Did you know that only 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions?
Those numbers are pretty dismal. On the surface, it can make the January tradition of goal setting and personal improvement seem somewhat pointless. Although the data on New Year’s Resolutions isn’t very promising, I have learned over the years that the key is “progress not perfection”. At a minimum, setting goals keeps us thinking about the direction we want to head. Rather than focus on the failures of resolutions, I like to acknowledge folk’s desire to better themselves and to be forward thinking. Designing the future has to start somewhere and a New Year’s Resolution is as good a place as any. What about you? Have you set financial goals or other goals for 2017?
A fundamental problem with typical New Year’s Resolutions is that they only focus on the end result. While they might be specific in the “what,” they’re often muddled in the “how” and disregard the “why.” In the last few years, I’ve reframed the New Year’s Resolution tradition. I spend time thinking back on my last year and getting clear about my major priorities in the coming year. I use those reflections to create a vision for where I want to go.
In our blogs and podcasts I always try to share what I call “low hanging fruit” on strategies and tools that are simple to implement and that provide leverage and results both financially and in other areas of life. Without a doubt, one of the most valuable exercises that I have implemented for myself and my family is to specifically set time aside to think and plan for the future. It’s amazing how much clarity can come from just a few hours of focus and thinking, combined of course with some copious note taking on the things most important to you. I’ve found this to be a really powerful process, and I wanted to share some of the key questions I ask myself in this reflecting and envisioning process.
Reflect: Looking back at 2016
Before I start thinking about the year ahead, I take a step back and think over the year that’s just ended. Kierkegaard said that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” With your 20/20 hindsight, think back on the overarching themes and major events of 2016. It was an eventful year for our nation and the world, but what about your personal milestones? Taking time to reflect back on the impact of different events can help clarify how to best move forward.
Ask yourself these questions about 2016:
- What went right? Where did you find success, professionally and personally? Why? How are you in better shape than you were 12 months ago?
- What went wrong? What mishaps, failures, or shortcomings did I encounter this year? How did that impact me in the long run?
- What did I learn? How have I grown in the last year? What are some takeaways from both my successes and failures?
Envision: Looking ahead to 2017
As the above quote mentioned, we cannot live life in the past. The New Year has arrived, and it’s time to put your best foot forward. As you cast a vision for how to make 2017 your best year yet, you’ll want to be realistic. Determine the one or two essential things you’d like to focus on. Author Greg McKeown advocates “living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, (try to) deliberately distinguish the vital few from the trivial many, eliminate the nonessentials, and then remove obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage.”
Use these questions to determine what’s most important in 2017:
- What do I need to say “yes” to? What are the non-negotiables in your life? What should you start doing more of this year? Who are the people that you want to invest in? What habits should you continue to cultivate?
- What do I need to say “no” to? What commitments or habits get in the way of what matters most? What things do I need to let go?
- Where would I like to be a year from now? What ambitions do you have for the coming year? Why are these hopes important to you? What changes do you need to make?
Empower: Committing To Make Things Happen
So what is it that makes that 8 % of people successful? If you’ve gotten to the “why” behind your goals, you’ve already got an advantage. Being clear about your reasons will fuel a commitment to stick with these commitments you’re making. Another thing that’s helped me is to have an accountability partner. Knowing that someone will be checking in with me periodically and asking me hard questions relating to my commitments keeps me on track. And breaking down lofty goals into small action steps or checkpoints along the way can facilitate the process
Ask yourself these questions to create an action plan:
- How will I accomplish this? How can I break this commitment down into small steps that are realistic and specific?
- What do I need to do? What habits do I need to cultivate to align with my commitments? On a daily basis? Weekly? Monthly?
- Who can help me? What people in your life could serve as an accountability partner? Is there anyone who might be interested in joining you in your commitment?
This all may feel like a lot to digest and contemplate, much less document and commit to. Although, the small amount of time it takes to get clarity on the things that are most important to you can be some of the best time you have ever invested. Whatever your goals are this January, I truly hope that 2017 is your best year yet. Maybe you’re ready to try a new hobby or take on part-time work to keep you active. Maybe this is the year you take that big family trip you’ve dreamed about for years. Or maybe you’re looking to knock off some of the items on your bucket list, like getting your pilot’s license (I am biased on that one!). It is truly a pleasure to be able to share the things that are working and to be a resource for the clients and friends of Keen Wealth Advisors. Please do not hesitate to call or email with any questions or to set up a time to sit down and discuss your financial goals and commitments. We can be reached at (913) 624-1841.
Bill Keen is a Chartered Retirement Planning Consultant® and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.