It is that time of year for New Year’s resolutions. The season when we all promise ourselves that we will eat healthier, workout more, and be frugal in the new year. As 2016 starts, you may be successful for a few days, or even months, but by the time Spring rolls around, you’ll have likely fallen off the wagon. What if, instead of the age old list of the regular suspects, you looked at your New Year’s resolutions a little differently this time around? This year, try a values-based approach with only a few meaningful resolutions and give yourself a few years to accomplish them.
Imagine it is three years from today. Ask yourself what has to have happened in your life for you to feel as if you have made progress. Write down your answers and make sure you have your financial, personal, and work categories all covered. What makes you excited or energized about accomplishing these goals? Write that down as well. Finally, what are the obstacles to completing these resolutions? Be as honest with yourself as you possibly can and then add them to the list.
You now have three years to make progress on these goals. Look at the obstacles you foresee and decide who you are going to engage to help you remove them. One common obstacle when it comes to finances is having a certain level of knowledge and comfort. If you feel overwhelmed by your monetary goals, find someone who is knowledgeable and engage her to help you. If that person is a financial advisor, make sure to find one who can answer all of your questions and help you in cash flow planning, not someone who is trying to sell you something unrelated. As for health resolutions, a common obstacle is maintaining the upkeep throughout the entire year. On the second day in January, make those calls for appointments that you’ve been putting off. Then, engage a friend to hold you accountable to continue doing this throughout the year as necessary.
If you have a partner or spouse, it can even be fun to do this exercise individually and then share — just make sure there is no judgement. One year, I had a client learn something she didn’t even previously know about her partner: that he wanted to start playing guitar again. Who knew? My client’s spouse had played years ago, but never expressed his continued interest to her. Guitar lessons soon followed, and he was back to participating in an old hobby he loved. So it’s not all serious business — it can be a thoroughly enjoyable process as well. Do make sure to keep revisiting your goals throughout the year, though. They may need adjusting as you move forward and realize what you originally wrote down was not exactly what you wanted, but rather similar to something you had in mind.
When you have a greater focus on your resolutions three years out, it will be easier to say no to impulse purchases. Having your goals written down, understanding why you have them, and preemptively thinking about what possible obstacles might get in the way, makes everything tangible in a manner it might not have been otherwise. Your budget will become a wonderful tool toward making progress on your resolutions, rather than a source of anxiety. When you have a thorough plan, it makes it easier not to let society or peer pressure sway you. Enjoy being empowered in 2016!
Joan Sharp is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.