It seems to me that I post the same thing every year. I resolve to lose weight. I resolve to get my house cleaned up. I resolve to get my financial house in order. I resolve to write X number of words this year. Those who have read my other blog know that these are my evergreen resolutions. Those who have read this blog might realize that they tie in to my long term goals.
And, as you might suspect, every year I resolve, and fail to follow through.
Oh, I’ve made progress, no doubt. I’m much better off in all ways than I was even two years ago. But I’ve never managed to reach my goals, and I think I know why.
It isn’t because my goals aren’t SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I’ve never vowed to try and lose a hundred pounds in a year, or to have my debt paid off and a million dollars in the bank in two years, or to be a better writer than JK Rowling. All of my goals make sense to me, and I know that with focussed effort, I can acheive what I set out to do.
But I don’t do it for the same reason that a lot of people either fail to attain their goals or to sustain the success once they’ve reached the gaol: I don’t develop the habits that will move me slowly but surely in the right direction, and that will sustain my success once I reach it.
So this year, I’m going to focus on developing habits, one or two each month, and I’m going to keep track.
Habit the First: I’m going to take time each day to track my financial position. Check my bank account, pay bills, check my credit card balance, budget each pay as it comes (including some set aside for long term goals), and track expenses. I know I can sustain this–last year I did this for three months. Then I stopped, because I thought I didn’t need to do it any more. This coming year, my goal will be to continue it throughout the year, because as soon as I stopped the daily tracking, well… Do I need to tell you what happened to my financial position? Thought not.
Habit the Second: I am going to write something every day. Doesn’t matter if it’s one sentence or a few hundred. Again, I did this during November and on into most of December–it’s not unrealistic to think I can do this every day for the rest of my life. I just have to make it as automatic as breathing, and as uncomfortable to me as not breathing when I don’t follow through.
Habit the Third: I am going to clean (making bed and tidying room doesn’t count, because these are now automatic behaviours for me) or declutter for 15 minutes or more every day. This might seem like a small thing, but since I live alone, it should be more than enough to turn the mess around and head me in the right direction. And as with writing, it’s not so much the amount of cleaning that’s important, it’s simply getting started, because once I start, I generally do much more than the minimum.
Habit the Fourth: At some point before June, I am going to add a basic 20 minute yoga routine (Sun Salutations, etc.) to my exercise regime.
Habit the Fifth: I am going to play five three-octave scales on my viola every day. Exeperience tells me that when I do even this little bit, I tend to play better during orchestra rehearsals and concerts than when I don’t. And I do want to get better. (I’m in this picture. So is my daughter…)
Habit the Sixth: Eat at home for all meals, with the exception of Sunday lunch and specified (and very rare) “reward” meals.
The rewards will be for amassing a certain number of points, garnered by doing the above things each day. I’ve got cool stickers and a nice calendar, and I’ll be keeping track. I’ll also commit to posting monthly about my success or failure, which will also help keep me on track.
In addition to these five basics, I’ve got some other habits I want to work into my routine: eating from smaller plates (proven to reduce calorie intake without too much pain), substituting tea for diet cola (healthier, and much, much cheaper), eat at least one piece of fruit and two different veggies every day (this will be my next “points” habit, once I’ve got the others going to my satisfaction), and doing something to promote my blog every day.
So, to start the conversation, what are your New Year’s resolutions, if you make them? How do you plan to make yourself accountable, and how do they tie into your long term financial and personal goals?