New year, new ideas, new goals, blah blah blah. There is always so much hype around each new year and how this year things will be different. It’s interesting, though, that a calendar year is man-made – there is no difference between 31 December and 1 January, except perhaps that it’s a milestone. And this I think is key – for many of us it’s a way of measuring ourselves and the progress we have made in life – a way of benchmarking our situation and comparing to where we were and how far we have come.
Because life is all about progress, or so we are told all the time. It’s a competitive place, and we need to have big goals, stretch targets and audacious plans, in order to succeed.
I take a rather simplified view of all of this. After spending many years in a corporate environment where stretch targets were suppose to motivate and inspire, I often saw how these were unattainable, and people fell into the pattern of reaching the attainable (middle of the road) targets. Of course, targets in this space are very patriarchal – someone else tells you what you should achieve and the carrot that they dangle is money. These are invariably linked to incentive bonuses, salary increase percentages, etc.
We all have very personal situations, and our goals and dreams are as different as each of us are. It’s also a fact that we will only be motivated to reach a goal if we buy into it, or develop it ourselves, and put in the work to attain it.
Life is about progress and when it comes to our finances, many of us have goals and areas we want to improve in. Instead of developing a laundry list of actions, I want to encourage you to try to focus on one new thing only – Do One New Thing in 2019. And do it well. If you only do one thing, and stick with it, you can make massive progress, compared to tacking a list of goals, most of which may fall by the wayside. Sticking to one goal and being successful at it will boost your confidence, giving you the incentive and self belief to tackle more goals. But do them one at a time.
You may want to pay off a particular debt (your credit card, for example), or pay an extra R500 a month into your home loan or start paying yourself first every month, or finding other activities for a Saturday, instead of spending it in a shopping mall – identify what it is that you want to change and make it your priority.
I’m a great believer that small differences can lead to great outcomes. Just some pointers to remember:
- The results of change are gradual – it’s not always obvious but then suddenly it’s in your face. Think about going on a new eating plan – you cannot see the weight coming off, but suddenly one day you have dropped a dress or jean size. Same with paying off a debt – you cannot feel the impact in your monthly cash flow as you are paying it off, but suddenly, the balance is zero, and you have an extra R1500 or R1000 in your monthly budget. The change may be gradual, but it’s all progress at the end of the day.
- Have the discipline to stay focused. Commit to that one new thing and stick with it. It takes around three months to instill new habits. If you make one change a year and make it permanent, that’s five new behaviours that you would have instilled in five years.
- Understand the difference between what you can and cannot control, and do not attempt to change others. You can only change your own behavior and that’s where your focus needs to be.
So DONT in 2019 – Do One New Thing. And do it well. So when 21 December 2019 rolls around, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and celebrate the progress you’ve made in your life. It’s all about the movement, and our journey to financial freedom.