For many of us, January is a time for setting goals, while February is the month when we start justifying our inability to achieve those goals. Does this sound familiar?
Most people make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions. Whether the desire is to lose weight, mend a personal relationship or save money, we approach the New Year eager to improve our lives. But health club managers know January’s packed exercise rooms will quickly give way to sparser crowds. In fact, they count on a percentage of customers never coming back, in the same way credit card companies plan for a significant number of customers never paying off their debt. If we’re all trying to be healthier and wealthier versions of ourselves, why is it so difficult to maintain our resolutions for more than a few weeks?
As a financial security advisor, I see first-hand the struggles people face when trying to achieve their financial goals. For some, it’s a lack of knowledge or resources that force them off track. But for most, the long-term goal just can’t compete with a reward right now.
What do I mean?
Imagine you have a goal to save $7,000 over two years. Many people won’t get there, even with a plan to set aside $292 a month. Why? Because $7,000 is just a number with little meaning. And $292 can be used today to buy groceries, put gas in the car or order in on a Friday night. We’re hard-wired to focus on what we want or need now and leave the future to the future.
But what if you were saving $7,000 for a vacation to Mexico? Now the choice between spending and saving becomes harder. If we add more detail, like when (January), where (Cabo San Lucas) and for how long (eight days), saving $7,000 for tomorrow may become more important than spending $292 today. But often, it’s still not enough – we need to create an emotional connection to our goal.
If a Mexican vacation was a client’s goal, I’d ask them to describe the excitement they’ll feel boarding the plane and the rush of walking out onto the hot airport tarmac upon arriving. I would spend time discussing what excursions they’ll be taking – like horseback riding, snorkelling or touring the agave plantations. I’d encourage them to keep resort brochures in their car and to tape beach pictures on the fridge and bathroom mirror. I’d ask them to imagine the taste of authentic Mexican food, the feeling of the warm sun on their skin and the sound of Mariachi music on the pool deck.
In short, I want clients to fall in love with their financial goals. The temptation to spend today can’t compete with a vacation that’s so fully realized in your imagination – the emotional connection to the feel of sand between your toes and an ice-cold margarita on your lips.
February is a great time to revisit your resolutions and build emotional connections with your goals. Did you plan on losing 15 pounds? How will it feel when you cross the finish line of your first 5K run? Did you hope to improve your relationship with a family member? Did you want to reduce your debt?
Establishing new habits is ambitious. Help yourself succeed by falling in love with the results.