New Year, New You?

December 16, 2021
Avril Liljekvist

How to make your New Year's resolution stick

If you've ever set a New Year's resolution only to find that it runs into the same difficulties as resolutions made at any other time of the year, the reality check can be painful, especially when it seems like everyone around you is reinventing themselves and reaching for the stars. The pressure to dramatically change our lives as the clock ticks towards midnight is very real, but most of us already have enough stress without taking on another burden. So how can we make New Year's resolutions which work for us, instead of against us?

1. Resolutions are Bigger than Goals

When we set goals we need to be as specific as possible so that we have a clear idea of what it is we're aiming to achieve. But resolutions are broader than this, and they can be as aspirational as we want them to be. A great goal for me would be “generate $10k in income by June” - a clear objective with both a measure and a time frame. A great resolution would be to “improve my financial position”. The non-specific nature of the resolution is both its weakness and its strength, and we can make that work for us.

Once we know what we want to do, our resolution is clear and we enable it by creating goals which are specific. I can use my $10k goal here to improve my financial position, but I can add other goals too. Reducing my expenses, putting together a savings plan, or reviewing my superannuation arrangements are all practical steps I can take to ensure that by the end of the year, I have achieved my resolution.

Most importantly, failure to achieve the goal isn't a failure or abandonment of the resolution. I might not be able to make $10k by June, but if I've made $1k, then I've still succeeded with my resolution. I have other goals that support that resolution, and each of these can be pursued independently and their success or failure only adds to the progress of my resolution.

2. Process vs Action

When we focus on the action, we're really living in the moment. We're focusing on the specific thing we've identified as the key to success or failure. Maybe that's not spending so much money on clothes. Maybe it's getting to the gym three days a week. Either way, when the moment comes to hand over the money or lace up the running shoes, we're focused on the thing that we're doing right now, and all our energy and determination is being expended to ensure a particular outcome.

But when we focus on processes, it requires taking a step back from the moment and looking at the way we structure our routine around these actions. Sophie Scott elaborates on different ways we can make changes which support us taking the desired action when the going gets tough.

3. Personal Transformation is Continuous

Although we make our resolutions at New Year, the process of deciding which things to change in our lives is an ongoing one. Throughout the year our challenges make us rethink our priorities and help us determine what we want to do differently.

It's also important once we do make the resolution, to reflect on it during the year and see how our goals and processes are supporting, or undermining it. This isn't a process we can “set and forget”, but one which we can really supercharge by regularly reflecting on how it's going, and whether we need to adjust things to ensure we get what we want. In her article about setting achievable resolutions, Matilda Dixon-Smith's method of considering her resolution as a “check-in” when she makes decisions, makes it easier to succeed in the moment.

And ultimately, that's what it's about – what WE want. New Year's resolutions are a great opportunity to do something for ourselves; to make a change which benefits us and one which fills us with confidence and excitement for the year ahead.

 *The information provided in this article is general information only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a financial decision, please assess the appropriateness of the information to your individual circumstances and consider seeking professional advice.

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