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New Year Resolutions

Christmas is over, the left-over food is slowly being eaten, and all the presents have been unwrapped. We are now in the sometimes confusing “what day of the week is it” time of year before we get back to work and start the new year. If you turn the radio or television on right now, not only might you catch up on the Boxing Day Test score, but you will also no doubt see or hear segments about new year celebrations and resolutions.

New Year Resolutions date back to over 4000 years ago in Ancient Babylon. It is thought the first New Year Resolutions were promises to repay debt and return borrowed items. In Roman times, New Year Resolutions were in the form of promises of good behaviour. Between then and now, our resolutions have evolved to be more about losing those last 5kg, getting more organised, saving more money, giving up social media/reducing screen time or exercising every day.

Now, in my 42 years, I can list below the New Year Resolutions I have kept:

That is right – not one. Ever. The problem I have found with New Year Resolutions is that I usually make them while I am on holidays, not in a regular routine, and let’s just say I might be making plans that are a bit too lofty for my everyday life. And I know I am not the only one. I used to write a list on December 31 and be so excited about the prospect of a clean slate in the new year. But here is how my resolutions used to go:

January 1-4, while still relaxing, I can go for my hour walk, prepare healthy meals for myself and my whole family, and almost feel relief from not logging into social media or my favourite online retailers.

But then January 5-10 rolls around, and I start focusing on back-to-school lists and heading back to work – I don’t have any inspiration for lunches or easy dinner ideas, and I jump back on social media to see if I can find some ideas (but only for 5 minutes, and I absolutely won’t go back on again). But then I realise the children need new shoes and lunchboxes, but the shops are so busy, and I don’t want to overspend, so maybe, for this very specific reason I log into online shopping and stumble across the tail end of the Boxing Day sales – but I am buying essentials (and maybe just a few treats for everyone). I also realise that when I am back in my daily routine, the daily hour walk has to change to half an hour, every second day because I just don’t have the time, and one by one, my resolutions fall from my focus, the list – which was under a magnet on the fridge – is covered by the household bills and by January 15, the cycle is complete and I am back to my old routines.

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But a few years ago, my husband and I began a tradition of writing goals at the start of each year. We did this on the first weekend after we returned from holidays, and we followed a process to try and make our goals more achievable. Now this story doesn’t have a Hallmark Christmas movie storyline, I don’t have a 100% success rate, I don’t have ‘the answer’, but I have had some success over the years which has led to 5 tips that might help if you have goals that you would like to achieve in the year ahead.

  1. Pick goals that you really want to achieve. We focus on 1 financial, 1 personal, 1 family and 1 fun goal each. These goals weren’t the first ones that came to mind. We would write long lists, that if we have a perfect world where we got everything we wanted, what would those things be. And from that long list, we pick 1 for each category, or if 1 is too hard, pick a top 3 for each category, so you can revisit the list throughout the year and decide if the top 3 continue to be your top 3.
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  1. We prioritised and put timeframes on the goals. Some of them, usually the financial ones, can’t be achieved overnight, so don’t set yourself up for failure if you aim to save $5 000 by the end of January. Put a timeframe on what you would like to achieve. Some things could happen in the next month or two, some things might take the whole year to achieve.
  1. Decide how you are going to do it. I have found that the reason for my dismal success rate with new year resolutions was that I didn’t have a plan on how I was going to make it happen. If you want to save more money, set up an online savings account and an automatic direct deposit right now. But make it realistic, if you put $10 away a week, you will have $3 650 in that savings account at the end of the year. And the second year, you might be able to increase that to $15 per week, but if you promise yourself to save more than your budget allows, as soon as you need that money for living expenses or bills, your savings plan becomes all too hard. With each goal I set – I write the first 3 things that I need to do to make the goal a reality – and one of those actions has to happen within 24 hours of writing the goal to keep my focus going.
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  1. Keep coming back to the actions – not the goals. Ticking off the step-by-step actions will move you closer to the goal. The idea of decluttering your home or incorporating more movement into your day can seem daunting if that is your focus, but if you focus on the steps, you will achieve small steps towards your ultimate goal. Maybe you aim to clear out a cupboard each week, or you start by waking up 10 minutes earlier and going for a walk around the block before work.
  1. Come back to the goals a couple of times a year to reassess and make sure you still want the same things and celebrate your progress.
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Resolutions, goals, plans, or following in the footsteps of the ancient Roman empire and promise to be a good person. Whichever way you chose to farewell the old year and bring in the new year – just remember to be kind to yourself and set yourself up for success in the new year – whatever that looks like for you and your family.

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