This year…. “I will lose weight.” “I will save money.” “I will be healthier.” “I will get a better job.” “I will read more.” “I will travel more.” “I will work out more.” “I will make a difference.” “I will get more organized.” “I will spend more time with family.” “I will enjoy life more.” “I will spend less money.” “I will learn something.” “I will eat healthier.” “I will travel.” “I will be less stressed.” “I will drink less.” “I will help someone.” “I will find love.” “I will be more timely.”
Did you made your New Year’s resolutions? How’s it going with that? After all, these will set you up for a year of great fame, fortune, and happiness beyond measure. If you actually do them, that is. According to StatisticBrain.com, 62% of Americans will at least occasionally make a New Year’s resolution. As many people as there are that make resolutions, only 8% of people report achieving their resolutions. That’s less than one in ten that actually meet their goals.
Despite the dismal statistics, I am in no way against setting goals. It is important for us to have an idea of where we are headed. There is simply the satisfaction we feel when we accomplish a goal. But we have to have that goal set first. Second, being intentional about goals helps us communicate with others our goals impact – like a spouse. Probably good to let your spouse know you plan to move to a new city before you actually do it.
So, if goals are so important, why do so many people fail at achieving their New Year’s resolutions? I think there are a few different pieces that will answer that question. Address these, and your chances of meeting your resolutions will probably go up quite a bit.
First, I’m not sure the setting that resolutions are made is always the most conducive towards success. Perhaps you settle on a resolution at 11:45 pm on New Year’s Eve….. as you are consuming yet another party beverage. Or maybe your resolution to drink less is made the following morning as the regret pounds inside your head.
Setting goals is a process – one that should take some time and effort. Make sure you are of sound mind when you spend the time to do it well. Make sure that your goals are looking forward rather than being a reaction to a recent event.
Second, while the resolutions listed at the top are from the lists of ‘most popular resolutions’, I’m not sure they are really good goals. The intentions are certainly there. But as you read back through them, what do they really mean?
“I will be healthier.” – So you’re going to wash your hands more often and catch one less cold?
“I will get more organized.” – You will neatly stack your papers rather than a random pile?
“I will make a difference.” – To whom? In what? Where at? Huh????
Like your grandpa always said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Take your time and make sure your goal setting process and resulting goals are going to set you up for success. When we talk about setting goals, we refer to the SMART goals model.
Specific – Make sure that, were I to read your goals, I could understand what you mean without asking more questions. So rather than “I will save some money”, you are better with “I will have more money in my savings account”. Otherwise, you could just buy store brand peanut butter rather than Skippy and boom, you’ve accomplished your goal.
Measurable – You have to know what you are aiming at if you are going to reach it. What is “more money”? A dollar? Maybe ten dollars? Or is it enough for a down payment on a house? Rather than “more money”, it should be “I will have an additional $3,000 in my savings account”. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.
Attainable – I would love to be debt-free and have $1,000,000 in savings by the end of the coming year. AIN’T HAPPENING! Regardless of how much I really really really want it to be. Make it unattainable and you are simply setting yourself up for failure from the start. It’s ok to stretch; just make sure you aren’t going to stretch so far you snap like a rubber band. That just hurts.
Relevant – We don’t exist in a vacuum and neither do our goals. Perhaps you set the goal of being debt free and then decide you also want to buy a new house. Unless you are a master-saver with an amazing salary (or buying a tent to live in), these goals are going to conflict, meaning you are going to fail at least one of them. Neither is a bad goal, but we need to make sure they fit together. Consider life beyond your goals as well. You may want to get all of your debt paid off, and then you realize you are expecting twins in the next few weeks. Congrats and good luck….in a lot of different ways.
Timely – I like deadlines. They motivate me. They tell me when I need to be there. So when do you want or need to have all of that extra money in your savings account? Now we are looking at a goal of “I will have an additional $3,000 in my savings account by the end of May so I can shop for a new house in June”. Now there’s a goal I can understand just by reading it.
Third, I think goals are always a great idea at first. But as life rolls on, either they lose their luster or we lose our passion for achieving them. Sometimes we simply forget. While it has been tough to put a number on, research has found a direct link between the accomplishment of goals and the regular review of those goals. The more you see them, the more you think about them, and the more likely you are to accomplish them. Write them down and post them where you will see them regularly.
Finally, I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit when we do accomplish our goals. For my final point in this blog post, I am giving you permission to celebrate. Be happy when you accomplish your goals. Do we need to go back to the whole New Year’s resolutions and 8% thing? Reward yourself for your accomplishments. Perhaps it is a night out or little splurge. You’ve done. You should have that positive reinforcement, as long as the reward doesn’t completely undo everything you have just accomplished.
For a variety of reasons, a lot of people find setting goals to be an intimidating prospect. They don’t have to be huge goals. They don’t have to be complicated. If you are still overwhelmed, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help you with your financial goals. By listening and asking honest questions, they can help you lay our goals for the coming year. They can also continue to help you with accountability towards reaching those goals. If you are interested in a little guidance, contact the Center for Financial resources to schedule an appointment.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net