and need to be replaced by new client work or book projects
  • 2016 Goals I Did Not Reach
    • Grow ISBF to 8 founding members and 30 business members, and we did not… however, I believe our strategy sessions got to the root of this issue and we are set up for success in 2017
    • Sell 300 Hunger in the Heartland resource guides, and did maybe half that… the remaining copies are going to be donated to agencies working on hunger issues
    • Launch online fundraising tools, including vidoes, for Solidarity Microfinance, and we did not… however, I believe the work we are doing will bring in funds to invest in this infrastructure
    • Record a webinar with ISSP, plus average two speaking gigs per month, and we did not… I changed my focus and have hired someone to market my speaking, etc. for me
    • From last year, launch Take a Slice Out of Hunger as a formal 501(c)3, and we did not… Gusto Pizza owners opened another restaurant and a new bar and did not have time to work on this
    • Get Verdis Group out of Omaha at least 2 clients from Des Moines, and we did not… which I still hopes happen, because Verdis Group does great work
    • Write a book on Solidarity Microfinance and the Muscatine button industry, and we did not… instead, I began writing a book Sustainable Business in Iowa that includes an allegory of the button industry in the intro, and am holding the microfinance book for after the organization is fully sustainable with infrastructure for fundraising
    • Pay $4,000 per month towards student loans, and I did not… however, I’m committed to paying off all my student loans as soon as possible and so shifted to some client work that has commission opportunities to increase monthly earnings based on success

Summary.  In 2016, I took on a huge goal of being debt-free before my wedding in January.  I have client work and passion projects that I love providing me a solid foundation.  My focus is on growing those and making them even more successful.  On top of that, new paid work came from passion projects I conceived and brought to life in the past, in partnership and in community with other like-minded individuals, and now I’m am able to help take them to the next level.  Fundraising is something I have a knack for and do not shy away from (anymore), and almost every cause I believe in is in need of good fundraising.  Although I did not reach my financial goal of being debt-free, I’ve made huge strides and began shifting how I work to fit my ability to do so quickly in 2017.

Passion.  Efficacy.  Value.


  • Books I Read
    • Enneads by Plotinus, Werner Erhard: Transformation of a Man by WW Bartley, Anatomy of Spirit by Caroline Myss, Resurrecting Jesus, True Meditation, Self-Inquiry, Healing the Core Wound of Unworthiness, The One of Us, Falling Into Grace, and Spontaneous Awakening all by Adyashanti, The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, Out of Your Mind by Alan Watts, The Art of Being, Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism, and Escape from Freedom all by Erich Fromm, Reincarnation: Past Lives and the Akashic Record by Lois Wetzel, Past Life Regression by Regina Ray, Inferno by Dan Brown, The Surrender Experiment and The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, The Miracle of Mind Dynamics by Joseph Murphy, The Infinite Life Sutra, Mahamudra by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, The Wheel of Time by Geshe Lhundup Sopa, The Zen Life by Koji Sato, and Zen Master Hakuin by Philp Hakuin
  • 2016 Goals I Did Not Reach
    • I had wanted to read the following, and failed to do so…. mostly from distraction by other titles, but also from being intimidated… I’d like to only read 1 or 2 intimidating books per year and this year I read at least 5 (Mahamudra, The Wheel of Time, Enneads, Autobiography of a Yogi, and Varieties of Religious Experience)
    • List of books/authors I intended to read but did not: Integral Ecology by Michael Zimmerman (intimidating), Social Change 2.0 by David Gershon, How to Win Campaigns by Chris Rose, Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Lasloux, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, Karen Horney, Karl Jaspers, Eric Berne, Charles Berner, and Gurdjieff

Summary.  In 2016, counting the career books above, I consumed 34 books.  Driving back and forth to Kansas City for Oxana’s yoga teacher training once per month for nine months helped, as I downloaded a lot of audiobooks on Audible.  I prefer spiritual classics and philosophies, with a few modern day perspectives thrown in.  Seeing how my career and financial goals fell short, I realize that my “idealist/Pioneer” profile likely put me head-in-the-clouds more than rubber-meets-the-road this year.  So, I’d like to cut back and make room for more practical reading and implementation in 2017.

Wisdom.  Experience.  Implementation.


  • Ways I Practiced (Besides Reading)
    • One of the intimidating books that really helped me was studying the Mahamudra, shifting from object-focused/focus/samatha sitting practice to wisdom/insight/vipassana sitting practice… it was frustrating and unclear, then insightful and revelatory in many ways
    • My intention was to meditate daily, and I’m probably more batting 5 days per week, to be honest
    • I took two weekend workshops from Landmark Worldwide: Communication: Access to Power and Communication: Power to Create… which really helped me show up for my family in ways I wasn’t able to in the past (which you’ll learn about in a later category: Relationships)
    • As “the best wedding gift ever,” my BFF Mike George paid for me to attend a 7-day silent Adyashanti retreat in New York… where for the first time ever I had an experience of identifying as awareness outside of this physical body that lasted about 12 hours, and it was profoundly different than what I expected
    • Participated in two plant medicine ceremonies, volunteering to hold space at the second… which is something I value in mastering listening and causing the conditions for transformation for others
    • Got a jyotish birth chart readings from my fiance, which was fun to listen to periodically throughout the year with her
  • 2016 Goals I Did Not Reach
    • Review Phenomena of Consciousness seminar material with Mike George, which I did not do… and I think it will be a non-transfer to 2017, given than Mike has moved onto other endeavors
    • 10-day Vipassana Course, I did not do… this was substituted with the 7-day Adyashanti retreat, although I’d like to do both in the future

Summary.  In 2016, I was still focused on meditation – only I’ve shifted my approach to insight.  I am convinced of the value of extended retreats, having experienced more progress in these past two years than maybe all others combined.  Those I’d like to move to being twice per year, if at all possible.  Insights from meditation can be practiced in my daily life and work, and resting in the peace and stillness allows me to bring a real clarity to my day.  Listening and holding space for others is also something I want to continue to mastery.  I  prefer workshop intensives to just reading books, as there is more accountability to doing the work (depending on the organization that leads them).

Retreat.  Insight.  Practice.


  • How I Connected with People
    • Moved into a new apartment with my fiance, Oxana, and made a cozy home – learning to share a small space and communicate our needs openly
    • Wrote our what marriage means to each other and shared it together
    • Proposed to Oxana in Minneapolis on our 1-year dating anniversary, in Russian, as a surprise with all her Minnesota friends there to celebrate
    • Supported Oxana in finding a job in Des Moines she loves, while following her passions: joining board of Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa and signing up for Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training – including going to Kansas City with her on the majority of her weekends (and her graduation!)
    • Watched Oxana do an amazing job speaking at events all during National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Week
    • Planned what is shaping up to be an amazing destination wedding in Maui for an Aloha Awakenings retreat, beach wedding, and honeymoon in a rustic cabin on the beach for 5 days
    • Shared as openly as we could together through this whole process about what each of us needs to feel loved and happy
    • Participated in my brother, Ross’ doctor appointments and social service meetings, supporting my parents… spent two weekends with Ross at my family’s farm so my parents could have time off
    • Visited and listened on the phone to both my parents regularly, providing love and support, while they struggled with their relationship and eventually ended up getting divorced (tough, and wishing happiness to both of them in this new transition of their lives)
    • Organized 3 community dinners for friends in Des Moines
    • Hosted script reading for my friend and playwright, Prisca
    • Was a groomsman in Brian & Elyssa Appleton’s wedding
    • Surprise baby shower for Sara Stibitz and Ryan Twedt
    • Attendance and music for Kevin Sime’s beautiful wedding
  • 2016 Goals I Did Not Reach
    • Spend a week with Ross so my parents could go on vacation, and I only spent 2 extra days… they went to Alaska to visit my new nephew without enough time for me to take off the days needed
    • I wanted to organize 9 community dinners, only did 3… planning a wedding excuse
    • I wanted to invite and have 5 friends attend the Landmark Forum, and none attended… although a few are still going to take it, I also did not follow-up with people using the same wedding planning excuse 🙂

Summary.  In 2016, I spent a lot of time on wedding planning.  Turns out, it’s a lot of work, even when you run away to Hawaii 🙂  Being with Oxana keeps teaching me how to be more of the man I know I can be.  We’ve been working hard through all kinds of big life transitions, and we’re ready for a vacation!  Next year will be all about setting ourselves up for a house and a kid in the near future.  All the while, we’ve been participating actively in the growing lives of family and friends in new relationships, new marriages, and new children.  Now splitting time between parents is a thing to navigate, and it’s occurring as simply what there is to do for people we love.  It all feels very grown up and busy… and very grounding and loving, still.  I don’t think things slow down necessarily moving forward… although, I’m looking forward to those slow moments!

Love.  Community.  Responsibility.


  • Places We Did Go
    • I went ice climbing and snowboarding trip to Colorado in February, where Calvin Johannsen organized with friends from all over – including Mike George from Kansas City and Ben Wells from New York
    • Oxana and I visited Sara Stibitz and Ryan Twedt in Colorado in July… great to see old friends, and we met a couple that were friends with Oxana’s parents years ago in Russia!
    • We went to Brandon Swett’s family lakehouse on Lake Panorama in August with a dozen or so friends
    • I went to Brian Appleton’s bachelor party weekend was at Lake Okoboji in August
    • We stayed for a lovely weekend with Katie & Brent Easter in Minneapolis in September
    • I went with Brandon Swett to an Iowa Hawkeye football game in September, as they beat up on Iowa State
    • Plus, from earlier categories – NEDA Week in Minneapolis, and 9 separate trips to Kansas City with Oxana and Mike
  • 2016 Goals I Did Not Reach
    • Community hiking trip to Maquoketa and Loess Hills, did not do either… using the Kansas City excuse
    • Ice climbing and snowboarding trip to NE Iowa, did not go… however, planned a bachelor party for January 2017 here, minus the ice climbing
    • Paid speaking trip to Australia and New Zealand to visit Tressa and Pete, did not happen… and I’m hoping that paying someone to work on speaker marketing for me will change this

Summary.  In 2016, there was some initial disappointment first looking at the list.  We didn’t travel as many places as we both wished, but we did travel a lot.  The Kansas City training was unexpected, but lovely – and we both enjoyed those road trips (except the physical effects of long hours driving).  It is still a great reminder of how we both long to see more of the world together.  Oxana and I talk about our love for travel, and the possibility of a future with a winter home or spending a month at a time in another location.  The beauty of nature calls to us, so I also want to go with friends any chance we get to for hiking, climb, snowboarding – you name it.

Adventure.  Beauty.  Peace.


  • Things I Did Do
    • I started doing body-weight squats (only recently) out of a commitment that my knee feels great and I can actively participate in sports the way I used to
    • I practiced the Adamantine yoga series most mornings in our apartment fitness center, for the better part of 8 months
    • Played Ultimate Frisbee every Wednesday night with friends that the weather permitted, and felt great doing it
    • Found a Monday night basketball court with open gym for winter
    • Went rock climbing occasionally with Calvin and Brandon
    • Ate vegetarian for almost 2 months leading up to one community ceremony and the Adyashanti retreat
  • 2016 Goals I Did Not Reach
    • My morning routing was to include yoga or a workout and meditation, and I fell off the wagon several times… largely I still did meditation and yoga, but I used my knee as an excuse to rarely exercise otherwise
    • Complete the Adamantine series with full expression of each asana, did not do… I failed to even read the manual, but if I had, I still fell off the last 2 months after tweaking my back rock climbing
    • My knee feels amazing and has full ability to squat without pain, did not happen… I’ve started body-weight squats, but only recently
    • Plan for how much/often I consume sugar, alcohol, etc., did not happen… no excuse, got busy and did not attempt to regulate, although I rarely drink alcohol having become a light-weight drinker who gets tired after 1 drink and a headache the next morning after 2

Summary.  In 2016, I did not truly care about my health as much as I thought or hoped I would.  I am pleased with some of the activities that I found myself enjoying, like snowboarding,  rock climbing, Ultimate frisbee, and basketball.  I also am clear that to have the health I want, it requires more of a routine and some discipline around eating and exercise.  I’m not unhealthy, but I was just coasting through 2016.

Energy.  Strength.  Enjoyment.

Next Steps for a New Life’s Resolution

That’s it for me.  But my list is meaningless, outside of just being an example.

Grab a pen!  Write your own list!  Label and re-organize that thing!  See what you learn about your last 365 days of life!  Understand it well… then move forward.

I learned a lot in 2016.  I grew a lot – yet am still the same soul.

The next step is to revisit my Direction Document from last year, and make sure I’m clear on what my life is actually all about.  You know: the whole, “Why am I here?” question.

My next blog will be sharing an activity that I love, and was guided through by a good friend, Calvin Johannsen.  It’s all about finding (and defining) your life’s purpose and direction… with a few simple exercises.




Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

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