New Year’s Resolutions can seem futile - who hasn’t taken up some form of exercise only to completely drop it by Presidents Day? There tend to be a couple of things missing when we set goals that lead to failure: a lack of specificity and a reliance on willpower. Let’s take advantage of this time of year to reflect and plan. Whether you like to call it “life planning” or “goal setting” or something else, this exercise can prove to be an invaluable way of focusing your energy on what you want to get out of life.
Separate The Noise From What Actually Matters
Family life is busy and it’s easy to get swept up with the tide of work, school, activities, chores, and household duties. Many of us work hard, with the intent of providing a comfortable and fulfilling life for ourselves and our families. Yet do our choices actually bear this out? What does it even mean to have a fulfilling life?
Let’s Get Started
Let’s do a quick exercise. Grab a pen and some paper or whip out your “notes” app on your smartphone.
Write down 3 things you want to accomplish over the next 3-5 years. (Go ahead and do it now if you like, I’ll wait.)
If you have a partner, ask them to do the same thing but don’t share with them your ideas until you are both done. Sometimes one partner will get distracted by the goals of their partner. We don’t want that to happen.
Great, now write down at least 3 things you want to accomplish over the long term. You get to define “long-term.” Invite your partner to do the same thing- but again, no cheating!
It’s easy to skip out on the tough work of acknowledging what really matters to us. Push through and write something down. You will use these plans in the next part of the exercise.
Now that you have identified what’s important to you, think about how you will accomplish those plans. Break it down into specific steps. Write the steps down, many people find checklists to be very helpful. Always look to see what you can simplify and automate. By not relying on willpower you will make it way more likely that you will see your plans come to fruition.
If you have a partner, see where your plans overlap and where they diverge. It’s natural to want to minimize the differences between our plans and the plans of our partner, but I would challenge you to deeply consider what each of you have written down before dismissing any of them.
It’s OK if your plans don’t line up perfectly. (Some of your plans will never line up exactly.) It’s OK if more discussion is needed. It’s OK to not reach consensus during one evening’s worth of discussion. Big conversations take time. It’s OK. Seriously.
It’s time for a gut check. Can you make your plans a reality on your own, or will you need help? It’s OK to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a financial planner, coach or accountability partner. Many people need someone who will hold the space for their goals. Someone to remind them of what they said their plans were when they get distracted. Because, let's face it, we all get distracted.
Rather than allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency with generic goals and life plans, why not make 2017 the year we get specific?
What will you do?
When will you do it?
How will you do it?
Who will help you?
Why will you do it?
As the ball drops on December 31st, rather than generically state “I want to travel more in 2017,” dare to be precise.
I will take the family to ______ in October 2017. In order to truly enjoy that trip. I will save up for it in advance by transferring $250 a month starting now into my savings account on the 16th of every month.
Then get out your smart phone, open your banking app, and set up an automatic transfer.
Or, instead of sipping on champagne (or the champagne of beers, if that’s more your style) and guiltily saying that you will cut back on eating out in 2017, dig a little deeper.
I will commit to going out to eat only once a week in 2017. (Unless it’s my birthday, in which case I will party like Kanye.)
Don't be afraid to make big goals. If your goal is to expand your family and take time off after the birth own it.
I will save $500 a month between now and whenever the new baby arrives so that I/my partner can stay home with the child for a precious few months without causing us additional financial stress.
For any of your goals, whether it be a career change, following up on a charitable inspiration, increased gratefulness, a move, or anything else your heart desires, be specific.
I hope the upcoming year will be a time of positive growth and joy for each of you! I would love to hear about your plans and challenges. Please leave a comment below or message me on Facebook.
Many people choose to create a budget as part of their New Year's Resolutions, check out these posts to help you move forward!