We are four months into 2021 and there is a good chance that half of all the New Year’s resolutions have already failed. A long-term study by the University of Scranton found that less than 10% of resolutions become part of our lives1.
Such a high failure rate may be due to making bold resolutions we aren’t quite ready for. In other words, the resolution may be aspirational, but not realistic. Another reason may be because there is no plan to get from A to Z by way of systematic progression. We sprint right from the gate and burn ourselves out.
The key to real progress, be it personal or professional, is baby steps. Rather than big resolutions, it is better to focus on a few simple habits. You have habits of commission (I am going to do ABC) and habits of omission (I’m not going to eat XYZ). No matter the kind of habit, successfully forming and retaining them follow the same method.
Creating Habits That Stick
You begin with a resolution and identify the reason or purpose behind the resolution. The resolution is the goal, the purpose is the “why” and intentional habits become the “action plan” to get you there. To improve the likelihood of sticking with new habits, we should form ones that are not major deviations from our current lifestyle. Making a 1% change may not be noticeable or something to brag about, but they can be far more meaningful in the long run.
Once we master a new habit, we create another small habit that gets us one step closer to our resolution. This becomes a continues cycle of improvement that empowers and helps us become the person we want. A marathon is completed with many small steps, not a few giant leaps. We should view resolutions in a similar manner.
Very often Financial Wellness resolutions are in the top 5 most popular resolutions. I strongly believe that the foundation to a well-organized financial life rests in understanding where your money is going. Our infamous Income Distribution spreadsheet that Wynette Stunts was using 38 years ago is still in action today. The habit of tracking your spending is by far the most helpful tool to improving your Financial Wellness.
Today is the Best Day to Start
No matter what, today is the best day to start a habit that will improve your life. Why today? Because it isn’t tomorrow. When we are forming small habits, we don’t face uncomfortable or unnatural changes to our lifestyle. Hence, there is no reason to procrastinate the day of achieving our resolution.
Remember, you do not have to strive for Financial Wellness alone. We are always here to help you along your journey and help the next generation of your family start on their path to Financial Wellness.
Jason McGarraugh, MS, CFP®
©2021 The Behavioral Finance Network