It’s that time of year! Resolution time. We usually like to start with some lofty goals and high ideals. But, instead, it’s the month of extremism and abstinence.
I won’t spend money on anything for the whole month.
I will stop drinking forever.
I will not make any impulse purchases ever.
These are all dreams that are not actually realistic. We are humans. Humans have wants and desires that are hard to overcome, and to do that; we have to be realistic. Setting too large of a goal can actually lead to failure. It is easier to accept defeat when it was a long shot anyway. “Reach for the stars” and “aim big” are great tenants to live by but not very practical when actually choosing a goal and resolution that you want to reach.
Every big achievement starts with small baby steps.
Specific. Actionable. Measurable. Realistic. Lasting
Lasting- Choose something maintainable. Going on a spending fast is not going to get you anywhere concrete. It may help you for this month, but what about the next?
How do you choose a resolution that you will actually keep? First, make sure it has some of the following characteristics:
Specific- big, sweeping statements sound nice and motivational but are not actually practical. For example, I will not drink alone before 8 p.m. is a specific goal that solves a specific problem.
Actionable- Choosing to do something is easier than choosing NOT to do something. I will make myself a coffee at home because I will NOT buy coffee at Starbucks.
Measurable- You need to measure what you do so that you can celebrate when you do it. You need to be able to build on the positive momentum of your achievement. Create a goal that you can measure. Something subjective is not ideal because of the human tendency to create excuses. So “I will not make impulse purchases” can’t really be measured because who decides what is an “impulse”? I will not spend more than $50 is measurable. You either did, or you didn’t. “I will make coffee at home for one week” is measurable.
Realistic- If the goal is unrealistic or too difficult, then you will quit before you start. We don’t like a failure, so if the goal is never going to be reached, we probably won’t try at all. You are probably not going to save 50% of your paycheck right off the bat. You probably won’t cut all impulse spending right away (if this is an issue for you). Some things that are more realistic? 5% or 10% of your paycheck should go to savings. Put $5 a month away in a retirement account. Set a budget for impulse purchases that is what you can afford but not too small that you blow it all on the first day.
Lasting- Can you pick something that will last the whole year? Choosing a goal or resolution that will last and be a real change in your lifestyle (forever?) should really be the point. After all, wouldn’t it be great if each year you make a change that can be build on the next year? Don’t pick something flashy that will make you burn out by February. Instead, pick something small, meaningful, realistic, and measurable that you can really do for the whole year!