Setting New Years Resolutions that Stick

Self-ImprovementGoal Setting

  • Author Martin Tanner
  • Published January 24, 2023
  • Word count 1,043

It's that time of year again. Time to reflect on the year that's gone by. A time to remember the good times, as well as the times that have been more of a struggle. Time to think of friends and family. It's often a time of quiet contemplation - remembering those who are no longer with us. It's also a time to look forward with anticipation to next year - and all that it has in store for us. Of course, recent years have proven to have a course of events that are hard to predict and prepare for. With Covid (and resulting lockdowns), followed by the war in Ukraine and a financial recession, few people will suggest that recent years have turned out quite how they hoped. But maybe, just maybe, next year will be different!

Many people choose this time of year to set resolutions - changes that will positively impact their lifestyle, health and wellbeing. These resolutions are often linked to healthy eating or lifestyle choices. Maybe it's time to start a diet, or take up more exercise. Of course, a combination of both is most likely to have the greatest impact, but also runs the risk of being hard to maintain. Other resolutions may be set around work (work harder, or maybe work less) or perhaps learning something new (a language, a college course). For many, their resolutions are linked to their financial wellbeing. Perhaps save more, spend less, pay back debt - or simply apply more rigour to the way that personal finances are managed.

The trouble is, we all know the old familiar story. We set out with every best intention to keep to our resolutions. We start with great enthusiasm and immediately recognise the benefits. We tell ourselves that this is worthwhile. But then old habits set in. The temptation to not maintain our new lifestyle choices is overwhelming. We stay in bed instead of going to the gym. We surrender ourselves to that sweet treat. We don't complete the homework on our new course. Or we splash the cash on a luxury item. And before we know it, we have broken our resolution... and then we give up on it altogether. So how can we do it differently? How can we genuinely make our resolutions stick?

The first piece of advice is not to set too many resolutions. The new year always has an endearing charm to it - and the possibilities seem endless. It is surprisingly common that people therefore fall into the trap of trying to solve everything in one go. From the 1st (or maybe the 2nd) of January, they seek to eat more healthily, do more exercise, learn Spanish, get a promotion at work and pay off their credit card by spending less at the pub. The trouble is, the more resolutions we set, the more likely we are going to fall short and give into temptation. And once we have given in once, we are more likely to do so again. And before we know it, every single one of our resolutions is dead in the water. Far better is to set one clear resolution - and invest 100% of our focus into keeping it.

But what happens when we do break our resolution? We have a slice of cake, or we press snooze instead of going for a jog. This is the second piece of advice. Allow yourself to mess up occasionally and don't punish yourself. One piece of cake doesn't ruin a diet. A small expenditure on the credit card doesn't mean it can't be paid off this year. Missing one class on a college course doesn't mean you will automatically fail. The key is to allow yourself a reset button. Don't overthink it - simply accept that you are human and messed up. Then press reset and start again tomorrow. If you get through next year without failing once then great - genuinely well done. But if you do fail a few times, please be reassured that you will be in the majority (by quite some margin!) and you shouldn't allow it to get you down. It's all about how you handle the inevitable fails - and how you get back on the horse and carry on.

The third piece of advice is to invest in something different and inspiring to support your new resolution. For some people this will involve going out and buying a brand new gym kit with the latest trainers and breathable materials. That's great if you can afford it. But it's not wise to go out and spend a huge amount of money if you don't have the spare cash. Instead, think of other ways to invest in yourself. A carefully curated Spotify playlist to accompany your exercise is a great example. Perhaps clearing a corner of your home as your study area for your new course. If you are choosing your financial wellbeing as your resolution, then a brand new app to inform your financial decisions and to give you better control of your money is just what you need. iBudge is one example of apps that are available to enable you to set budgets, understand your financial health, track your income/expenditure and guide you through financial decision making. The standard version of iBudge is completely free, so is available to everyone with no upfront investment needed. If you choose to treat yourself to the premium version (with a range of additional features) then it is still highly affordable with a small monthly or annual subscription cost.

Recapping three proven tactics to make your resolutions stick:

  1. Do not set too many resolutions. Choose one (maybe two) areas of your life that you would like to focus - and invest yourself in making positive changes that are sustainable

  2. Allow yourself an occasional slip up. Don't give up just because you have broken your resolution. Instead, give yourself a reset button to enable you to accept the mistake and then get back on with your new lifestyle habits

  3. Invest in something that is different and inspiring to support your new resolution. It doesn't have to cost anything - be creative and find a way to inspire you to keep up with your resolutions

Martin Tanner is the CEO of iBudge ( Martin's career has spanned various roles where he has seen the impact of money management. In addition to his role as CEO of iBudge Limited, Martin has worked for a large UK bank, a UK-wide welfare-to-work organisation and a leading global recruitment company.

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