The first three weeks of January are behind us and I’m writing an article on New Year’s Resolutions. Have I gone crazy? (No, I’ve always been crazy.)
Seriously though, this is the best time to make a New Year’s Resolution. Don’t take it from me, let Bill Murray tell you:
”I find that resolutions are best made a couple of weeks later. I think that there’s a lot of stress, panic, and tension around New Year’s, like you feel you have to make a resolution now. I would say resolving to make a resolution is the most important thing.”
Like they say to quarterbacks, the first step to success is prevent the pass rush from forcing you into a mistake. Making a resolution for the sake of having a resolution is a recipe for failure. It’s like waking up one day and saying, “I’d like to make 2 million dollars today.” We’d all like that, but it just isn’t going to happen.
Aside from Bill Murray's thoughts, this is around the time that people give up on their resolutions. This is really when most people need that extra drive to focus on their resolutions.
However, before we get to that, the very idea of a “resolution” can be looked at as a bad start. New Year’s Resolutions have a notoriously low success rate (around 8%). With that poor success rate comes low expectations. You might as well say, “I hope to lose weight.”
I think the problem is that most resolutions focus on the destination without necessarily putting together a plan. It’s great to know where you want to go, but it’s useless you know how you are going to get there.
So how can we get there?
I’d like to say that I’ve got the perfect proven formula to give you, but I don’t. This isn’t like my Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom where I can almost 100% guarantee you success if you follow the very simple steps.
However, since perfect is the enemy of good we won’t let perfect get in our way.
Here are the seven steps, I’m going to try to succeed in my New Year’s Resolution this year:
Think of your resolution as a goal
A resolution and a goal is really the same thing, right?
Now take your goal and make it SMART with these goal-setting tips. We aren’t going to be looking to “be rich” this year. That isn’t specific. We aren’t going to look to make “2 million dollars tomorrow”, because that’s not attainable. We could look to make an extra $15,000 this year as that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant (you’d like an extra $15,000, right?), and Time-bound.
Now that I have a good goal, I can move forward.
Break Your Goal Down
That $15,000 comes out to be $1250 a month… or roughly $40 a day. I like to think of the $40/day as it doesn’t seem like much. However, for the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to set-up monthly checkpoints, “Did I make an extra $1250 this past month?” If the answer is no, I’ve got to work harder, smarter, or differently.
Create Some Kind of Plan
How might one make an extra $1250? Last September, I started dog sitting. When I have a dog staying overnight, I can make $30. That seems to almost get me there, but there are a lot of days that I have no business. I estimate that I’ll make between $4000-5000 in dog sitting this year.
What am I going to use to cover the shortage? I’m hoping to write a relatively short ebook that I can sell for $9.99. I’m not sure if I can sell a thousand of them, but I’ll never know until try.
When I started sitting dogs, I was far from an expert. I was good with my own dog, but I didn’t have a lot of experience with other breeds. I forgot what it was like to have puppy in the house. My own dog knows where to go to the bathroom… and the visiting dog does not.
The fastest way for me to learn was by doing. It was slow at first. I had no reviews and I could understand why people might not want to book with me. However, dogs (and reviews) started trickling in. By New Year’s, I had to turn away business. In December, I made $718, which is a significant portion of my $1250 goal.
Have Purpose: It Has to be Meaningful
If your resolution doesn't mean anything to you, it's going to be hard to keep. It's great to have a goal to make $15,000 more a year, but what are you doing it for?
For example, I want to be able to put more in my kids college savings so that they can go to any school they want to. It means a lot to me.
If it was money for the sake of having more digits in a checking account, it would be a different story. I wouldn't be as willing to work hard to get it done.
Use Cues and Rules
There's a great book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. I highly recommend reading it. One of the many ideas that I found useful in the book is called having cues.
He describes how cues, routines, and rewards work here. The idea is to figure out what (the cue) is leading to a negative routine, and what the reward is. Boredom may lead one to eat a pint of ice cream with the reward being the great taste. If you can eliminate the cue (boredom), you can break that cycle.
I've used this to implement a flossing routine in the morning. I wake up and the first thing I do is floss before brushing my teeth. (here's why that order is important.) It might seem silly to floss before I eat, but my eating routine is tied to planning my day routine and dental hygiene gets forgotten. This way, I at least get some flossing in and that's an improvement.
This change is a baby step that I can grow on. Once flossing becomes a habit, I can work on changing the time to after meals.
"Don't Break the Chain"
I was reminded of this idea by Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks. He relates a story of how Jerry Seinfeld stuck with his habit of writing everyday:
To help develop this habit of writing, [Seinfeld] would write an X in a calendar if he wrote that day. Over time, he’d develop this chain of X’s in his calendar and he’d be motivated to write just so he wouldn’t 'break the chain.' The phrase 'don’t break the chain' refers to this idea. It’s worked out pretty well for Seinfeld.
This builds on the idea of cues/rules above by adding visualization into the picture. As you start to see the success of the Xs building their way across the calendar it becomes motivating to simply create more Xs. A simple rule could be, "Each day I need to get an 'X' on the calendar. What do I need to do to earn my 'X'."
For Jerry, it was writing. For you, it may be eating two healthy snacks. For my goal of making $15,000 more a year, it would be doing something that brings in an extra $40 a day.
- Learn how to set and keep a New Year’s Resolution - This is compilation from 6 experts (plus myself) is a great read. It also helped serve as inspiration to finally get this article written.
- The Power of Habit - This is one of the better books I’ve read on how to change your habits. It’s definitely worth your time.
Next: How to Beat Depression