This is the time of the year when there is a festive atmosphere all around. Christmas do’s at work, the happy banter with friends and colleagues that comes with these do’s, decorated shopping malls buzzing with keen shoppers and generally happy looking people with everyone looking forward to a reunion with friends and family over the festive break.
It is also a time when people make promises to themselves, promises to make those changes they think will bring about better results in the personal and professional lives. These are the things they ought to be doing (or not doing) to improve their chances of success at whatever they are doing. Be it personal health, close relationships or work – we all have areas where we could improve. As I was preparing myself to write something about the New Year resolutions, I came across this quote in the Director magazine (IoD publication December 2013) – “Britons waste an estimated £37 million a year on (unutilised) gym memberships but January is the key month for sales”
It is a staggering waste especially given the current economic environment we live in. It is not hard to imagine why that is – people make promises to themselves to get fitter at this time of the year and then as the New Year gets underway, the New Year resolutions slowly make way for the old habits creeping back in. And the process repeats year after year – for a majority if not most. Those few who stick to their resolutions find themselves getting improved results.
As I write this, there is a sense of guilt for breaking my own resolutions, not once but many times. Just looking at my diary from early January 2013 I see a three point resolution. Looking back I can say I did very well in two of those but hardly any progress on the third. By sharing it in these pages I am holding myself accountable for a broken resolution and will review why that was and to ensure I take corrective actions.
No one forces us to make these resolutions. They are promises made to the self for certain changes, changes that are well within our grasp and made with a belief that making these changes will bring about improvements in the way we live. Yet for some strange reason they are broken so often. Lets us spare a minute to reflect and think – if we can’t keep promises made to ourselves, how can we be trusted to keep promises made to anyone else? And where does it leave our credibility?
Trading the financial markets over the years has taught me a number of important lessons. Having realistic goals; creating a plan; executing the plan consistently over a long period of time; having clearly defined rules to enter, manage and exit trades; and keeping a journal of the trades and the thoughts and emotions that go into making trading decisions. As trading is lot about habits and discipline, the lessons, I believe are quite relevant and effective to keeping resolutions as well. Taking some of the lessons from my trading experience I now have worked a plan to keep my resolutions:
- Make resolutions that are realistic to implement (they may be a stretch, but should be realistic to be implemented consistently)
- Unrealistic promises are the single biggest reasons for failed resolutions. Have high goals and aspirations by all means, but break them down in smaller steps implementable with your current lifestyle and resources
- E.g. if one of your resolutions is to read a book every week, but you aren’t a fast reader or other more critical activities of your life don’t leave much time to read then this may be unrealistic.
- E.g. if you want to break from an undesirable habit, make sure the plan is realistic and you have support to sustain with the new way.
- Detail how you will implement including time, effort, resources and mental discipline required; how are to going to handle the temptation of falling back into habits you want to get rid of.
- Write them down and review them often – ideally place them so you can see them almost every day
- Perhaps also share them with someone who you can trust and has your best interests at heart to keep you accountable
- Record and measure – you should keep a record of how you are doing and measure your success, not only in keeping with the promise but also the positive results that the changes are bringing about in your life.
- E.g. If keeping fit is a resolution, break it down in terms of all lifestyle changes i.e. food habit changes, exercises etc. Keep a record and watch the progress. It doesn’t take much time – and shows you are committed
- Celebrate and Reward your progress, even if the progress is small. Positive reinforcement will help you keep on track. Remember every step in the right direction, however small, not only takes you close to your aspired results, but also gives you a platform to aspire ever higher.
Hopefully these small steps will be helpful for you to create a better you in the New Year and take you close to your true potential. Here is wishing you and your loved ones a happy Christmas and wonderful 2014 ahead.