I love January (although, I could probably do without the weather). It’s a month that’s become a symbol of renewal. While many of us use the month of the December and specifically holidays as an excuse to break our budgets, cram in some last minute calories or blindly walk over that pile of kids toys, January is often seen as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.

Opportunity being, well, the operative word. Sure, you could start improving any area of your life at any given day, but with every new year, brings ‘the promise’ of new opportunities. Yet, most New Year’s resolutions fail shortly after they start.

Start creating the year you want

We can’t start, if we don’t start somewhere. Many resolutions fall flat early on, because we set lofty goals and carry low expectations of ourselves, before we even begin. In ‘One Year to an Organized Life‘, author Regina Leeds suggests mapping out where all your time goes in a given year. What percentage of your time is taken up by your work, family time, time with friends, travel, exercise, errands, etc? And then list what you would like to be spending most of your time on. The categories might be the same, but the percentages may differ. It’s a great exercise to do. I was quite surprised how many hours I was actually putting into work. So ‘Work Less’, is definitely nearing the top of my list of resolutions this new year.

Find ways to reward yourself for the little achievements. Identifying the bad habits or areas you want to improve upon is easy enough, but getting into the right frame of mind, and consistently, is much harder. We sometimes put so much pressure on ourselves to accomplish so much in so little time, that when we do slip a little behind or hit a plateau, we immediately want to throw in the towel. It’s never all or nothing. Reward yourself every once and a while to keep yourself motivated. I’ve gone myself, for months trying to keep everything on a budget, then forget to enter in a couple of receipts and next thing you know two months have gone by and I’ve let things slip. But there’s always new things that I want, to look forward to, that steer me back on track.

Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks

Perception is not everything. We waste so much time worrying about what everyone else is thinking, afraid of how we’ll be perceived. In reality, we all want to be liked and accepted. But there will always be people that will try and bring you down and derail you from becoming who you want to be this new year. We’ve all had experiences where someone questioned your parenting ways or your career choices. But at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and your family.

There will always be supporters, but we often only remember the opposers. A little support goes a long way. You’re more likely to accomplish what you set out to, when you work as a team.  That can be said for a lot of things, but it’s easier to stick to your resolutions when you have a partner that supports you 100% (or at least, is willing to tag along for the ride).  Recent studies suggest that you’re much more likely to enjoy going to the gym, for example, when you’re amongst the company of your friends. And I think the same could be said about your finances. Whether your tackling your debts or just running a household budget, I think you get much better benefit out of it, when your spouse and family members are involved.

Finish strong

Focus on YOU. Focus on your own self-improvement. Saying ‘I want to make more money this year’ — alone — isn’t a goal. What do you want that money to do for you? Find hobbies/things that interest you. What are you doing today to improve your own self-worth. Taking up some education for your own personal knowledge? Or career advancement? Or, yes, to earn more money? But don’t make it about the money or whatever else, make it about you.

Insanity: doing the same thing but expecting different results. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein, so we’ll go with that for now. In order for you to see changes, you need to make changes. You often hear people say it’s all about being at the right place, at the right time, but you also have to act. I’m a sucker for routines, but I know the times that I’ve chosen to step outside of my comfort zone, have been much more rewarding.

And lastly, remember, that everything is possible. Have a Happy New Year and a great 2014!

Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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