“How are your New Year’s resolutions going?” might be a question many dread as January rolls over into February. The general expectation often seems to be that you have already failed or they’ll be wondering when, not if, you’ll fail.
It’s a rather negative view of something that could either actually be a positive experience or that maybe you had no control over.
A failure focus
A touch of schadenfreude can be fun every now and again, but every year, there will be articles explaining why people slip up on their resolutions. The general idea seems to be that most people won’t meet their New Year’s resolutions.
However, in a 2015 survey conducted by ING’s consumer research team, just over half said they kept to their financial resolutions in 2014. While half is still not ideal, the situation might also not be as grim as it is made to appear.
Benefits of failing
All hope is not lost for the other half, though, as there are benefits to failing. This even applies all year round, not just when it comes to your New Year’s resolutions, but it’s easy to forget to look at the positives.
Good questions to ask yourself are: “Why did I fail?” or “Where did I slip up?” Once you have figured out what the issues were, you can adjust either your resolution or your behaviour (or both) and try again.
To give an example, let’s say you wanted to start investing some of your money. There are so many apps on the market that make it really easy, but you haven’t started yet. Why not?
Maybe there were too many apps and you couldn’t decide which one to use, so you kept putting it off. Or you googled information on investing to educate yourself and there was so much to read that you didn’t quite know where to start or which websites to trust.
Once you’ve identified the barrier, you can look for ways to pull it down. For instance, if you don’t know which app to use, ask your friends. Maybe some of them are using an investment app and they’ll be able to give you their opinion.
Not a choice
If you didn’t stick to your resolutions, many might assume you didn’t have the willpower to see things through, but it may not have been a choice.
If your goal is to save more money and you suddenly lose your income or have an unexpected cost, your plans will be derailed.
There are many external factors that can ruin the best of intentions and you can only adapt to the situation and try to get back on your feet.
The value of New Year’s resolutions
Another way to avoid “failure” is to not have any New Year’s resolutions at all. Many will claim that it’s silly to wait until a new year anyway and you should just work towards a goal immediately.
But having a specific start date can actually help you achieve your goal. If you decide to start saving more money today, then the little voice at the back of your head could convince you to start tomorrow instead, because today was really tough.
Or maybe next week. Or next month.
But if you say you’ll start on 1 January, you can’t postpone 1 January. In this case, the fear of “failure” or of being too late could be the motivation you need to get started.
Not only that, knowing that many others are setting off on the same adventure could get you on your way, too. That’s one of the positive effects of peer pressure.
If you are serious about sticking to your resolutions, however, then giving yourself a concrete set of actions should help keep you on track.
For example, if you want to save more money, you could set up a direct debit that will automatically transfer a certain amount of money into your savings account every month.
Just be aware that your plan might not work, learn from the experience if it doesn’t and adjust your goals so you can try again.