When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, there are three distinct camps: those who refuse them; those who make them—and break them by January 3; and those who make a true effort to improve themselves and their lives by making a change in the coming year. As someone who is continually striving to live a better, stronger, healthier life, I’m in that third group. And while I’m not always successful, I really do try.
Every year I make a list of my intentions for the next 12 months. As you’d expect, it includes the usual suspects. Lose some more weight. Reduce my golf handicap. Walk and meditate every day. But as I began to think about my list for 2017, I knew it was time to take the whole idea of resolutions a step further. I wanted to come up with personal and financial goals that were concrete—and that I knew I cared deeply enough about to be sure I followed through.
Then, last week, I got a brilliant idea: reach out to others for insight! I started emailing friends and clients right away, asking for their own personal and financial resolutions for the coming year (and promising to change their names in my blog to keep their thoughts anonymous). As I anticipated, the responses were each glorious in their own way…and they gave me the encouragement I needed to make my own resolutions as honest, direct, and thoughtful as possible. It seems almost everyone is dedicated to making 2017 a truly meaningful year.
The personal resolutions I received ran the gamut, including cutting back on sugar or alcohol, sleeping more (or hitting the snooze button less!), and being mindful about personal choices and the relationships that matter most and, as one friend wrote so eloquently, “to live more in the moment with love and gratitude.” Not surprisingly, aging was a big driver for those in my own generation, and their resolutions seemed to seep with sage wisdom. “As we age, we are confronted with losses in terms of our own health and the health of others and losses in many other aspects of living,” wrote Cynthia. “It is a natural and normal part of aging. My choice is to focus on gratitude rather than the losses.” Beautiful. For Liz, her own health is becoming an even greater priority. As a result, she is taking dieting to a whole new level, resolving to transition to a vegetarian or even a vegan diet to add some years to her life. “At 67, I’m beginning to feel vulnerable,” she says. Oh, how I can relate! Susan wants to meditate every day, Emma is working to “be less reactive when someone says something that upsets me, and try to put a smile on at least one person's face a day,” and Carol intends to “count every moment as the most precious there is” and to “live in the now.” (All three women would feel right at home in my Sangha meditation group, which you can read about in my Yom Kippur blog.)
As I read through the financial resolutions, I was suddenly filled with gratitude, knowing that I’ve helped more than a handful of people evolve to where they are today when it comes to money. Many said they were committed to paying off all their credit card debt, building a real budget and emergency fund, or eating out less to save more. Nicole is making an effort to “start planning for retirement, and to be happy with what I have.” What a perfect starting point. John’s goal is more specific: “I want to reduce my spending by at least $1,000/month.” Similarly, Anne realized that watching individual stocks was driving her crazy, so she converted her portfolio to a broad mix of ETFs. What a great way to remove the emotions from investing. Kelly wants to “keep abreast of what’s happening” in finance, and Marcia wrote the she plans to “continue taking on more responsibility financially.” (As a huge advocate of being your own financial fiduciary, this was music to my ears! Read more in my blog on financial literacy.)
All of these (and the many others I so gratefully received) are fantastic. Of course, the challenge for most of us is sticking to our resolutions. Over the years, I’ve found that writing down my resolutions—and putting that written reminder somewhere I will see it daily—makes a huge difference. It can also help to have an “accountability partner,” someone you can trust to hold your feet to the fire and press you forward right when that potentially life-changing resolution feels like it’s about to fall by the wayside. And, as is true for any change in behavior, do what you can to turn your resolution into a real habit. As soon as I read Beth’s resolution, I knew she was ready to tackle this part of the challenge. She not only wants to “recommit to improving my keyboard skills,” but she has a plan to make it happen by establishing a routine of playing the piano for a minimum of one hour each week. Every one of us would be wise to do the same. If creating new habits is a challenge for you, check out the WOOP approach—a scientifically based (and easy-to-use) method for increasing your motivation and, yes, ensuring those New Year’s resolutions become a reality in 2017.
When Pat responded to my query about New Year’s resolutions, he returned the challenge: “I'll share mine,” he wrote. “But I'd like you to share yours with me. I trust that you'll do that!” Plus, he upped the ante a bit with two pretty spectacular resolutions. The first was to “Be a good example to my children for financial management and security.” The second: “Devote 10% of my time, energy, and financial resources to ACTION for the climate change problem.” Wow.
To live up to my end of the bargain, here are my resolutions for 2017. I welcome you all to be my accountability partners to help keep me on track throughout the year. I’m happy to do the same in return.
Financially, I want to gain the courage to believe in myself fully, and to commit to the economic value of what I do. (Despite being a feminist to the core, I tend to undervalue and under-price myself, charging a ‘woman’s dollar for a man’s work.’)
Personally, the list is long, but the most important changes are to be less reactive to others, to entertain at home more often and, most importantly, to not be so co-dependent with others by understanding that I can’t stop others from failing—I can only improve myself and my choices.
And to help those who will likely suffer the most as a result of the policies of the incoming Trump administration, I want to find a way to help protect children, the environment, and women’s rights. Oh…and, yeah. And as corny as it my sound, I want to help shift us toward world peace. If none of us stop striving, perhaps one day we can make that dream come true!
I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!