New Year’s Resolutions – Include some Fun!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s that time of year again when the holidays are over and everyone is looking forward to the fresh start of the New Year.  We are all geared up and ready to take on the world.  In this energy, we gather around and ask each other & ourselves what are our New Year’s resolutions. We pause for a moment and think of things we want to change, we say them out loud and feel good for a few moments.  There, done, we have stated our New Year’s resolutions now it’s time to move on into the New Year.

Okay, well, there are many issues with this approach.  Firstly, we have not written anything down so how are we really going to remember to focus on this during the course of the year?  Secondly, we have most likely included things we most want to change and yet have not also derived a plan on HOW to make this change actually happen.  Thirdly and in my opinion, most importantly, we typically have not included anything fun or frivolous.

I was curious so I researched the top 3 New Year resolutions and also how many people actually achieved their resolutions.  Here is what I find out (not surprisingly, I might add):

Top New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less, save more

Percentage of Achievers:

Apparently, this is age-dependent and as we age, not only are there fewer of us making resolutions, but only 14% of us actually achieve them.

I then looked at how many stick to their resolutions for the 1st week (75%), so we start out relatively strong, but then flag dramatically as the weeks go on. And, seriously, is this surprising to anyone?

I mean, just look at these resolutions – Lose weight, get organized, spend less & save more.  Very virtuous indeed, but SNOOZE and bluck.  After the frivolity of the holidays, we certainly seek austerity, but we haven’t gone completely bonkers.  We do like to live.  Food is still yummy, stuff accumulates at an increasingly rapid rate, and those holiday bills come in at the first of the year.   Also, my original points:  we have most likely not made note of our resolutions, we have not derived any PLANS and we have not balanced our resolutions to include anything fun.

So, first off: WRITE DOWN YOUR RESOLUTIONS.  I  included a chart in the email for just this purpose. You can then put it somewhere you will see it often. If you’re an electronic person, I applaud that.  But there are many, many studies showing the need for visual aid to achieve your goals.  I would suggest doing both if you are indeed married to your technological devices.

Next, come up with a plan.  We need to know HOW we are going to achieve our objectives.  If we don’t outline something while we are geared up for it, we will not do it as we lose momentum.  The time for planning is now.

As we plan, we still have our habits, weaknesses, hang-ups and strengths.  We need to incorporate these into our plans if we want them to have any chance of success.  For example, I will not exercise unless I have an appointment or am meeting someone.  So until I found a gym that made me actually be there at certain times, I would not exercise.  Now I do and I love it.

So, let’s take the top 3 resolutions and look at how to set up a plan for each.

Lose Weight:

This is accomplished through diet and exercise.  Take a good look at your habits now. Are you eating right? Are you exercising?  If not, what is preventing you from doing so?  (Tip: there is more than one reason. In fact there are probably more than 5 reasons.)  Regarding eating, do you know how to eat right?  (That is not as obnoxious as it sounds.)  Yes, there are certain foods and dietary requirements that are beneficial to our health and wellbeing.  However, there are food combinations, types of diets and times of day that are equally as important.  It’s like a Rubix cube and depending upon the sensitivity of your body, if you don’t have it exactly right, you will not achieve the results you desire.  So, if you have tried a million things and nothing has worked, perhaps it’s time to go to an expert or get tested for food allergies or go to a dietitian.  These are not excuses to put off making changes. This is an opportunity to get more information and make the changes that will have a positive impact on your body.

Regarding exercise, are you exercising?  If not, why not?  Do you have medical limitations you need to accommodate?  Do you know what you need to do regarding strength training, cardio, flexibility and balance? Do you hate it? (There are A LOT of people who do).  What did you like to do when you were growing up?  Can you do this now?  Are you a social person?  Do you need someone else to exercise with you?  The answers to these questions will help you figure out what will work for you to get more exercise this year if that is one of your goals.

Get Organized:

What areas of your life are disorganized?  Make a list.  Yes, get a piece of paper and walk around your house and office and look at what needs to be more organized.  Then sit for a moment and think of the things you cannot see – computer files, contacts, pictures, schedule.  Take this list and put another column beside it. Why are you disorganized in each area?  Do you have enough space? Do you have the necessary tools? Do you know HOW to organize this area? If you need help in how to organize, ask that friend who is totally organized or hire a professional organizer.  If you need more tools, go to the container store and get the supplies.  If you need more space, set aside a weekend or two and get rid of it – the motto is love it, use it or lose it.  This resolution is a little different than the others in that it typically involves huge upfront time resource, but then only requires upkeep.  So, ask yourself WHY things get in disarray?  Answer it honestly and incorporate change to prevent it from getting this way again.

Spend Less, Save More:

Okay, time to get serious. Do you have a budget?  Do you know how much money you actually spend in a week or month or year?  Everyone needs a budget.  I don’t care how much money you have.  You should be fully aware of what comes in and what goes out.  Yes, it may be scary to know at first, but it’s happening anyway, so knowledge is only power.  Knowing can only help.  Get out a piece of paper or better yet, an excel spreadsheet, look at your bank statements and put it all down.  Remember, it is what it is.  Writing it down doesn’t make it any worse and knowing can only help.  (Make that your mantra if you need.)

So now you know.  It’s all there. What can you do better?  Can you save more?  If so, have it taken automatically out into your 401K or your savings or fund accounts. You won’t spend what you don’t see.  If you need to pay down expenses before you can make more headway on savings, where can you cut down?  Be realistic.  This needs to be sustainable.  It doesn’t do any good if your plan only lasts for a few weeks.  Also, ask yourself why you get a coffee at Starbucks everyday?  Why you go out to dinner twice a week? There are other things at play here in addition to money.

So, in the planning, be honest with yourself on what you have done, what works for you, what doesn’t and come up with ways to leverage what works and overcome what doesn’t.  Also, include a timeline.  Do not have 3 – 5 resolutions with 5 or 6 things to overcome each right away.  That is too much change.  Change needs to be digestible.  You need to take small, but important steps to achieve real change.  A timeline will help.  Perhaps you tackle the first resolution starting in January and tackle the next one starting in March.  You will have some traction on your first goal and will have developed some different habits. At this point, you will be more able to adapt to other changes more readily.

Now for the MOST IMPORTANT part – FUN & FRIVOLITY.  How about a resolution that is all about fun? What super fun thing do you want to do this year?  Is it going on a vacation to a new place?  Is it playing an instrument or a sport or taking an art class?   Is it having someone cook dinner once a week for you for a change?  Is it listening to really delicious music, going to a show, skating on a pond, laughing with the kids every day?  What will fill your heart and soothe your soul?  These are the most important questions.  What resolution can you make today that is only for you – to fill your heart and soul and make you smile?

I contend this one should be your #1 priority.  Remember to write it down and make a plan. Include a timeline and keep tweaking until you get this one exactly right.   I wish you every success on this resolution.  Happy New Year.