As the New Year approaches, we may be inspired to set new goals for ourselves, also known as “New Year resolutions.” These are always tricky as they are often large, undefined visions without specific steps. We may find that after a few days, weeks or months, we’ve lost track of our goal and we instead are left with a feeling of failure.
In order to set ourselves up for success, we need to be specific as to how we’ll reach our goal and by what timeframe. We can’t just say, “I want to lose weight” because that’s too vague and has no timeframe associated with it.
By the same token, to say, “I want to live debt free” is also a great idea but without action-oriented steps to demonstrate how you’ll get there, you’ll most likely continue with the same behaviors that you’ve had to date.
The other thing that tends to happen when people make their list of New Year’s resolutions is that the goals are all over the map. Health, finances, relationships, family, career, personal development: the goals cover many different areas of one’s life.
While it’s admirable to want to change several things about your life, the more you can hone in on one area, the better success you’ll have. Look at it this way: in the years you (hope) to have left on this earth, take the major areas of your life, one by one and give them the overhaul they need so that you’re living the life you want.
I also suggest using a template of sorts to frame each resolution. First, state your vision. This is a global statement that is heart-centered and is your true wish for yourself in this area. Then, make a commitment statement. This is your statement that specifically states what you’ll accomplish and by what date. Then, create action steps to help you reach your goal. Lastly, identify rewards that you’ll give yourself to acknowledge your success.
Here are 2 common areas that people often have on their list of resolutions. Let’s see how these look when run through this heart-centered, goal setting formula:
Vision: I see myself as a fit person, one who exercises regularly, is of a healthy weight and feels comfortable in her skin.
Commitment statement: I commit to losing 15 pounds by April 1, start practicing yoga and stop drinking diet soda.
Action steps: Buy a class card for 10 classes at my local yoga studio. Review their schedule and book 10 classes in the next 6 weeks into my schedule. Make an appointment with a local dietitian to review eating habits and create a plan for losing weight safely. Make a list of things I love about my body.
Rewards: For every week with a yoga class attended, no diet soda and at least 2 pounds lost, purchase a manicure or pedicure.
Vision: I see myself as a debt-free person, with savings in the bank for unexpected expenses as well as the purchase of fun items like travel, clothing and dining out.
Commitment statement: I commit to decreasing my current credit card debt by 10 percent by August 1.
Action steps: Remove credit cards from wallet and store in locked safe in home. Assess total credit card debt, interest rate on each card and determine if consolidating debt would save money paid towards interest. Make a budget, outlining mandatory monthly expenses and identify an amount that can be put towards paying off debt each month. If this is not possible, identify what can be cut from budget in order to allow for this payment. Identify one spending habit that can be eliminated and instead put that money into a savings account each week (this could be daily coffee, decreasing your cable service, dropping a membership you don’t use).
Reward: For every $100 milestone reached in the savings account, buy yourself dinner.
Changing behaviors in our lives is hard but the payoff can be enormous. I have always found that a great starting place is to begin with your heart. Sit still, close your eyes, and connect to your breath. Ask yourself, “What speaks to me?” and listen for an answer. Your heart will always steer you in the right direction. Then, focused on that area, use the template above and start writing. You’ll be underway in no time.
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!