By Cherie Lowe
I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. After all, if you really need to make a major life change, shouldn’t you begin as soon as possible rather than waiting for Jan. 1 to come around?
It’s also a horrible time to make a shift from eating holiday foods to eating only fruits and veggies. What am I supposed to do with the holiday treats my friends and family worked so hard to prepare and package for me? Throw them in the trash? How rude.
On the flipside, I am a fan of goal setting — any time of the year. I do understand many people choose to set goals in January, seeing the new year as a blank slate full of opportunities. If you plan on reaching toward any goal this year (I’m always going to suggest you set two to three financial goals), you need to employ smart strategies to bolster success.
Wishing you could do something amazing in 2018 isn’t enough. Take your goal setting game to the next level with these ideas.
Write it down
Don’t just have a “I kind of want to” foggy list of goals in your head. Those sorts of aims never materialize. Instead, write out your goals and place them somewhere your regularly encounter them. Researchers have discovered that handwriting your goals — and not merely typing, listing them on your phone, or keeping a mental checklist — leads goal setters to increased success.
Set small goals
You’re also more apt to obtain success if your overall goals are broken down into micro goals. Identify the key steps within your overarching aim that will help you continue down the road toward to victory. When you achieve a small, bite-sized goal, celebrate. Rewarding yourself abets momentum and pushes you forward.
Not sure how this would work? Let’s say you want to pay off your debt (or a portion of it) during 2018. Set the overall goal of paying off a set amount or percentage. Then set increment goals of specific dollar amounts or entire debts within the complete goal. Once you hit the smaller milestones, choose a way to mark the sacrifices you made to get there.
Note: it’s important to keep the celebrations proportional to your success. Paying off $1,000 of $10,000 and then booking an expensive trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be your smartest move. However, completing 10 percent of your goal might result in a dinner out, a night at the movies or a small household purchase — as long as you don’t go further into debt to do any of the above.
Share the journey
Somewhere, out there, someone else scribed the same goal as you in their very own handwriting. Find them as soon as possible. Your mutual success hinges on that temporarily unknown individual.
Studies say you’re 65 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you have someone else holding you accountable. Want to staggeringly increase those odds? Schedule a regular appointment with that person and your rates of success zoom to the 95 percent level. How amazing is that?
If you’re seeking to get a better handle on your finances in the new year, I highly recommend finding a class like Financial Peace University to both find someone else to share your journey and schedule regular time to talk about your path toward achieving your financial goals. Many courses such as these are offered in local churches. Do a quick Internet search to find the offering nearest to your home.
I suppose no one intends to give up on a dream or goal. However, statistics show that only 8 percent of resolutioners actually maintain their promise through an entire calendar year. These bleak odds result in many of us questioning whether we will fail at our newly christened goals. But maybe we need to rethink how we approach failure.
Allow me to let you in on a little secret. When it comes to 2018’s goals, you will fail. On some level or at some point in the journey, you will make an error, commit an oopsie or stumble into a mistake. Your overall success depends on what you do when that not-so-fun moment arrives.
For most of us, a small mess up causes a complete derailment of our aims. Ate a cookie at the office? You may as well go out for deep dish pizza and cheesecake tonight. Skipped a workout? Just go back to the gym next week instead. Why bother? Overspent at the mall this week? Oh well, everyone uses a credit card to fill the gaps right?
Not so fast, friends. Here and now, determine that a small misstep won’t cause you to give up your goals. Before you fail, make a plan for what you will do to get back on track.
Whether you resolve or set goals in the new year, make sure you develop and implement a concrete plan to help you achieve what you want to do. Take a deep breath. Say a quick prayer. And then begin.
Who knows where you might be 365 days later. Your entire being, body, bank account or world could look completely different. Today is your day. This is your year. Let the new life begin.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org