Be S.M.A.R.T. about Your New Year's Resolutions
The new year is always filled with mixed emotions. We feel relief that the pressure of the holidays is finally over, anxiety about our New Year’s resolutions and hope for our future.
January is a month that we collectively sit down to reflect on years past and look forward to our goals for the new year. We make New Year’s resolutions, and sometimes we keep them. Most of the time, though, they fade into a not-so-distant memory.
Two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to focus on fitness and save more money. And, more often than not, individuals and companies alike can’t seem to stick with them through the whole year. It’s a sad state of affairs because fitness and finances govern everything we do.
Your fitness level determines what you can do physically and mentally, while your financial status determines whether or not you can reach and maintain the success of your goals. This year, don’t be caught up in the snowstorm of the new year. Take control of your life and your goals. It’s much easier than it seems.
The goal of losing weight, working out more often or becoming “fit” are important goals to set. The most important part of setting the goal is determining what success looks like. How much weight do you want to lose? How often do you want to work out? What does “fit” mean to you? These are all questions you must be able to answer in order to actually achieve the goal.
Once you’ve decided what success looks like, you need a gameplan. It means coming up with a workout and nutrition plan -- or following one you found online.
If you’re new to fitness, start small. You have to walk before you can run. Park your car far from the entrance to the grocery store or mall, take the stairs instead of the elevator or go take a walk around the block during your lunch hour. All it takes is 20 to 30 minutes of exercise to improve your health.
Nutrition is another story. It’s important to consult a doctor or nutritionist if you’ve never created your own nutrition plan before, especially if your family has a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or blood sugar problems.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. When you’re cooking, include green vegetables. Most of them have no taste, but plenty of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Start cooking from home instead of ordering takeout. Simply knowing what you’re putting in your body helps you cut down on unhealthy eating.
Getting your finances in order can seem like a daunting task, but that’s often because people don’t know where to start. The best place is at the beginning. Before you can change your financial status, you have to know where you stand.
Calculating your net worth is a relatively easy first step for anyone looking to sort out their finances. To do this, simply add up the value of everything you own (your jewelry, car, home, savings accounts or checking accounts). Then subtract from that number all of your liabilities (debt, outstanding bills, remaining balances on loans or mortgages). What you’re left with is your net worth.
Don’t be discouraged if you have more liabilities than assets. It’s normal. In fact, if you had no debt and only $10 to your name, you’d still have more wealth than 15 percent of Americans. This number is a representation of where you are. Now, you need to figure out where you want to be.
Just like with fitness, you need to figure out what you’re definition of financial success is. You might take it in baby steps and say that this year, you want to be debt free. And then create a new financial resolution for yourself next year. It all depends on what success means to you. There are books by Dave Ramsey and David Bach that talk you through the steps of planning for your financial future. There are apps like Mint that help you track your spending, budgets and credit score all from your phone. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that you can implement with as little hassle as possible into your life.
Our last piece of advice is to identify other financial sources that may not contribute to your net worth, but that would help you in a crisis. These can include insurance policies, Social Security benefits and health care coverage. While you might be paying for these services, they provide a kind of peace-of-mind that ensures you’re taken care of should the worst happen.
Be S.M.A.R.T. about your future
Oftentimes, we get discouraged from the start because we aren’t giving ourselves a chance to succeed from the very beginning. When setting goals, make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. goals.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that helps you create goals you know you can achieve. These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound.
To create a goal that is specific, you need to ask five very important questions. If you can’t answer them all, you will struggle to succeed.
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why is this goal important?
- Who is involved?
- Where is it located?
- Which resources or limits are involved?
Once you’ve identified the individual pieces to your goal, you have to figure out how you’ll know when you’ve succeeded. You need to be able to measure your progress. That can be in pounds lost or dollars saved. The specific measurement doesn’t matter, so long as you have one.
Your goals must also be achievable and relevant. You automatically put yourself in a position to fail when you create unrealistic goals. Your goals should take into account your limitations of any kind -- financial, time-based or knowledge-based. They should also match up to your current position in life. All of your goals should align with your personal moral code and timeline and your abilities with the authority and responsibility you’re currently given.
Lastly, your goal should have an end date. New Year’s resolutions are great for this because it provides a default end-date: the end of the year. That date should be adjusted to provide you enough of a challenge to keep you engaged with your goal, but enough room to know you can make a few mistakes along the way.
Fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions takes time and a lot of perseverance. It requires constant vigilance. It may not be the most exciting process in the beginning, but it’s worth the effort. When the next New Year’s arrives, you’ll be ready to tackle anything.