New Year’s Day and New Year’s resolutions go hand and hand. Americans, tired of all of the overindulgence of the holidays and their bad habits, resolve to change their lives. We all know the traditional New Year’s resolutions—lose weight, get in shape, stop smoking, the list goes on and on. Yet, unfortunately, we also know that most people will not only fail at their resolutions, but fail quickly, within the first month.
Why do New Year’s resolutions fail? I have not done any scientific research, but my hunch, based on my own personal experience, is that many people set unrealistic goals. In addition, they don’t make any plans as to how they will change their behavior and replace their bad habits. While Americans have good intentions when making resolutions, good intentions aren’t enough to make resolutions happen.
Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, make New Year’s goals. Follow these steps, and you are much more likely to see permanent changes in 2012.
- Decide which area of your life you would like to improve. Don’t try to change everything at once. Focus on one area—paying down debt, getting in shape, quitting smoking. My husband and I are focused on paying off all of the debt we accrued when he was finishing up his Ph.D. Of course, I would also like to make other personal changes such as reading more and taking more time to relax, to name just a few, but this year, my only focus will be on paying down debt. A singular focus is easier to maintain than trying to change several aspects of your life at once.
- Break down your goal into several pieces. It is not enough to just say, “This will be the year I pay off all of my consumer and student loan debt.” You have to break it down into pieces. For instance, my husband and I need several avenues of income to pay down all of our debt, so two pieces of our goal include making additional income and selling things around the house.
- Set specific timelines. In addition to setting the goal and breaking it down into several pieces, you also must set specific timelines. This helps to keep you accountable and on the right track to achieving your goals. Our timeline includes paying off all credit card debt by October of 2012 and my student loan debt by December 2012. In addition to timelines, we have set specific monetary goals such as “Sell $1,000 in junk around the house.” The more specific you can be with when you will achieve the goals and what you need to do, the better.
This year, instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, which unfortunately are often unsuccessful, consider taking a few days to consider what aspect of your life you would like to improve. Then take the time to break the major life goal you would like to achieve in 2012 into smaller pieces and then specify how and when you will met each goal, step by step. Take the time to carefully plan for 2012, and you will be much more likely to achieve your objectives in the new year.
*Photo by Times Square Photo by Jacksonpe*