It’s a new year. The holidays are already behind us. The future looks both bright and uncertain. You tell yourself, “This is going to be my year!” If you’re like most people, it’s normal for ideas like this to go through your head. Perhaps you’ve put on a little more weight or incurred a little more debt… So, it’s perfectly normal to be full of hopes and dreams that you’ll get back on track this year. The truth is that most New Year’s resolutions aren’t kept. For some unknown reason (well, actually it is known), many people get stuck along the way, without meeting their objectives. Why? Generally, we fail to achieve our goals because we didn’t choose them wisely in the first place.
The energy and desire to grow are actually there. The nostalgia associated with the end of the year motivates us. Many people say to themselves, “Another year has come and gone. How much have I grown?” Even in the best of us, this question fuels a certain longing. This longing then translates into resolutions, analyses and changes. Finally, we decide that it’s time! This is my year! I’m going to quit smoking. I’m going to go on a diet. I’m going to open a business. I’m going to find a girlfriend (or boyfriend, as the case may be). Believe me, there are people who make that a resolution. But within a short time, our motivation begins to dry up, and we watch our goals slowly wither away.
Here are the five most common resolutions:
- Lose weight/get in shape: Perhaps because of all the holiday excesses, your aunt’s good cooking or your friend’s coaxing, this is one of the most frequent resolutions. Common error: not being specific enough. How much weight do you want to lose? What does it mean to be in shape? Eating a healthy diet? Exercising for two hours three times a week? Don’t make drastic changes. Start small. Small, gradual changes tend to be more lasting than sudden, radical ones.
- Reduce debt: Again, perhaps because of the excesses and good spirits of the year-end celebrations, this resolution is also very frequent. Common error: we try to make major changes and get frustrated when things don’t go as planned. Before we know it, we fall into excess once again. (Especially since we don’t immediately feel the financial impact of credit card purchases, and shopping generally makes us feel good.) If you maintain the same habits that got you into debt in the first place, it will be very difficult to achieve your goal of getting out of debt.
- Open a business: oddly enough, we all have a bit of the poet, the entrepreneur and the lunatic within us. Having our own business is a common dream (and for those of us who already have one, the dream changes to having a successful business). The question here is just as simple; the factors that hold us back are money, fear, not knowing how to manage a business, not knowing where to start, our legal situation, etc. The reality is that all of these factors essentially boil down to a lack of information. There’s no way around it. We have to invest a little time and money in getting prepared. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Give a penny to your brain, and your pockets will be full of dollars”
- Make more money: Who wouldn’t like to make more money? It isn’t that difficult. In reality, all you have to do is set concise, realistic goals and then make a plan to achieve them. For example, if you want to make $24,000 more a year, you know that you’ll need to generate an additional $2,000 per month, $500 per week or $71 per day. As you can see, $71 per day doesn’t sound impossible; in fact, it almost sounds easy.
- Achieve success: this resolution is simply a variant of the others. So, the problem remains the same: not having a clear idea of what success means to you. If you consider success to be more money, how much more? If it’s a car, what kind? If it’s happiness, what makes you happy? If it’s a business, how and when do you want to begin?
Three steps to achieving more goals:
- We’ll start with realistic goals. Make a list of the top five things you want to achieve this year. Be realistic. It’s better to accomplish a little than to accomplish nothing at all. Be specific. Don’t leave your goal wide open. For example, write “lose 15 pounds” rather than simply “lose weight,” or “make $100,000” rather than simply “make more money.”
- Make a list of your daily activities from Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. For example, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – work. 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. – gym. 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. – watch TV. And so on and so forth for each day. Be realistic. Don’t write what you wish you were doing or what you think you should be doing, but rather what you actually do. (In the end, this list is confidential. No one’s going to see it but you, so what’s the point of lying?)
Below your goals, write down what you’re doing now to achieve them. Are you working toward them in any way? What are you currently doing that makes it harder for you to achieve them? Then, you’ll have to make some changes. From this point on, you know what to do. Good luck! Don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done!
They say that the biggest disappointments are when you have great expectations that never come to pass. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s better to have small, reasonable expectations that gradually lead to the achievement of a larger goal. If you take a small step each day, by the end of the year, you will have taken 365 steps toward a major goal.