Bring Your New Year’s Resolutions Back From the Dead
(It’s Not Too Late!)
by Roger Reid
With a third of the year behind us, the end of April signifies an important milestone—a four month benchmark for the goal-setting exercise that’s been a traditional part of each new year. Four months ago, many of us were writing down our resolutions and setting goals to stop smoking, get a better job, find a spouse, lose weight, and hundreds of other wanted changes in our lives.
How’s everyone doing?
According to national statistics, not very well. Ninety-five percent of us have not only given up, we’ve forgotten about our resolutions completely. That leaves only five percent who are still taking action and will actually accomplish any kind of lasting change.
The problem? The vast majority of our resolutions are destined to become nice little wishes—wishes that are quickly forgotten and buried in the hustle-bustle of everyday living. And as the years pass, we find ourselves looking back on a field of gravestones etched with excuses . . .
“It was impossible to stay on my diet. The company had me traveling most of the month, and you know how fattening restaurant food is.”
“I fully intended to begin that Spanish course, but the kids started little league and then the basement flooded, and …”
“I tried to schedule an hour a day to write, but with the new project starting and the extra paperwork, something had to give.”
Feeling a twinge of regret, we mourn our good intentions and then quickly move on.
It’s not that we’ve lost the desire for change. It’s because the motivation—the emotion that excites us and drives us to take action—has become diluted with the everyday demands of life.
But that doesn’t mean we have to wait until January to start over. The calendar is an arbitrary reason for setting new life objectives. If there’s something you really want to do, start now by pulling out the goals and resolutions you made four months ago, then use the following questions and suggestions to revise and re-prioritize your efforts.
Do you have too many goals? It’s only normal to want to change everything at once – to attempt a total life makeover. But trying to accomplish too many changes at the same time often keeps us from doing anything. For example, if you had ten goals and failed to make progress on any of them, choose the three that still mean the most to you – the ones that would make a real difference in your life. Then prioritize those three even further by asking yourself which one is a must have. The majority of failed objectives result from the activities in your current schedule over-riding the priority of your new goal. The truth? If you haven’t made any progress on your goal, it was never a must have.
Pursuing more than one goal at a time also invites conflicting behavior and intentions. For example, if one of your goals is to save fifteen percent of your income to start an investment fund, and you also want to buy a new home, replace your aging car, and increase your charitable contributions, you have a major conflict.
Choose one objective– the most important one to you – and start. Save the others to review in six months from now.
Do your goals belong to someone else? Those who set goals to impress or meet the expectations of family, friends, or business associates usually find themselves disappointed in the long term. Personal goals—as opposed to goals you set in behalf of your employer or those set for you by management—should serve and benefit your desired outcome. If a strong dose of self-evaluation makes it clear you’ve been following the wrong path, don’t be reluctant to stop pursuing something you no longer want. If you’re concerned over what others will think, or you feel apprehensive over the possibility of being embarrassed or labeled a quitter, you’re receiving a strong indication that the goal is no longer appropriate for you.
Get your priorities back on track! Once you have your number one goal or objective identified, use the following steps to re-prioritize your time and resources to create the future you really want.
Determine the first step. Knowing your first step—in terms of taking action—recharges your confidence and gives you a sense of new direction. This can also be an excellent test to determine how realistic your goals are. If you have no idea how to start, you may be trying to manifest an unrealistic fantasy—another distraction that moves you further from making real and desirable change in your life. If you’re stumped due to a lack of knowledge, your first step becomes researching the process and learning how others have accomplished the same or similar objective.
Expect the fear. This is especially true if your goal is centered on career change. The biggest concern is typically financial. It’s difficult to put your economic security at risk—until you realize it’s always at risk. Our future income—as employees or entrepreneurs—is never guaranteed. If you’re currently employed, keep your job until you’re ready to replace it. If there must be a transition between your old income and the new, plan for it. Stop buying what you don’t need. No more eating out or buying five dollar coffees, or committing to a new lease payment because you want to drive the latest model automobile. Save what you’ve been spending on luxury purchases to invest in your new future.
Don’t let money goals misguide your real purpose in life. Setting a goal of having enough money to pay all the bills at the end of the month describes a problem, not a goal. And while having more money is often the desired result of setting new financial goals, increasing your financial freedom should be the result of accomplishing a specific life change (a new career, learning new skills, starting your own business, etc.)
Above all, decide that now is the time to take action. None of us want a life filled with boredom or frustration, and that’s the common result of failing to plan. The years pass quickly and before we know it, we’ve settled into a comfortable rut. Maybe you’ve been too busy responding to life’s little “emergencies” and can’t seem to get back on track. But we each receive a very limited number of years to accomplish our dreams. Your first goal should be to do the most with the time you have left.