To celebrate the end of the old year and welcome in the new, I’m “re-purposing” a favorite tool I blogged about a few years back. It’s adapted from Dallas Travers’ terrific “Year in Review” exercise. Here is How to Engineer Your Better 2019 arranged in twelve simple steps that pack a real punch. I’ve shortened and arranged this for musicians—and included my own take on these as examples. I find doing this exercise really helpful and I look forward to hearing how you experience it. (And thank you, Dallas!)

In contrast to typical New Year’s resolutions that end up being broken promises, these steps build on your success from the previous year, and help you identify the habits and resources you want to carry forward. So I hope you’ll reserve time today to reflect on 2018 so you can engineer a better 2019.

There are a total of 12 steps and #12 is surprisingly effective—so let’s work the steps together and see what you can make happen.

To get started, grab a pen and paper, your 2018 calendar, add in some quiet and maybe the beverage of your choice, and . . .


1. Reflect back on 2018.

Review your calendar month by month and list your successes: both professional and personal. This doesn’t take long since most people will easily spot their successes as they scroll through the past year’s calendar week by week. And most of us find we’ve accomplished more than we think we did. (I know I did!)

My successes included creating an online course and finally taking the plunge to start a group coaching program. And as a crazy way to celebrate my 25 years in career development work and my 2nd year working full time as a coach, I completed 47 complimentary coaching sessions with 47 professional musicians in about a month! These were all projects I’d delayed doing because I was afraid to tackle them. Getting outside my comfort zone further, I also have started taking an improv class this year—thanks to getting inspired by my clients.

As you make your own list, ask yourself: What worked? What went well? What are you proud of? And get it down on paper.


2. Identify themes.

What in your “intentions, patterns, or beliefs—helped guide you forward” in 2018?

For me, one theme was courage: feeling the fear and going forward anyway. Another theme was investing in my professional growth. In going through my calendar I noticed how important my own professional development has been. Getting out to hear great performances and workshops, read inspiring books and attend seminars. It’s boosted my energy and expanded my skills and confidence.

What about you?


3. Acknowledge your challenges.

Make note of what has been difficult. But Dallas Travers reminds us to look back at our behavior with compassion and honesty.

For me, I saw more than a few instances where I fell back into thinking and acting ‘small’ instead of moving forward courageously. There were times when I let my self-doubt and fear slow me down or stop me cold. It’s something I want to challenge myself with in the coming year.


4. Reach a sense of “Completion” for 2018.

Once you’ve got your list of what didn’t go the way you planned, and acknowledged it, it’s time to create what Dallas calls “completion.” This is about active self-acceptance. It’s not ignoring where we fell short—it’s looking at it clearly. And it’s letting go of the negative self-talk and the resistance to change.

None of us is perfect. And realistically, much of your 2018 went well, right? So accept what didn’t because the best thing we can do going forward is to make room for the positive.


5. Create a healthy celebration ritual.

As we’re saying goodbye to 2018, choose a positive way to celebrate the challenges you moved through and the successes you experienced. What would feel optimistic and energizing to help mark the end of 2018?

Choose a simple and meaningful way to celebrate. Perhaps it’s a walk around your block this evening. Or calling a good friend you haven’t talked to in ages. Or making a special dinner for your sweetheart. Compose your own ritual to help you mark the end of old year and welcome in the new.


6. Envision your better 2019.

Write down 3 concrete goals for what you’d like to accomplish. Andrew Simonet, in his excellent “Making Your Life as an Artist,” suggests having one attainable goal in each category: personal, professional, and artistic. I love Andrew’s focus on the three areas in life—the trifecta of a balanced lifestyle. Choose specific and measurable goals that will have the most positive impact on your world.


7. Invite Change.

To bring about your desired accomplishments, what changes do you anticipate or hope to make? How would you like to make these changes?  And who might you connect with to help you bring these about?

Here’s what came up for me: one of my big projects and goals for 2019 is to revamp my online course and connect with more musicians so I can be of more service.

What I love about this step is it focuses on HOW you want to move ahead. For me, in picturing completing the revisions and then promoting the course, I want to be able to do this with more ease, confidence, and creativity. Less panic. So this is a great motivator to help me pay attention not just to getting the work done, but the attitude I bring to the work. And it underscores the need for me to reach out for advice and support along the way.

What changes do YOU want to invite into your life? Does your professional goal include booking a certain number of performances? Or upgrading your self-promotion or attracting a certain number of students? Think it through and write it down focusing on HOW you want to work through the changes and who you want to connect with for support.


8. Keep the good.

Next, Dallas recommends identifying the habits and resources you want to continue using in 2019. What do you want to recommit to or cultivate further?

For me, I’ve been finding the most important thing is regular habits—for my writing, for taking walks, and for going to bed early. I know this sounds pretty basic, but it actually makes a huge difference in my productivity and in how I feel throughout the day and the week.

My guess is you’ve also identified things that have been working this year that you could renew your commitment to. Write them down.


9. It’s all about relationships.

Think about who’s in your life and make a list of 7-10 people you’d like to get to know or get to know better.

Who’s in your circle who might be able to brainstorm with you? If they’re local, take them out for coffee or lunch—find out how they built their careers and any advice they might have for you. Be intentional about the influences you have in your life. So who’s on your list?


10. Give it up.

What patterns, principles, or actions are you going to commit to giving up in 2019?

I was brainstorming with another terrific musician last week about the habit of taking care of things last minute. I know I’ve been there!

The antidote is to plan ahead and designate specific time in your calendar for particular work. This can move projects ahead over time instead of panicking, pulling all nighters, and not doing your best. If that’s something you’d like to change, the habit to give up is that of procrastinating the start of projects. And the new habit to cultivate is that of planning ahead.


11. Bring your vision to life.

Think about how you want to experience 2019. Make it more real in your imagination by using your senses. Create an image in your mind of you going through the year, dealing with challenges and doubts in a positive way and building your successes step by step. Write down what you picture and how you will experience it—how do you want 2019 to feel?


12. Write to your future self.

Once you’ve got your better 2019 plan completed, place it somewhere you can refer to throughout the year. You might post it within eyesight of your desk or on your fridge.

But Dallas also recommends writing up your goals as an email to send to your future self. On you can schedule an email to arrive in your inbox one year from today. So next year at this time you can open it and feel even better celebrating all that you’ve accomplished!

I sent mine off yesterday—and you know what? I’m feeling more confident and motivated about 2019 already. I’m also looking forward to hearing your comments and feedback on what Engineering Your Better 2019 was like for you! Reach me at

To gain more career insights and inspiration: join us on FB Live Tuesdays at 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT over on our exclusive Musicians Making It Facebook group—we’d love to have you join the conversation!

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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