Each new year most of us set goals for the upcoming year. We make New Year’s resolutions.
The number one resolution usually involves health. Maybe that is because of our over indulgence during the holidays. Resolutions regarding health are usually to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, and the like.
Another top resolution involves finances. These include getting out of debt, not using credit cards, saving, planning for retirement, etc.
According to businessinsider.com, “No matter the year, the new year's resolution cycle tends to look the same. Wake up on January 1 motivated and eager to achieve a set of goals for the New Year, work towards these goals for a few weeks or so, just to let them fizzle out come February. The short life cycle of New Year's resolutions is pretty common — according to one statistic, 80% of people give up on their resolutions in the first six weeks.”
It is not hard to find motivational quotes and talks on goal setting; even banks offer advice and counsel on financial goals. Compass Bank says, “Figure out what matters to you, prioritize, create a realistic budget, automate, check your progress, etc.”
So how do we make a resolution and make it stick for the entire year? Well, I am still working on my last year’s resolution involving health. That resolution has been revived again and again as the year progressed, but I never completely gave up – just had to restart a few times. My specialty, however, is finance. I am a bankruptcy lawyer (I know, I have heard all of the lawyer jokes); however, I did just restart my goal and leave the gym.
First, each of us must decide what it is we wish to work toward. One major problem with New Year’s resolutions is, as my father would say, we bite off more than we can chew. Your goals must be realistic, they must be attainable. For most of us we need baby steps, as Dave Ramsey says, short-term goals in order to reach the long-term result. The quote Rome wasn’t built in a day to most of us means you cannot lose 50 pounds overnight. It is the same with our finances. For most of us we cannot become debt free in three months.
One cannot simply state ‘will be out of debt by the 4th of July and truly know the meaning of independence.’ You must have a plan to achieve your goal. You must know exactly how much debt you have and realistically how long it will take to pay it off. Breaking down the big goal into smaller, attainable goals will result in ongoing progress.
Second, you must write it down. Writing your goals down, both short and long term, will increase your chances of sticking with them. I write down what I need to accomplish each day and mark it off as I accomplish each item. Silly as it sounds, I get satisfaction knowing my day is progressing as it should and that I have accomplished something – no matter how small.
Once your goal is written down, it needs to be placed where you can see it regularly, daily: on the morning mirror, on the refrigerator, where you place your car keys, somewhere it will be read each day to remind you of what that days goals are. Perhaps sticky notes in all the mentioned places would help. Just make sure you read the goal each day. Start with the long-term goal – the big goal. Then read what it is you need to do that day in order to reach that big goal. Through small things are great things accomplished.
Sharing our goals with friends also seems to increase our chances of success, maybe because we know we will have to answer to someone or at the least they will ask us the next time they see us how things are progressing. Accountability assists in keeping us aware that we even have a goal and gives us a greater desire to keep going, even when we blow it big time.
According to success.com, “The most important benefit of setting goals isn’t achieving your goal; it’s what you do and the person you become in order to achieve your goal that’s the real benefit. Goal setting is powerful because it provides focus. It shapes our dreams. It gives us the ability to hone in on the exact actions we need to perform, to achieve everything we desire in life. Goals are great because they cause us to stretch and grow in ways that we never have before. In order to reach our goals, we must become better.”
So, do I think New Year’s resolutions are a good idea? Yes! Even when we miss the daily goal or fall off the wagon for a day or week or a month, we are adults and we just need to pick our selves up by our boot straps and start again. Life is not a contest. It is a daily growing experience.
Big things are attained by small steps. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a good pep talk and say ‘I know you can do this’ and forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. We all make mistakes. As Dave Ramsey would say, “We have all done stupid.”
For most of us we were not taught money management at home or in school. For most of us we have to learn it for ourselves. One of the best teaching tools is failure. C. S. Lewis believed that, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” Even Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich, stated that, “No man ever achieved worth-while success who did not, at one time or other, find himself with at least one foot hanging well over the brink of failure.” Failure is not the problem – never starting in the first place or restarting if we slip or make mistakes – that is the real failure.
Remember that according to Actionforhappiness.org., “The path towards our goals may not always run smoothly or be easy, but having goals, whether big or small, is part of what makes life good. It gives us a sense of meaning and purpose, points us in the direction we want to go and gets us interested and engaged, all of which are good for our overall happiness.”
My next article will give practical advice and guidelines on how one might go about achieving financial
success. What might be necessary to achieve financial goals so that this time next year we can pat ourselves on the back and say ‘well done’ and maybe take a victory weekend cruise to the Bahamas.
Debra B. Dutton – Debbie returned to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Georgia State University, graduating Summa Cum Laude, after successfully raising three children with her husband of over 40 years. She earned her JD from John Marshall Law School Atlanta. After law school, she purchased the 30-year-old law firm she had managed for over 8 years. Her main concentration of practice is consumer bankruptcy. She is a member in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia, the American Bar Association, and the Spalding County Bar Association, where she serves as Treasurer three years running. She is a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and attended their annual national bankruptcy continuing legal education seminar. She attended Dave Ramsey’s Bankruptcy Leadership Summit in Nashville. She has been a guest attorney for a cable TV show entitled Law Call, has been a presenter for the Fayette County Bar Association Continuing Legal Education conference, and a presenter twice for CLE on the High Seas V and VI. She is a volunteer for Historic Oakland Foundation in Atlanta; University of Georgia Education and Research Garden; and Boy Scouts of America. She is a Facility Advisor for the Spalding County High School Model United Nations competition team. Her favorite title is still mom and Omi.
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