“People who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed, the more they want to succeed and the more they find a way to succeed.” – Tony Robbins
Apparently January 10th is the day by which most people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. While I couldn’t find any statistical evidence for this outside of newspaper reports, I’m willing to bet that if you compare how busy the gym is this week compared to ten days ago, you’re going to see a significant difference. It seems to be a widely accepted fact of resolution making that most people who make resolutions will give up on them but why exactly is that and, more importantly, what can we do to avoid becoming part of that statistic?
Whenever people are surveyed about which areas they are resolving to improve, finance tends to feature close to the top of the list. If making financial changes and improvements is on your list this year, here are three reasons why I believe people abandon their new year’s resolutions and some suggestions to help you maximize your chances of achieving yours:
1. Resolution vs. Commitment
A critical component of setting a goal is the plan that you formulate to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Resolving to do something is important but without a clear plan as to how you’re going to accomplish what you’ve resolved to do, it will be tough to get there. A plan is what takes a resolution from a “wanna do” to a “gonna do”. It lays out the step by step process that lets you see clearly not only how you’re going to achieve your goal but also how far you’ve progressed on your journey and how close you are to success.
The process of creating the plan also allows you to anticipate challenges that you might encounter along the way and lets you figure out how you can overcome them. Without a plan, you make the journey infinitely more difficult: the plan is your roadmap to success.
2. Should vs. Want
Too often we make resolutions because we think we “should” make a change. We see high credit card bills and know we should reduce our debts. We get on the scale and see a number that’s higher than we would like it to be and we know that we should get more exercise and eat better. However, if we’re not truly committed to the idea; if we don’t actually want to do the work necessary to make the change then we’re just setting ourselves up for failure.
If you make a resolution, then you have to make sure that you’re resolving to do something you truly want to do because without a “why” your resolution is likely to be abandoned at the first hurdle. Every goal needs a motivator; a reason that drives you to start and a reason that inspires you to keep going when the path gets tough. Emotion tends to drive us further than logic so find a motivator that really resonates with you and let it inspire you to work your way to your goal.
3. Obstacles vs. Challenges
When you make a resolution, you’re making a decision to change something. Logic says that, when you’re trying something new, you’re likely to run into challenges but how we interpret and react to those challenges can vary dramatically from person to person. In last week’s post, I explored the idea of a fixed vs a growth mindset and how people view challenges differently depending on the mindset they have. Whenever you make a change, no matter whether it’s positive or negative, it takes you out of your comfort zone, and makes the part of your brain that protects you from pain very anxious. This anxiety is why far too many of us choose to remain “comfortably uncomfortable” rather than risk greater discomfort by making a change; it’s just easier to stick with what we know, even if what we know is large amounts of debt or something else that is holding us back.
Sometimes, when people are unsure about their goal or their abilities, a challenge can be seen as evidence that they were crazy to start on the journey in the first place or evidence that they’re just not up to the task. Sometimes a challenge can be a great excuse to bail on a goal that we’re no longer committed to or that’s not supported by the people around us. These all show a fixed mindset at work. The truth is that nothing worth having comes easy and making a change means growing into someone a little different than the person we are when we start the journey. People with a growth mindset understand that obstacles aren’t there to block the path permanently but instead are there to present a challenge that we can learn from and that will help us grow as we figure out how to overcome them. Suggesting that you try seeing those obstacles as learning opportunities might sound silly, but there’s plenty of research to support the idea that those with a growth mindset set and achieve more goals than those with a fixed mindset, simply because they see challenges as an opportunity to learn rather than a reason to stay put.
So whether your goal is to learn more, save more, vanquish your debt or a combination of all three, taking the time to formulate a plan, identify your “why” and choosing to look at obstacles with anticipation rather than dread will help you take that new year’s resolution from thought to reality.
What financial goals are you setting this year? What have you accomplished in the past? Do you have tips and strategies to share? As always, I’d love to hear your insights.