What’s Your Goal?
Before you skip out on the whole New Year’s resolutions thing (because most of us never keep them anyway), consider this: People who simply make a resolution are 10 times more likely to reach their goals than those who ignore the custom.
Not sure where to start? We’ve come up with six popular goals and mapped out how to get there. Whether you’re ready to take baby steps or make a full-on commitment is up to you.
Improve Your Finances
Spending problems, whether having too little savings or too much debt, rank at the top of our financial worries.
Good: Start tracking where your money is going so you’ll know where to cut spending and save. Once you know, “You can create a plan to redirect your income to the areas it should be going,” says Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP and founder of Workable Wealth, a financial planning guide geared to millennials.
Better: Start wiping out your debt with the “snowball method” — it’ll give you some quick results and motivate you to keep going. How to do it: “Prioritize debts in order of the amount of money you owe. Pay off the debt with the smallest balance first, regardless of interest rate, and work your way up,” says Storjohann.
Best: When you’re ready to make big financial changes, go for the “avalanche method,” Storjohann says. You work to pay off the debts with the highest interest rate first (while still paying the minimums on your other debts). “Mathematically, this makes the most sense. The interest rates on loans and credit cards cost you more the longer you hold on to them, and higher rates cost you the most,” says Storjohann, who warns that this approach isn’t for the wishy-washy. "Some people find it really intimidating to try and tackle their biggest, baddest debt as the first step toward debt freedom."
Take Better Care of Yourself
Feeling happy is good for you: It improves your health and boosts your career success.
Good: Make an effort to smile more often. Even when you’re under stress, try to grin and bear it. Your body will respond physically and so will your mind, making things better even during challenges.
Best: Learn to meditate or practice it more often if you’re already familiar with the practice. Truth: Meditation can change your body chemistry on a cellular level if you practice consistently. Not disciplined enough yet? At least try it to possibly improve your career. (And remember it’s called a “practice” for a reason.)
Working up a sweat for just 2.5 hours a week is linked to longevity.
Good: Go online and do a free workout three times a week at Fitness Blender, a site where you can access dozens of exercise videos, from yoga to HIIT cardio. The husband-and-wife personal trainers behind the site believe fitness should be accessible to everyone. (The YouTube channel BeFit also offers hundreds of short and full-length workouts free.)
Better: Try a new group class by joining a gym or studio with a cheap introductory deal — you can find everything from Bikram yoga studios to full-service fitness centers. Sample new workouts without a huge up-front financial commitment.
Best: Just Google the phrase “Couch to 5K” and you’ll discover a trove of converts to this free 9-week running schedule geared to beginners or those who want to get back into running. Follow the plan and you’ll be fit enough to run a 3.1-mile race in less than three months. A consistent trot just 10 minutes a day reduces your risk of death from all causes.
Get Better at Your Job
Feeling more valued on the job directly improves how well you perform (and succeed).
Good: Become an industry insider. “Influence comes from knowing the business,” writes Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D., author of Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers. One of the simplest ways to gain influence is to bone up on your work buzz, from identifying the movers and shakers outside your office to reading the trades and following conversations on social media.
Better: Volunteer for new projects, advises Dr. Frankel, but go for ones that are high-profile, not the dead-end variety. “Never accept any assignment before first checking it out,” she says in her book. “It’s better to err on the side of turning down a dead-end job than accepting one in which others have failed or languished.” And when you’re offered a high-profile assignment? Take it. If others have enough confidence in you, you should too, says Dr. Frankel: “No guts, no glory.”
Best: Get to know your boss better. “Exposure to senior management is critical for recognition,” says Dr. Frankel. “You need to be in situations where you can identify their needs.” So volunteer to give presentations to senior management and make it a mission to attend events where your boss will be. The more you’re seen, the more you’ll get noticed.
Learning a brand-new skill periodically, no matter your age, will improve your cognitive skills and keep your brain sharp.
Good: Put down that smartphone and pick up a book. Reading literature alters your brain in positive ways that surfing the Web does not. The concentration that deep reading involves improves your memory and brain circuitry.
Better: Cruise online education sites that are free (or nearly free) to pick up a new skill. Whether it’s learning to brine your own pickles on skillshare.com to figuring out how to code on codeacademy.com, aim to learn one new thing this month.
Best: Get HR to pay for a class that will enhance and extend your career. Your company may even have a tuition reimbursement plan. Employee satisfaction and retention skyrockets when companies offer this benefit to workers.
Build Your Social Life
Good: Try to see others how they see themselves (the old adage: Put yourself in their shoes). Turns out, people will want to spend time with you if your impression of them matches their self-impression (good or bad).
Better: Tell a secret about yourself from time to time. Divulging something your pal never knew about you can strengthen your connection in under an hour.
Best: Call a dear friend you’ve lost touch with and see her again. And again. The more often you’re in contact with someone, the deeper the friendship becomes. It’s that simple (and science backed).