By Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., CFP®, CeFT® Emeritus
Welcome to 2023! Are you thinking about making a New Year’s resolution? Have you done this before? Possibly you focused on a self-improvement goal, like losing the 5 pounds you gained between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Maybe you resolved to organize your closet, getting rid of clothes you don’t wear anymore. Or perchance you vowed not to waste time by checking your e-mail inbox a dozen times daily. Common resolutions include eating healthy, exercising regularly, saving money, quitting smoking, and spending more time with family. Often these personal resolutions are motivated by guilt.
Most Resolutions Fail
All sounds good, but the problem is that most resolutions fail. According to a 2016 study, of the 41% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, by the end of the year, only 9% feel they are successful in keeping them. An earlier study in 2007 showed that 12% of people who set resolutions are successful although 52% of the participants were confident of success at the beginning. That leads to feeling regretful and frustrated.
Believing a more healthy diet would help ward off dementia and lower her risk for heart disease, a friend resolved to eat more fish, fruit, vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates, nuts, and olive oil. She bought several beautiful cookbooks with Mediterranean-style meal ideas. Despite wanting to break her decades-long fast-food habit . . . after a couple of weeks of being high on flavonoids, she gave away her new recipes and went back to her old eating habits. Said it was too hard to stop noshing on her favorite comfort foods, especially salty chips with several glasses of wine. She felt like a failure.
A Better Choice
Here’s another approach to try in 2023. Start by thinking about what would please you and make you smile in anticipation of achieving a special goal.
Identify a “big grin goal” that could give you lots of joy in the coming months if you attain it. By aiming for enjoyment, there’s a better chance you’ll realize your intention. It’s not about setting a goal of doing something you think you should do, or ought to do. Rather, it’s focusing on a goal that would make you happy by achieving it.
For example, your big grin goal may center on being healthier. You might sign up for a few yoga classes, perhaps with a friend who shares your goal. Want a more colorful home? Try painting one wall with a new tint or hanging a few inexpensive art prints. I’ve found it helpful to identify smaller actions at first that move me toward a larger goal.
Like to travel and also be with your adult children and grandkids? Maybe you can facilitate a gathering to strengthen family ties. This might involve helping with related expenses. Another friend of mine booked a Disney cruise for her family during the holidays. Grandma picked up most of the costs, and everyone had a great time making memories together.
Your goal might be to find a purposeful volunteer position in your community or a part-time encore career opportunity that pays income and feeds your soul. A colleague decided to become a docent at the local zoo. Committed to this goal, she completed several months of training and loved it. Caring for the animals was very rewarding after retiring from her demanding corporate job.
Working toward achieving your big grin goal can be lots of fun. When you succeed, a sense of accomplishment will boost your spirits for sure.
Why? Because you made a meaningful objective happen.
My Focus is Writing Memoir Stories
After the death of several friends a few years ago, I decided to write memoir stories for my family—creating legacy poems, stories, and letters for them. I began my big project by enrolling in a memoir-writing class, plus continuing with a poetry-writing class I started the year before. I also dusted off old family photos and reread diary entries, some written decades before.
By the end of that year, I had written a few short memoir segments. Since then, I’ve added a total of 85 legacy pieces to my collection. Indeed, during the pandemic when many of us were in virtual lockdown, writing these pieces was so enjoyable. (Go here to view samples.) I’ve shared several of my stories with family members and friends, to their delight. Indeed, they’ve encouraged me to continue writing more memoir snippets. This gives me even more joy.
I’ve also identified another 2023 big grin goal of traveling to Alaska with my husband. He’s been to all 48 of the lower United States and is excited about planning this educational and learning adventure with me. Indeed, preparing for our trip might be half the fun! With both of us aiming together in this direction, it will happen. I believe that experience will provide yet another memoir topic to write about afterward.
Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., CFP®, CeFT®Emeritus wrote the award-winning book, Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. She owned Rehl Financial Advisors for 18 years before retiring to a six-year encore career empowering widows. Now happily “reFired” and soon starting her 77th year, Rehl writes legacy prose, poetry, and letters . . . plus assists several nonprofits. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s, CNBC, USA Today, and other publications. Her website is https://kathleenrehl.com.