Are you already dreading your New Year’s resolutions?

In Blog, Health & Wellness, Retirement Living by Debbie HatchLeave a Comment

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It’s here. The new year. Almost, anyway.  We still have Sunday and Monday to “enjoy ourselves” before changes start.

January 1st holds so many dreams, hopes, and wishes. It’s the day thousands of people believe they will wake up and “just” be different.  Better.  We’ll finally do all of those things we’ve been putting off.  This year provides an interesting conundrum.  Should we start on Monday?  Should we wait until January 1st – Tuesday?

Realistic goals should be something we’re looking forward to achieving.

If we have to wait until the last possible moment so that we can “enjoy one more day”, what does that say about the goals we’re setting?

That we’re dreading them?

That we don’t look forward to starting our journey to whatever it is we think we “have to do”?

These goals do NOT fit into our lifestyle. Not today – and not Tuesday either.

How successful can we hope to be with that mindset?
What if we first determine why we’d love to reach our goal?
Why we really want to do this – whatever it may be? Yes, that again. I know I sound like a broken record. That’s because it’s important!! It’s the most important piece, in fact. You know how to do this – you’re not doing it because you haven’t determined it to be more important than all the other things you’d rather be doing.

Over the past few days I’ve heard people say they will, “quit smoking” “exercise more” “do yoga every day” “get married (even though not currently dating)” “lose 60 pounds” “become less dramatic” “enjoy life more” and “stop yelling at the kids”.

Herein is the very reason why so many resolutions fail.

They’re not realistic.

They’re huge!

We think we can change everything all at once.

These are more like dreams for a perfect world, a perfect situation, a perfect life, than goals we                                                                                       actually want to work towards.

 

We will not wake up to be completely different people on Tuesday morning. The cigarettes, food (insert your whatever) will still be there.  If we didn’t have time, over the past 12 months, to get to the gym or do yoga, it’s unlikely we will “just find the time” starting today. The girl who told me she would be less dramatic will still be dramatic – that’s her personality. The kids won’t likely wake as little angels sporting shiny halos who will never frustrate you.  Those challenging relationships will still be challenging.  The places you over-shop will still be there and we’ll still make impulse buys that perhaps we shouldn’t, rather than save.

The fact is, we will wake up as the very same people we were when we go to bed.

Wanting to improve ourselves is fantastic.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t set goals. We should.  I’m not even saying that January 1st is not a good day to get started. Humans have plenty of hard-wired reasons for being so fond of that date (and Mondays).  Here’s a blog I’ve written about that.

What I’m saying is: life is messy, it’s busy, it’s complicated. It’s not perfect. We get pulled in a hundred different directions. We have to set goals, with small steps that are actually attainable in our lives as they are.

 

We need to be prepared with Plan B…and C, D, E, N, and R. We need to have a plan, ahead of time, for the “what ifs”.

 

1. START WITH MINDSET.

If you’re going into this change, already dreading it and feeling like you’re going to have to “go without”, you are going to fail. Period. You can’t muscle yourself through a major change with willpower alone.

Figure out your why!!!!

Here’s a health example – because we want to live for as long as possible, and be as healthy as possible, in retirement.  Instead of, “I’m fat and I need to go on a diet” – – “It took me a long time of not taking care of myself to get to this place in my life. That’s okay. I’ve been busy. I’ve had a lot going on. I’m going to show myself the same compassion I would a good friend in this situation, but I deserve better than this. I want to eat better and exercise because I love being able to walk along the beach without being out of breath. I love feeling more confident, and I always do when I’m taking better care of myself. I know that when I eat like crap, I feel like crap. No matter how many times I’ve thought the comfort food would make me feel better, it never has. Not once. I really want to try something new. I don’t have to; I WANT to do this!!”

Here’s a month example.  Instead of, “I’m not going to make any impulse buys” – – “I have long-term goals to take care of myself. I am not going to be financially ready for retirement if I continue to over shop.  I want to create a factual retirement plan.  I want to be excited about retirement.  Writing down my long-range goals for that period of life, and keeping it in my wallet will give me a bigger picture to focus on.  I don’t want to rely on someone else to take care of me in old age.  I don’t want to have to live month to month on my Social Security alone.  I’m not going to say I will never make impulse buys but I am going to work on making fewer.  I will add a cushion between impulse and buy.  I’ll wait 48 hours before making the purchase.  don’t have to go without; I WANT to create a great plan for my future!!”

 

2.  PICK THE RIGHT GOAL.   When we pick something like “lose XX pounds” or “accumulate XX dollars”, that becomes the focus no matter how unhealthy we are in getting there. I lost a bunch of weight by going on a cigarette, coffee, and Suzy Q (chocolate, cream-filled cake) diet when I was young and foolish. I went on a grapefruit only diet; a skim milk only diet, and a “drink vinegar before every meal” diet. I lost weight.

Not one of those things was sustainable over the long term. Not one of them made me any more healthy. I felt like crap. It didn’t matter. My priority was to lose weight. It isn’t anymore. My priority switched to, “Eat better so that I feel better. Exercise so that I move better – and with less pain. Take care of myself so that I age better. All of these things will likely lead to fat loss but that’s not my primary goal anymore. How I feel is much more important than what I weigh.”

As for money, accumulating a certain amount of money without a plan for what we want retirement to look like is irrelevant.  If you will be paying a mortgage in retirement, still have kids at home (or in college), want to buy a new car every year, and plan to travel quite routinely, you will need more money than someone who has raised their children, will buy a new car every 5 years, has the mortgage paid off, and isn’t interested in too much travel.  Taking crazy chances like spending your savings to gamble MIGHT get you the money you’re after but it’s risky and dangerous.  Maybe the priority should be making a retirement plan first and then finding ways to save a little more money that won’t make us miserable.

 

3.  TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME.  

It’s not a resolution but my sisters and I plan to hike the 100 Mile Wilderness this summer.  We will not do it in one giant step.  We won’t teleport from the start to the finish.  Nor would we want to do that.  The point of the hike is to enjoy the in-between:  take the steps, and work through the rough patches.

Don’t. Please, please, please, don’t go on some crazy starvation diet today, or think you need to live on salad and water. Pick one thing at a time to focus on. Try to cut your soda in half the first week. Then in half again the next, and the next, until you either stop drinking it all together or you have it once in a while as a treat. Decrease the sugar in your coffee a little bit at a time. Stop getting that venti frappuccino (you know who you are…..) every day and get just the grande this week; go for the tall next. Two years ago I changed from lattes to an American or red eye with 1 shot of sugar-free hazelnut and just a splash of milk. I might have a latte a couple times a year. It’s not that I stop myself from having them, but merely that I don’t crave them like I used to.

Drink water!!! If you can’t do it plain at first, put some Crystal Light or Mio in it and work to taper that off as you go through time. I hear some people now, “Oh, the chemicals. How could you even recommend that horrible stuff?” I’m recommending that you make the changes you will actually make to begin with. If you’re not going to drink water unless it has some flavor in it right now, mix in some damn flavor.  Do what works for you.

Don’t get up Tuesday morning and do without everything you love simply to save money.  That’s the financial equivalent of a starvation diet.  Don’t move all of your TSP into a risky fund if you’re risk-averse.  Pick one thing at a time to focus on.  For the next two weeks, instead of eating out 5 times, maybe you do that 3 times.  For the next month maybe commit to one day a week when you spend nothing.  Instead of making every impulse buy, carry a notebook with you.  You see something you like, write it down.  At the end of the week or month (whatever works for you) review your list and perhaps buy yourself one of those things – not all of them.  Limit your time on Amazon.  Seriously.  Set an alarm when you go online.  Once the alarm goes off, close your browser.  Instead of moving what’s in TSP now to a different fund, and also changing what you invest in going forward, maybe you just change your strategy from now on but let what’s sitting in the G Fund, stay there OR maybe you move what’s in the account now but you don’t change your investments going forward.  Do what works for you.

For both food and money, I remind myself that I am in control. “I can have anything I want but I can’t have everything right now if I intend to meet my goals.” 

 

The important thing is to do something but not try to do everything.  Have you identified some goals you would like to accomplish? I’d love to hear about them if you’d care to share.

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