Setting New Year’s Resolutions That Matter

Too often, we get caught up in setting goals that are rather cliche. Lose weight. Save more money. It’s easy to make those kinds of New Year’s resolutions — and then break them. Not only are those goals rather broad and hard to accomplish without mini-goals to help keep you on track, but they are also goals that many of us make by rote. And it’s much easier to break these types of goals. Instead of trying for these types of New Year’s resolutions, consider setting goals that matter in the new year.

What’s Important to You?

Start by deciding what’s important in your life. What do you most want to accomplish? What do you want your life to hold more of? Perhaps you want to help others, or build your emergency fund to a specific level. Maybe you want to live healthier, and get your cholesterol down to a better number.

Think about what’s most important to you, and think about the specific benchmarks that mark progress toward these goals. Determine what lifestyle you want to ha.6goals to succeed. Instead, think about quality over quantity. Focus on a couple of high quality goals that can really matter in your life — and perhaps in the lives of others.

Use Your Goals to Change Your Life

Your New Year’s resolutions can provide a starting point for you to begin to make changes in your life, if you choose your resolutions carefully. Think about what you actually want to accomplish.

It shouldn’t be just about losing weight. It should be about living healthier. You can lose weight by following a number of unhealthy practices. But in the end, that might not actually improve your quality of life. You can save more money, but what will you do with it? Do you have a plan for it.

Don’t look at your goals for the new year as a checklist of things that need to be done. Instead, consider the why behind your goals, and then adjust them to make them more meaningful. You want to be able to make a positive change in your life, whether it’s buying less stuff so that you have more resources for what you really want to do, or whether it’s saying no to some activities so that you can volunteer more.

Your goals should provide you with opportunities to change your life for the better. You want your goals to matter beyond just this year.

Big Changes Come a Little at a Time

As you set goals that matter, remember that big changes often come a little at a time. This means that you need to make small progress as you go along. Another reason to start small with your New Year’s resolutions is that it’s easier to make your changes permanent if you make them in small increments. Trying to make a big change all at once is hard to maintain. You might be able to keep with it for a couple weeks, but eventually the strain of trying to do something big all the time wears you down. Break down your goal into small actions that you can work on a little at a time. Then you can build on your success.

Over time, as you continue to add changes a little at a time, you’ll see big results. If you want to add more to your emergency fund, begin with an extra $50 a month. Then, when you are comfortable with that, add another $50. It’s much easier to work toward the eventual goal of setting aside $500 more each month when you break it down. It’s easier to free up $50 a month than $500 a month.

The same is true of time. Identify where you are wasting time, and then maybe try to reclaim 10 minutes a day, or an hour a week. You can start out by finding an hour in your week to volunteer at your child’s school, and then, eventually, finding another hour to volunteer with a charity, or for some other good cause. This is the sort of thing that matters — and can matter to others as well.

Before you half-heartedly begin listing out all of the “regular” New Year’s resolutions that you make, stop and think about what matters. Make different goals that can really help your life, rather than throwaway goals that you’ll have given up on by March.


By , on Dec 24, 2012
Miranda Marquit Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.


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{One Comment}

  1. I agree with you. We should take each day one at a time. I appreciate your post.

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