Reverse Engineer Your Way to Success

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


No one asks me if I have any new year’s resolutions anymore. To me, this is a clear sign that it’s common knowledge that new year’s resolutions don’t create the desired change.

There are many reasons resolutions fail:

  • The desired change is based on the changing of the calendar year, but the timing is all wrong (something else is a priority).
  • The real issue behind your desired change not happening earlier isn’t clear, so you keep trying old methods that don’t work thinking a lack of commitment is the issue.
  • The resolution doesn’t align with your values and it’s more of a “should.”
  • You haven’t made a plan to break the change down into manageable steps taken every day.

I noticed this year there were a lot of “Best Planner of 2023” lists floating around. Either all the algorithms know I’m a planner, so I get all these lists (very possible) or it’s a sign that people are figuring out you have to make a plan to make any resolution or goal happen.

Paradoxically, there is a competing, equally important pressure that’s been floating around in the ether about the importance of mindfulness and “being present”, which means accepting and enjoying the now.

At this point, the question may arise, “How do I focus on appreciating and enjoying the present, but plan for the future and make progress on long-term goals?”

In actuality, these two mindsets can, and should, coexist. And that’s mainly because there is one more variable to consider: change.

If you believe like I do that the only constant is change, then you know the present is constantly changing. As soon as we recognize the present, it’s already begun to change. Therefore, if you want to enjoy your future ‘present’ as much or more than your current ‘present’, then this is where planning and goals come in.

Another way of saying this is, if you want to design your life and circumstances to fit your values and desires better, then setting goals is the most logical way to get there.

Besides, planning and being thoughtful about the future doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the ‘now’; these are NOT mutually exclusive practices! There is a time and a place to reflect on the future (helpful hint: the time is NOT when your significant other is talking to you).

Reverse Engineer Your Planning

Sometimes I find it hard to figure out a problem, especially if it’s one I’ve been working on for a while. I’ve learned, however, to reverse engineer my problems. Applying these tricks to habits or productivity can provide new insights where previous methods did not. For example, it’s often easier to find out what you want to do, by first thinking about what you don’t want to do.

Reverse engineering means thinking about what you’re doing to sabotage your success or what you want to avoid.

For example, my list of what I want to avoid at a high level are early death, miserable marriage, and hating my work.

Your list might be similar or may include avoids like my children or my family hating me.

Then break this down to what it would mean on a daily basis. So instead of thinking how a perfect day would go, think about the worst possible day, then create a list of anti-goals or behaviors.

The worst possible day looks like this:

  • Work starts so early there is no time to exercise.
  • A packed calendar with no breaks.
  • Working with people who are disengaged, have a fixed mindset, or are mean.
  • Owing people too many things/ too many obligations that I can’t take care of during the day.
  • Commuting in traffic.
  • Working late and not having dinner with my husband.
  • Having no time or energy to answer a text from a friend.
  • Feeling depleted at the end of the day.

To avoid the worst possible day, I’ve created a set of anti-goals, such as:

  • Don’t work in an office I have to commute to or take clients in person.
  • Don’t take calls during my blocked exercise time.
  • Don’t put others’ needs before my own health or goals.
  • No obligations to people I don’t like or from whom I get a bad vibe.
  • Don’t plan anything on Sunday evenings (to rest and prepare for the week).
  • Don’t schedule calls past 6:30 pm.
  • Committing to only one weekday evening obligation a week.

This is only one tip for creating goals that stick and help you change in a direction that creates a more meaningful and fulfilled career and life. Many more tips are available in How to Crush Your Goals in 7 Steps.

It’s never too late to get started or start over. My goal system will walk you through a step-by-step process to create goals that are meaningful to you and put you on the road to goal-crushing success!

If at any point you need a partner along the way, please reach out; I’m here for you.