Thank you, 2014
As 2015 begins, I have some bad news. Your resolution isn’t going to work. There are two main reasons why these “resolutions” nosedive:
First, we constantly talk about them in the context of failing. We’re talking about failing before the ink dries on our resolution list. It’s like we guilt ourselves into creating New Year’s resolutions because we are embarrassed about the lack of progress we made in the past 12 months. We might even use the same resolutions year after year…expecting a different outcome.
Second, we create these goals without a willingness to change our lives, our routines, and our mindsets. For example, if your resolution is (like millions of other Americans) “losing weight” or “getting healthy,” are you planning to join a gym and dump the junk food out of your cabinets immediately? How long do you think this will last before you lose motivation? How much money will you lose in the meantime during your visits to Whole Foods and with your shiny new gym membership? Bottom line: If you’ve made this same resolution five years in a row with a glass of champagne in your hand and three in your stomach, why will this year be any different?
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how can you create resolutions or goals that will actually WORK?
This year, my husband and I turned our lives upside-down. We changed our entire perspective about money, retirement, our careers, and even our marriage. We started from square one by asking ourselves the only question that mattered: “What do we want?” What do we want out of life, out of our marriage, out of our careers? We found that the answers were so much more important than “losing five pounds” or “being more social” or “reading more” or even “learning a new language.” We realized that we have to change our lives to get what we want.
Here’s how we did it:
In three different moments throughout the year, we went to CVS and purchased a plain white poster board. The first time, we divided the poster into sections called “CAREER/MONEY,” “HOME” and “PERSONAL/RELATIONSHIPS.” We wrote what we wanted under each, including simple things like “be healthy” and “get a raise” and more detailed goals like “pay off $XXX in student loans” and “purchase our first investment property.” We took the most concrete, achievable, specific goals from these lists and wrote them onto a smaller piece of the poster, which we taped up in our kitchen.
Every single day, one of the first things we saw was this list, written in bright red Sharpie, filled with empty check boxes. We didn’t talk about the list every day, but we reinforced these goals by walking by them countless times. We couldn’t just pretend they weren’t there, like we have done with our resolutions so many times. We couldn’t ignore the list of things we want most, because it was sitting right in front of us. Without realizing it, we eliminated nearly half of the items over the course of three months. Some were crossed off and others were checked off. Some of our goals changed, and we have continued to update the list as they do.
I’ve never kept any goals like these before. I’ve never written a goal down and steadily worked toward it. I always give up, lose focus, move on, and forget about it altogether.
The sense of accomplishment that I’ve felt after checking a box on our list has continued to motivate me. I’ve watched the list dwindle and I’ve seen our life together change. I went from a life of procrastination, excuses, and moving forward without a concrete goal to one of purpose, success, and accountability. I have a lot of work to do, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be done.
This year, instead of writing an unrealistic resolution you won’t keep. Create your own list of goals and commit to them. Look at them every day before you leave the house. Without even noticing, you’ll start taking actions towards the goals that matter. Check them off, add more, and challenge yourself. If you want extra accountability, post your goal(s) below and we can keep each other motivated. Happy 2015!