Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And now for something completely different...

I don't get the whole "New Year's Resolutions" thing. And apparently I'm not alone in this. In my youth, I put stock in the concept mainly because my mother did so and encouraged me to, also. But I don't recall ever keeping the resolutions. Come to think of it, I don't recall her keeping them, either.  So somewhere along the line I gave up and decided the entire process was inherently flawed.

What I didn't realize as a child, teenager and even most of my adult life was that goal setting without a plan to achieve the goal(s) is fruitless. At least for most of us. We humans aren't born knowing how to make Tiramisu, how to save to pay cash for a car, or how to raise responsible and loving children and if we aren't given good models and/or a plan we simply don't "get it". More than willpower alone, that explains why so many of us say we're going to learn to cook and keep making macaroni and cheese (from a box, no less!) for dinner. Or say we're going to be better with our money and continue to live paycheck to paycheck. Or say we're going to be a good parent and wonder why our kids turn out as they do. Our goals are vague and the knowledge that we need or want to do something in particular takes us only so far.

Excellent instruction in goal setting and planning for success in personal finance is shown by Dave Ramsey. If you don't know much about Dave, I encourage you to read his books and learn all you can about his personal finance philosophy. I don't always put into practice what I learned from Financial Peace University but I have a better handle on that part of my life than I did before the course and I know that if I work that plan, it works for me. Every time. Although what he says is common sense and should be common knowledge, most of us don't appear to have or use that knowledge and Dave lays out, in simple (but not always easy) steps the whys and hows of achieving financial security. He provides a plan to succeed with money and I think that explains his huge, very loyal, and debt free or soon to be debt free fan base.

There are a few tricks to help us set and achieve goals. I learned some of those tricks through FPU, used them without intent in recent months, and inadvertently achieved some major progress in goals. When I realized this, it was as though a light bulb went off over my head. In addition, I realized that for each goal I've not progressed in, there was no plan. That goal just sat dormant in the back of my mind with no action on my part. I think of it like this: I can fantasize about eating quiche for dinner all day long but unless I get off my fanny and make it (or order it in a restaurant!) I'll probably have turkey bacon and eggs for dinner. Again.

So I'm going to continue to work on old goals and try to reach a few new ones in the coming weeks and months. Meh, this might be the same thing as setting New Year's Resolutions (a horse by any other name...) but it hasn't felt that way to me and I hope it continues to not feel that way!

I've limited my goals because overloading myself will lead to none being met but here are three I'm either continuing to work on or have set for coming months along with the steps I'll take to achieve them:

Goal: expand my cooking skills
Steps to achieve this: attend local cooking classes, actually reproduce some of the amazing looking dishes I've seen in online cooking tutorials rather than just watching and wishing I could make the dish, and share some of the successes and failures (there will be some of both) on this blog

Goal: continue to lose weight
Steps to achieve this: increase my walking from 30 minutes 3 times a week to 45 minutes 5 times a week, increase my dance/exercise time from 15 minutes 4 times a week to 30 minutes 5 times a week, and continue to follow my lower carb way of eating

Goal: stop smoking
Steps to achieve this: throw out my cigarettes, buy and use the smoking cessation patches, and join a smoking cessation support group

I can't say that I'll have success with each goal but if there's progress I'll know I'm headed in the right direction and that will help to motivate me.

So here's to a new year, new goals, better health, and new foods to eat!

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