So here we are halfway through 2012. How are your New Year’s goals working out? If you’re like most Americans, you didn’t set any. And if you did set some goals, you stopped paying attention to them before February hit. Typically that’s because people only come up with the goals, not the action steps that will ultimately accomplish those goals. They make no real changes to their daily routines and then they wonder why they are still in the same situations they found themselves in six months ago.
Altering your daily routine is where real change happens. If you want to find yourself in a substantially better place in six months to a year, then your life has got to look substantially different than it did when it produced what you’ve got at the moment. Here’s a basic list of things to change in your life to vastly improve where you find yourself next year. If you already do all of these things, then that’s great! You’re already happier, healthier and in a better financial position than most.
- If you smoke, stop.
- If you drink alcohol on a regular basis, stop or cut back to where you actually have to think about it to remember when you last had a drink.
- Make purchases only with cash.
- Pay off your credit cards as quickly as possible, and then only use them for emergencies.
- Start saving. Put a little bit of your paycheck away every pay period — even if it’s only $5 or $10.
- Exercise at least 2 - 3 times a week.
- Remove junk food from your diet.
- Sleep at least 8 hours a night.
- Volunteer at least once a month.
- Play a little every day.
I don’t have the space in this column to go into what effect each of these would produce in your life, and most are fairly obvious anyway. But here are few examples:
I know a couple who lost their jobs a while back. They scrape up a little bit of money here and there from the occasional little odd job. I also know that their local church is helping them out a bit financially. The insanity of the situation is that they still smoke and buy beer on a daily basis. Rather than giving up activities that are killing them anyway, and put that money to better use, they continue to make choices that don’t serve them very well at all.
How about the person who’s having a hard time making ends meet, but rather than make the morning coffee at home for pennies a cup, grabs a $2 cup of coffee from Dunkin Donuts or goes to Starbucks every day to support their caffeine habit?
Another couple I know recently decided that they just had to have a flat screen TV. The perfectly working old-fashioned one they had just wouldn’t do a moment longer. I’m sure you see where this one is going. They didn’t have the cash, so they bought it with credit. An absolutely foolish choice, given their circumstances.
It’s rarely, if ever, the big events in our lives that produce lasting and significant change for the better. It’s the little events (the ones that we have complete control over, by the way) that make for real change. Little events like each time we choose not to eat that doughnut, or not to buy that pack of cigarettes, or to go exercise even when we don’t feel like it. These are the choices that make us or break us.