New Year’s resolutions can initiate life changing decisions, if you go about it properly
Every year millions of people make New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, more than 90% of the people responding to our survey last year said they make several resolutions every year, yet most people don’t achieve them. But don’t pass this off as a wasted effort. New Year’s resolutions, maybe this year more than any other, can be critical to shaping your life. The key is that you should make New Year’s decisions instead of resolutions.
Really these are New Year’s decisions to make decisions. At the beginning of the year, you can decide on what major life shaping decisions you will make during 2009. Then set yourself deadlines for these decisions, and work toward those deadlines.
In my book, Decide Better! For a Better Life, I talk about the frog in boiling water. If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump right out. But if you place a frog in a pot of lukewarm water and bring it slowly to a boil he will stay until he dies. People can be like the frog when they are in deteriorating situations – careers, relationship, financial – never making a decision to jump out. New Year’s decisions are a great time to take stock of your life and decide on your priorities for the upcoming year.
To help you get started, here are 10 New Year’s decisions you should consider. They go well beyond the “lose weight/exercise more” resolutions that most people traditionally make. These are life-shaping decisions.
1. Decide to make yourself a budget.
By making and living within a budget, you will regain control of your financial life – and feel better about yourself. It will guide your spending decisions, making it easier and less frustrating to decide how to spend money throughout the year. You don’t need to make all these decisions on New Years; simply make the decision to do a budget and live within your means, and then set yourself a deadline to make your budget.
2. Decide to reduce your debt.
If you are like millions of Americans, you have too much debt – credit cards, mortgages and school loans – and now is the time to reduce that burden. Make a New Year’s decision to reduce your debt during 2009. Then set a deadline to come up with a specific plan. Make it part of your budget decision. Don’t you feel better already knowing that you will end 2009 with less debt than you started with?
3. Decide to change your job or even your career.
If you are not happy with your job or career, you can decide to start the decision process to change jobs. Make the decision to look at new possibilities and start applying for new jobs. Set a time frame for yourself: “Over the next three months (or starting in June), I’m going to look for a new job.” This may be a difficult time to get a new job, but you won’t find one if you don’t decide to look.
4. Decide how to allocate your time next year.
Budgeting your time is just like - or maybe even more important - than budgeting your money. You do this by making decisions on how to allocate your time: to work, to family, to friends, to maintaining your household, to entertainment, to social activities, etc. Your New Year’s decision is to allocate your time better in 2009, so don’t you feel better already! Then work on it over the next few weeks.
5. Decide to improve your relationships next year.
Many people are unhappy about their relationships, but seem to go on without changing them – just like the frog in boiling water. You can make a New Year’s decision to improve your relationships, and then set yourself some deadlines to make specific decisions to make that happen. Be positive: make the decision now to improve your relationships for 2009
6. Decide to make some major, maybe even life-changing, decisions in 2009.
You may have major decisions like moving or going to school, or major purchase decisions to make in 2009. Consider these as part of your New Year’s decisions. Then decide on your priorities for 2009, and write down when you plan to make these decisions. It will be easier to make specific decisions within these priorities when the time comes.
7. Decide to make lifestyle changes to improve your health.
While New Year’s resolutions on health are the predominant ones (more than half of those responding to our survey set objectives to lose weight and eat healthier), these should really be decisions within a broader context. What are your health decisions for 2009 and how do you plan to achieve them?
8. If you have money saved, decide to change your investment strategy.
Given the turmoil in all investments in the latter half of 2008, many people are in the mood to make decisions to change their investment plans for 2009. Make that a New Year’s decision, and then follow through early in the year.
9. Decide to improve your relationship with friends and family.
Friends and family can be the most important aspects of our lives, yet all too frequently they end up with our leftover time and energy. Why not start this year with some specific decisions to improve these? Decide to improve your relationships with friends and family, then start a list of how to do this: call your parents every week, have dinner with friends every Thursday, email friends you haven’t seen for while, etc. Then keep updating this list. If you don’t start with a decision to do this, you most likely will never get to it.
10. Decide to make yourself happier in 2009.
In all these decisions, don’t neglect yourself. What would make you happier in 2009? Maybe you aren’t sure yet, but don’t let that stop you. Start with a New Year’s decision to be happier, then work on it all year long. You’ll see it works!
The key to successful New Year’s resolutions is to decide to decide. Decide on your priorities and plan of action. You don’t need to make all the decisions yet, but make those decisions to guide your life in 2009. Don’t be like the frog in boiling water. Set deadlines for yourself and work toward them.
Happy New Year!
Michael E. McGrath