Resolve to...make better resolutions

Ah, the New Year. The days are getting longer, the air...let’s call it “refreshing”, shall we? Plus, it’s New Year’s resolution time!

I love New Year’s resolutions. Of course I do! I’m a Type-A nerdy planner type. In 10th grade I had one of those leather bound planner/calendars that was designed to double as a purse. I loved it so much. I carried it to my honors English classes and my Student Council meetings. Suffice to say, I’ve always been the sort that leans towards grand ideals, personal development, and above all, GOALS! There were then, and still are now, inspirational quotes scattered all around my house and taped up around my computer monitor.

(Before you write me off as someone who has never had to work at this stuff, know that the following several years I struggled with intense depression and anxiety that left me unable to do...much of anything. Natural proclivity doesn’t make it easy!)

You’ve probably heard that most New Year’s resolutions fail. I’m betting you don’t need a scientist to tell you that, if you’ve ever set one yourself. So how do you improve the odds? Here are some research backed tips to making this year one in which you move ever closer to your ideal self.

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1) Make goals so small that it’s hard to fail

  • You know what’s on my list this year? Exercise 5 minutes per week, floss 6 times this year. Those goals are too absurdly small to miss. My business goals are a bit more lofty, but you can see where I’m going here.

  • Bonus: even if the goal is small, your brain will give you a big dopamine boost (that’s the “reward” hormone), AKA your brain really likes it when you accomplish things

  • Extra bonus: tiny goals are much easier to turn into habits. Change your habits, change your world.

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
— Bill Gates

2) Make S.M.A.R.T. goals

    • I promise, I’m not calling you dumb. S.M.A.R.T goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

    • “I’m going to walk for 20 minutes each morning right after breakfast” is a lot better than “I’m going to exercise more”.

3) Prioritize and Focus

  • Want to achieve a lot of goals? Do them one at a time. Research shows attempting multiple goals at once divides your attention and makes you (a lot) less likely to reach any of them.

4) Bribe Yourself

    • Good, old-fashioned bribery. Did you know you can make a bet that you’ll lose weight - to yourself? Research shows it works quite well. People hate losing money even more than they hate the work that goes into losing weight.

    • Personally, I’m a big fan of doing tasks that take less attention on one monitor while I binge Netflix on the other. The tried and true “you can watch another episode of the X-files when you finish this part of the project” got me through grad school (no, I’m not that old, but a mildly interesting show with a lot of episodes works perfectly for this). Science says it’s OK!

5) Plan for failure

    • You’re probably going to fail. I mean that in the statistical probability sense. Only 8% of resolutions are kept, and 80% have been lost by February. So, what are you going to do when you fail? What, specifically? Do you get breaks on weekends? When Aunt Flo is in town, or your MIL? What if life happens and you can’t save as much this month, do you make it up next month?

    • You get to decide the action plan for failure, but decide it ahead of time. You’re much more likely to get back on track if you’ve got a plan for this and can just go into action mode.

What about you - what are your goals for this year, and what are you going to do to make sure you can actually reach them? Tell me in the comments!

Psst...if one of your goals is to start managing your money better, but you’re not sure where to begin, check out my free 5-day challenge on a way to get financial clarity in 5 minutes a day.