Resolutions for 2013

Overview: Author Carl Richards, director of investor education for the BAM ALLIANCE, shares his views on New Year’s resolutions.

The New Year’s holiday is a great time to reflect on what’s really important to us. Spending time with family and friends can help us get focused on where we’re at right now and where we want to be in a year. We have the time to ask questions and make sure things like our investment strategy still match our goals. It’s also a natural time to think about making changes.

But we have a hard time sticking to our New Year’s resolutions. People tend to make big goals, and when they don’t reach them right away, many give up trying.

Look at what usually falls on the list of most popular resolutions: exercise more, lose weight, start a healthy diet, quit smoking, save more and spend less. As most of us have experienced, these goals are often easier said than done.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four suggestions to help you stick with your resolutions in 2013:

Give yourself a break. Resolve to make changes, but accept that it’s a process, not a one-time event. For some reason, that feels different than the usual New Year’s resolution. Plan to resolve again and again throughout the year because it’s about course corrections. This holiday encourages us to focus clearly on the road before us. Don’t be the driver who ends up driving into a lake because the GPS sees an on-ramp there instead. Things change, and you can adapt to those changes without giving up on your resolutions.

Find a few guardrails. If you’re trying to avoid sugar, get it out of your house. If you want to exercise regularly, schedule it. Removing temptation and giving yourself structure can help you avoid failing early on and support your long-term efforts.

Make tiny changes. BJ Fogg, who directs research at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, says if you want to create a lasting habit, start by making a tiny change. For example, if you want a habit of flossing your teeth, commit to flossing one tooth. It works because it feels manageable. Of course you can find the time to floss one tooth, and then we know what happens next: You’re flossing all your teeth. If you want to get stronger, do one push-up after you get dressed. It’s the same principle. Build on your small achievements to reach the bigger one.

Start a winning streak. Winning streaks have power. One push-up every day for seven days in a row is a winning streak. By the eighth day, it just makes sense to keep going. Jerry Seinfeld created a visual winning streak by taking a year-at-a-glance calendar and marking a red “X” through all the days he wrote new material. With each day he wrote, he added another link to his chain. You’ll find that you don’t want to break your chain, either.

Take the opportunity at the beginning of this new year to figure out the changes that matter most to you. Then decide what you need to do to make them stick. It’s a change we could all use.

This material is derived from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy and the opinions based thereon are not uaranteed. The content of this publication is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice. To be distributed only by a Registered Investment Advisor firm. Copyright © 2012, The BAM ALLIANCE.