Achieve Your Goals in the New Year

The new year is almost upon us.  It’s that time of the year when we reflect on what we’ve accomplished in the previous year and start setting goals for the new year.  Wouldn’t it be great if 2020 is the year that you achieved all your goals? According to a University of Scranton study, the odds are often stacked against us.  Only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. More than 50% of people quit after six months. Despite the discouraging numbers, there are ways to increase the odds. 

Set S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals

For starters, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals by simply writing them down on a regular basis, according to a study by Dr. Gail Matthews.  You can further increase your odds by making the goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, Exciting and Re-adjustable (S.M.A.R.T.E.R.):

Specific – The who, what, when, where and how of your goal

Measurable – How do you plan to quantify your progress?

Achievable – Set a goal that is challenging but reachable

Relevant – How does this goal fit in with your intermediate and long-term life plans?   

Time-bound – How long do you have to achieve this goal?  

Exciting – Emotions play a big role in our decision-making process.  Try making your goals exciting and rewarding to keep you motivated. 

Re-adjustable – Set up a system to regularly evaluate your progress towards your goals.  If your method is not working or your circumstances have changed, revise the goals or adjust your strategies.  

Example of a typical goal we set on New Year’s Eve:  “I want to save money.”  

Example of a S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goal: “I want to save $12,000 by December 31, 2020 so I can take my family on a multi-generational cruise in 2021.  I will do this by setting up automatic deposits of $500 into my savings account after each payday this year. I will treat myself to a latte each time a deposit happens.  When I receive a pay raise, I will adjust my savings goal up to reflect the higher pay.” 

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Develop Good Habits to Support Your Goals  

Most goals, whether it’s to grow your savings or lose weight, require consistency and repetition over time.  Imagine how much more successful you will be in this new year if your daily routine supports your goals. If you work hard on developing new good habits, achieving your goals will become nearly effortless.  James Clear’s book Atomic Habits shares four powerful behavior changing rules to follow:

Make it obvious: Try adding a new habit right after an established one. Use a set time or location as a cue to start a new habit.  For example, after I get out of bed in the morning (established habit), I will meditate for 2 minutes (new habit). 

Make it attractive: Pair an action you need to do with an action you want to do.  For example, after I meditate, I will drink a cup of my favorite coffee.

Make is easy: Focus on taking action, even if it’s just for two minutes.  Make it easy for yourself to start. When establishing a habit, the number of times you perform the habit is more important than the duration.

Make it satisfying: Reward yourself after your finish.  A habit journal where you track your habits might be a sufficient reward for many of us.  It builds a visual signal of the habit change over time.

Try using these rules to design new routines that integrates your goals into your daily life. 

Summing It Up

Each year, we strive to become better versions of ourselves.  The next time you are setting goals and implementing action plans, try utilizing a few of these tools and strategies to improve your odds.  At Blankinship & Foster, we are always looking for ways to help make our clients’ lives better.  Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

About Monica Ma

Monica Ma, CFP®, CFA® is an advisor and the chair of the Investment Committee at Blankinship & Foster LLC. She helps clients build sound investment portfolios and develop strategic plans to reach their goals. Since Monica is passionate about sharing her knowledge with women and retirees, she co-leads the firm's Wise Women and Living Wisely Educational Series. Monica is a member of the International Community Foundation's Investment and Finance Committee. She has been living in San Diego since 2008 and enjoys travelling and cooking with her family.

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