01/16/2014 11:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Make Those New Year Plans Stick: Advice from Chalene Johnson

Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Chalene Johnson, Part I

We're busier than ever. Yet what keeps us so busy is rarely the same as what contributes to our success. Mostly, it distracts from it.


We need to simplicate -- to cut away the unnecessary so we can hone in on the strategies and actions that create happier, healthier, smarter success.

In this two part interview series, New York Times Bestselling Author and Personal Development Expert Chalene Johnson gives us her top strategies for simplicating in life and business -- what she calls Smart Success.


There's a lot of debate right now about having it all. Can we have it all?

I think you can have whatever you want in life, you just can't have it all at once. Many people associate having it all with being able to do it all, and I think this is a myth that lands people in divorce and unhappiness. We should stop telling people they can have it all.

It's not true.

It's like saying you can eat everything you want all at once. You can eat everything you want, but not all at once because it will make you sick.

Have it piece at a time.

So how do we figure out what to eat first? What is your top advice for those seeking balance between family, self and their career or calling?

Start by clarifying on paper what you want and really need in order to be happy and to feel as though you are living your life on purpose.

Identify where you have not yet reached your potential, the area of your life you are least happy about. Ironically, this will most likely be your key priority, what is most important to you and what you need to address to feel balanced and happy. Your intrinsic priority, on the other hand, never changes; it is what comes naturally to you.

You have got to put these priorities on paper because otherwise, it is too easy to get wrapped up in justification of our behaviors. Many people say, "My number one priority is my family, and I want to give my children everything I did not have," and thus spend their time always working and never with their children.

They spot a way to justify their intrinsic priority (work, in this case) at the sake of their key priority (for example, family) when the two must work in harmony.

By writing down your priorities -- both key and intrinsic -- you connect with your values and your higher purpose.

Clarify your key and intrinsic priorities on paper.

How can we be most productive?

You need to identify the things, places and people that inspire you to be your best and allow you to be your most productive. This is what I call your success environment.

For me, exercise falls into success environment. The room that I work in falls into success environment.

We never do our best work when we are unhappy, feel under a deadline, or are stressed. You need to be having fun. Right before I go on camera, for example, I am laughing and having fun with friends and family.

If you do not enjoy the process, you cannot create your best work.

So that is why we tell people to go for a run, play the piano, have a playlist, whatever it is that sets the tone for success.

Doing something you love prior to working on a big assignment allows you to do it ten times faster.

Play to be productive.

You are big on team work. How does your team help with sustaining habits?

My team creates layers of accountability. And my team is not just my employees. I mean my family, friends and colleagues. Everyone around me. So I set up accountability partners for specific habits.

See, we can justify anything to ourselves: My kid's teacher needs me to volunteer in the classroom, and that is why I am not exercising in the mornings.

But if you feel responsible to someone else, you are far more likely to follow through and take those actions, whether in fitness, business or healthy eating.

So an accountability partner is tremendously important.

Create layers of accountability.

It's the New Year and many people are considering really big changes in their lives. What is the key to sticking with the resolutions we set for ourselves, to sustainable change?

Sustainable change requires creating habits. The book The Power of Habit answers a lot of questions about the science of the brain and why certain habits stick while others don't.

It is not just a matter of forcing yourself to do it. You need to a) feel the reward, and b) set up triggers.

You need to make the reward of the habit immediate.

For example, when you wake up in the morning, your first thought is, "I need to brush my teeth." And it is not because you know it is good for you; you do it for the reward of how your teeth feel.

So identify an immediate reward for your habit, even if the ultimate payoff is long term.

Next, create simple triggers or reminders in the front of your brain.

For example, most of us are in the habit of checking our phones multiple times a day for text messages, Instagram, whatever it is. When I open my phone, my To Do list is front and center. I check this list before anything else to see if I've earned the ability to idle on Instagram or Twitter.

Use technology. There are tons of apps out there that help trigger and enforce positive habits, rather than sabotage them.

Reward and trigger.

The New Year also marks an important time of celebration. How can we slow down enough to celebrate our successes?

The key is deciding what your celebration will be before you start the project.

More than celebrating, it's about monumenting the completion of a project, taking a moment to say, "I did it!"

This makes it more fun and gives you balance. Otherwise, you move from one project to the next, to the next. It is even hard to remember all the things that you have done.

Some people, like those probably reading this interview, are so incredibly successful that they do not realize that they are in the top five percent of the world when it comes to their pro-activeness, their success, their habits.

It's difficult for people like that to reflect on all the milestones they've reached. It is much easier to remember the dinner or the trip you took to monument it.

Monument it.


See other interviews from this series with top business and life leaders:
Dean Karnazes - How to Run Over Fear & Take Action
Patrik Frisk - What Does Simplicate Mean Exactly?
Nadine Hack - The Art of the Master Bridge Builder
Roger Love - More Glee: Set your Voice Free

Edited by Suzanne Pinckney.

About Chalene: Chalene is a New York Times Best Selling Author, entrepreneur and self-made millionaire, business and marketing expert, motivational speaker, life balance coach, celebrity fitness personality, designer and happily married wife and mother of two. For more smart success tips, check out her New York Times Best-Seller Push: 30 Days to Turbocharged Habits, a Bangin' Body, and the Life You Deserve.