The root of it lies in how humans make sense of time. We operate best in small blocks. We’re good at understanding the next 30 minutes, or blocks like tomorrow morning. Thinking ahead to next week starts to get vague, next month gets harder, and next year? Blurry as. A full-on Monet.
This is partly why we’re not great at being realistic about our futures. We also bring a rosy lens of optimism bias. (i.e. I’ll never get cancer although 30% of us will). And this is one of the biggest challenges for planning for the long-term, whether it’s saving, dieting, or having kids.
So how do you stick to your resolutions?
Just start already
Researchers have found that planning to start something in a new time cycle, like the new year or next week, leads us to discount future obstacles that might stand in our way. We set unrealistic goals because of it.
If we think about starting a diet tomorrow, we think it’ll be hard. If we think about it starting next month? We think we’ll be sweet. Not so.
So what? Instead of thinking about 2017 or next week being your fresh start, just start tomorrow.
Take small, S. M. A. R. T. bites
It’s great to have lofty goals — reach for the stars 🌟 and you’ll get at least halfway there. But to implement those goals, start small. We use something called the SMART framework — Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Timed.
Crash dieting doesn’t work for most of us. But changing little specific things, like not buying potato chips in January 😳, is much more likely to.
Say your lofty goal this year is to pay off debt. Start by breaking it down to small SMART bites like this:
– Identify how much debt I have and how much income
– Set my SMART goal given the above
– SMART goal: Pay $300 per month to clear my debt by Nov 30, 2017.
– Spend 30 mins (ugh) consolidating to a 0% balance transfer credit card account so I don’t pay any extra interest for six months.
– Schedule $150 auto payment to my credit card account every payday
Everything huge that’s been built, whether a skyscraper or a social movement, started small. Slow and steady wins the race! 🐢
Write your goals down. Stick it on your fridge. Or in your phone. Somewhere you’ll see it to help keep it front of mind.
Track it to rack it
We’re all for Fitbits, but tracking every cent we spend? *Yawn*. Yet it’s important to know your big buckets like savings and debt.
Log in to each of your accounts and record how much you have spent/saved/paid. If it looks fab, well done you! 😎 If it doesn’t look great, read on. 🤓
Ask a buddy
It’s easier to form habits with a wing(wo)man who can keep you in check and help you through the inevitable ups and downs. Enlist your BFF or someone you trust. Schedule it in your calendars for every month. That way you have an excuse to catch up.
Celebrate milestones dammit
Enter your big resolution and small bites as goals. Celebrate each small bite. It doesn’t matter about the dollar amount, it’s all about starting new patterns. And it’s super satisfying to see those streaks.
Finally, stop giving yourself sh*t
A lot of us are hard on ourselves when things don’t go well. We are 100% feeling you. But too many of us overvalue perfection and undervalue failure.
The ‘fixed’ mindsets among us see failure as a reflection of our shortcomings. But reframing this to a ‘growth’ mindset will enable you to learn.
If you don’t keep to your resolutions every step of the way, or if you shatter them, it’s not a failure. It’s an opportunity. Don’t give yourself so much sh*t.
It’s ok to go one step forward, one step back. You’ve started, and that’s the hardest part. Every backward step is an opportunity to find out why it didn’t work, and what might be a better way for you.
Also, you read this which means you want to make some change. That’s your first small bite. We’re cheering for you! 🎉
We’re on a mission to make it as easy and as joyful as humanly possible for anybody to be on top of their money. It’s not about getting rich, it’s about having freedom. We believe everybody deserves that.