My challenge to you — and of course myself is to approach each new day as an opportunity for resolution.
We’re officially into the new year and I’m willing to guess that at least half of the readers have already indulged some type of habit that has set you back on meeting those lofty New Year’s resolutions to quit smoking, lose weight, watch less television, drink less, get out of debt and so on.
Many people are recovering from the Christmas spending frenzy and soon will be experiencing the post-Christmas hangover when the credit card bills start rolling in. This is a prime time to put finances at the forefront and work on getting your financial house in order.
Ringing in the New Year often means we promise ourselves this year will be better than the last.
In today’s world of ever-present media and constant streams of information, a New Year’s resolution is one of the most effective ways to cut through the noise and start a meaningful change in your financial life.
What is at the root of all New Year’s resolutions? A behavior change. When we make a New Year’s resolution, we’re saying explicitly that we’d like to change something about how we conduct our lives. It could be a financial, health or interpersonal behavior; however, at the core it’s always about shifting from one behavior to another.
I embrace the new year with optimism and usually have in mind some things I would like to improve in my life, but the truth be told I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. They’re just not my thing and never have been. For me, New Year’s resolutions rapidly morph from desires into “shoulds,” which I subconsciously resist and sabotage. New Year’s resolutions are fraught with ‘should-its’, which stems from wanting to make changes in our lives without properly assessing why we are where we are in the first place. Without an understanding of what is keeping us stuck, it’s hard to move past it no matter our goal.
But a key difference is that most New Year’s resolutions don’t actually seem to harness the energy of determination, conviction or resolve at all. For example, if I have a bit of a belly—I wish that were a hypothetical ‘if’!—I might set a resolution to lose weight, get fit and tone up. But if I do not carefully examine why I am eating badly and why I am not exercising, then the energy around my goal quickly turns into a should—and subsequently a won’t, don’t or can’t— instead of remaining in the realm of desire.
Changing our habits is hard, even when we recognize that our current habits are sabotaging our well-being. We may resolve to develop new habits that will serve us better, but if there isn’t a strong inner commitment that comes from understanding how we’re sabotaging ourselves and why we need to stop, the probability of follow-through is when it comes to money; as we all know, this can be extremely difficult. That’s partly because money decisions often involve accepting short-term pain in the name of long-term gains.
However, long-term thinking isn’t something that the Black community as a collective is naturally inclined to do. We are programmed to indulge our immediate desires and worry about the consequences later. The biggest stores and retail chains know this is true and take advantage of this human quirk by tempting us in ways subtle and not so subtle: the ubiquitous “Limited Time Only” sales, two-for-the-price-of-one discounts and the clever placement of junk food right at eye level in the checkout aisle are prime examples. My point here is not to say that you will not meet your goals in the New Year. I believe that if you want to meet those weight-loss goals and save more money, you can make it happen even with a frown.
I am, however, going to suggest that your goals give you the leeway to fail and, more importantly, they somehow highlight what you are already doing well in your life. It’s a simple universal law, really: the law of attraction. Like attracts like and positivity brings in more positivity. By focusing on the things you already do well, you will build yourself up. Self-confidence can only help to perpetuate the achievement of those lofty resolutions. I am an advocate of always focusing on the positive, and on the flipside, I am a master of indulging in self-sabotaging behaviors. I’m willing to argue that many people find themselves in this same position.
So, yes, it may be a few days into the new year, but resolutions are not limited to just one day. Resolutions can be, and are innately, perpetual. My challenge to you—and of course myself—in this new year is to embody positivity, embrace , learn from unforeseen teachers and approach each new day as an opportunity for resolution.
If New Year’s resolutions are to be more than just good intentions, let’s consider the wisdom of poet T.S. Eliot: “Last year’s words belong to last year’s language. Next year’s words await another voice.”
Aleuta— The struggle continues.