Check Your Progress Toward Resolutions

Remember how excited you were just a month ago? You were ready to dominate all of your personal resolutions. It was time to get fit, to get your finances in order, and to finally take that trip you’ve been putting off. Believe it or not the year is already 8.3% of the way over. It’s time to check in: are you 8.3% closer to your resolutions?

If I had to guess, this is about the time that you start giving up. I’ve done the same thing over the past few years.

Photo by futureshape via Flickr

That’s when I realized I was doing it all wrong.

Resolutions Won’t Stick

If setting and sticking to resolutions worked we would all be healthier, happier, and more successful. If resolutions worked the gym industry wouldn’t be overflowing with “resolutions dollars” every January.

In other words: resolutions are not effective.

Deep down we all know this. Putting up some vague ideas of what we want to accomplish this year won’t move our lives forward.

Heard of these before?

  • “I want to get healthy this year. Maybe I’ll run more.”
  • “I want to get my money in order. I’ll start budgeting this year.”
  • “I want to be a better spouse. I’ll spend more time with my family soon.”

I bet you have set some of those yourself in the past. I know I have.

We Jump In Too Fast

My resolutions were always to get healthier during the year. And I would come in with such conviction and energy to head toward that.

I would jump in with both feet first. I’d slap on my running shoes and some sweatpants in the dead of winter. I would go outside — into the shockingly cold weather — and start jogging. And I’d make it, slowly but surely, for about two weeks.

It’s about the two to four week range that the pain, cramps, and cold weather all combine to kill any idea of going forward. Motivation is shot. “Ah well, at least I tried…”

And then back to the couch.

Measurable and Incremental Goals Work

This year I’m doing things differently, and I encourage you to do the same.

Instead of jumping in head first into an activity I haven’t done in ages I’m going to slowly break in new routines until they become habits.

I know I won’t run a marathon today or even next month. I won’t lift 300 pounds. Those can be long term goals. In the meantime I break down those long term goals into small, measurable, and achievable goals.

Instead of lifting 300 pounds, I dedicate my time to working a 3 day per week schedule doing light lifting to get into a routine. I’ll add weight as I go. Instead of running 10 miles on my first day I vow to run and walk for 30 minutes total only once per week.

Track Your Financial Goals

Transform your resolutions into goals. Change your vague ideas of change into concrete deadlines on measurable items.

Don’t promise to save money for your emergency fund. Instead set a goal of $6,000 by the end of the year and calculate how much it will take you every month to get there. Your $6,000 savings goals is my 300 pound lifting goal. It seems unachievable if you try to tackle that number from the beginning.

But, if you break things down you’ll take a huge and potentially overwhelming number like $6,000 and break it into $500 monthly goals. That seems a lot more achievable.

This week dedicate some time to changing resolutions into actionable goals. Isn’t it worth it?

About the Author

By , on Feb 9, 2011
Kevin Mulligan
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for, Discover Bank, and many others.

Leave Your Comment (6 Comments)

  1. Donny Gamble says:

    I did not make a resolution this year because I knew that I would have not been able to complete it.

  2. krantcents says:

    My New Year’s resolutions were my 2011 goals. I am monitoring weekly on my blog. I am encouraged by my progress and success. Each day I perform tasks that help me achieve my goals. To explain,I took the goal and broke it down to daily tasks. It is almost like going through a daily check list.

  3. Charles Baratta says:

    Going over to smaller goals to accomplish a bigger goal is what I call SMART goals: Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Time-Bounded.

  4. Pat S. says:

    There’s an old adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Breaking a huge goal into bite size pieces is the most important thing you can do to ensure your long term success.

  5. Kevin Mulligan says:

    @Money Beagle: I’m a fan of setting a big goal made of lots of smaller goals. You’re right — the smaller goal success motivates you toward the overall goal.

  6. Money Beagle says:

    I never make strong New Years resolutions for the simple fact that 1) they don’t stick and 2) once you slip up even a little bit, you tend to just say ‘heck with it’ and give up altogether. It’s better to set small goals throughout the year, which are attainable and will encourage further success.

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