5 Keys to Making Your New Year's Financial Resolutions Stick
As an entrepreneur or business owner you know the truth of the old saying that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. But, you also have to save money to have money! And saving more money consistently ranks as a top financial resolution people make each New Year.
We all need to do it -- whether to build a robust emergency fund, secure our retirement, or create the equity we need to build a business and lifelong wealth. But, how many people actually succeed?
According to some reports, up to 80 percent of people who make New Year's resolutions fail to keep them. Yet we know that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't.
For many people, the start of a new year is the trigger they need to change their behavior patterns to set themselves on a lifelong journey toward financial security and self-sufficiency.
What does it take to be one of the successful few? What can you do this time around to increase your likelihood of remaining on track when next New Year's Day rolls around?
1. Understand that real, permanent change comes from within, rather than from outside pressure.
In their groundbreaking book, Changing for Good, three psychologists looked at 130 different techniques that people used to try to give up smoking. They discovered it is not a lack of potent and effective quitting techniques that defeats so many smokers. Rather, it is the internal thought processes that prevent (or enable) permanent, life-enhancing change.
Their discovery captured the attention of leading academics, clinical psychologists, life coaches and authors looking into why certain people are able to set a life-changing goal, meet it and keep themselves from relapsing.
The good news: Researchers have discovered that we all have it within us to modify our behavior and cross the "Resolution Finish Line," regardless of how ingrained our habits are. When you consider how mindset affects everything in our lives, it's no surprise that it's the key to achieving our financial goals.
2. Enlist allies to help you stay on track.
Many people require outside support when they decide to get serious about holding themselves accountable for their financial resolutions.
M. Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D., a Maryland psychologist who operates three mental health clinics, says a coach -- whether a professional for hire, a friend or a religious leader -- can help people reinforce their commitments.
Dr. Seifert's clinics see about 2,000 distressed individuals a year, many of them struggling with financial crises. For most people, the right motivation coupled with persistence and the aid of a coach provides what they need to achieve their goals, she says.
3. Set incentives and consequences for sticking to or breaking your commitments.
Consider using websites such as www.stickk.com that allow you to give yourself incentives for sticking to your commitments, and set up penalties for breaking them.
This carrot and stick approach relies on three factors: a goal, stakes, and a referee, according to an article a few years go on commitment contracts.
When you make a commitment binding in this way, it will make you think twice before backsliding. Even better, the rewards that come with sticking to your commitments establish a feel-good pattern of positive reinforcement. And that will make staying on track easier as you move forward.
4. Skip the pity party when you fall short.
Don't wallow in self-blame when you fail. Instead, pick yourself back up, learn from your mistakes, and go right back to work toward your goal.
Steve Siebold, author of How Rich People Think, says one of the key differences between those who are defeated by financial roadblocks and those who knock down barriers along their path, is how they respond to disappointment.
Siebold estimates that 40 percent to 60 percent of today's most successful investors, entrepreneurs and executives have failed multiple times. Those who rebound the fastest and most successfully set aside emotional thinking and put their minds to the task of plotting a logical pathway forward.
5. Don't set yourself up for failure by insisting on an all-or-nothing change.
Judith A. Belmont, a psychotherapist and author of the "The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life," has described New Year's resolutions as "a setup for failure" because they embrace an all-or-nothing attitude toward change.
Belmont cautions against perfectionism and advises patience and persistence instead.
"It doesn't matter where you are on the journey, what matters is the direction you are going," she says. "Learn from the past, accept shortcomings, realize where you made errors and build on them like stepping stones."
One final piece of advice: Give yourself reminders to keep your focus on where you are going and your long-term goals. One of my favorite ways to do this, especially when it comes to holiday shopping, is to wrap my charge cards in my goals. Every time I take a card out, I see a picture or some words that remind me of why I am saving. This is a trick to make yourself pause a moment and consider whether what you are purchasing is more important than your goal.
You'll also discover 7 ways to spend less while enjoying life more in this article.
Remember, when it comes to keeping your financial resolutions, you are the key. You make decisions every day, every week and every month throughout the year that all add up when it comes to building savings and wealth. Only when you set your mind and heart to the task can you successfully create long-term change in your fiscal direction.