Just like that another year is gone and it’s time to make some new year’s resolutions. For the next month gyms all across the country will be overcrowded with people who made the resolution to get back in shape. By mid-February things will revert back to normal as over-zealous resolutionaries (best made up word so far this year!) lose their enthusiasm and return to their sedentary lifestyles. One of the nice things about having a blog is that by writing out my goals for the new year and keeping a link to them right at the top of my blog, I can’t pretend they don’t exist once my fervor has waned.
I did a pretty good job with my goals in 2012, and hopefully I can be just as successful this year. Last year my goals were mainly financial goals, with one health/fitness goal that turned out to be too difficult to measure accurately. With that in mind, I tried to expand my goals a little to cover a few more aspects of my life and make sure they’re measurable.
As a child you’re always told not to compare yourself to others. If another kid was better at math, a faster runner, skinnier, more popular, you were told to ignore that and just focus on yourself. If you’re always comparing yourself to others, you’ll never be happy, because there will always be someone better than you.
Have you ever met a person that doesn’t compare themselves to others? Maybe some adults with amazing discipline, but how about a child? It’s natural to compare yourself to others, so why do we think it’s such a bad thing?
Man, I’ve been delinquent on updating this blog! I think this delinquency is very telling though, and it gives me something to work on. In doing some introspection, I realize that I start a lot of things and never finish them. I have a habit of getting really excited about something, giving it 100% for a little while, and then my enthusiasm fizzles out. It’s high time for me to take a good, long look in the mirror and figure out why I give up on things and what I can do to change that.
It would be easy for me to say that if my enthusiasm fizzled out, it must not have been that important to me in the first place. But no more taking the easy way out. No more excuses. I’m going to examine a few of the pursuits that I’ve abandoned over the past few years and decide whether there was a legitimate reason for my abandonment or if I’m just being a complainy-pants and need to get my butt back in gear.
It can be very difficult when you’re just starting out to not get discouraged that things aren’t happening faster. I check in on other dividend investment blogs and often the authors are making a handful of purchases each month. Because I’m focusing primarily on my down payment fund, dividend stock purchases are few and far between. A huge portion of my monthly savings are going into the down payment fund, and just a couple hundred dollars a month are going into a money market holding account that I use to purchase stocks. The stocks are the more exciting part of investing (though when my down payment fund gets big enough that I can start looking at houses, that will be pretty exciting!), so it’s a bit discouraging to see the months pass by without making any new purchases. And while I am making a significant contribution to my down payment fund each month, the housing prices in my area are so high that it will still take me several years to get a sizable down payment. So it seems like nothing is happening.
The relative inactivity makes me question a lot of things. Are my long term goals really realistic? Should I be doing more to reach my goals faster? What the hell should I write on this blog when I’m doing nothing with my money?
Well I should probably write about my frustration so I can try and channel it into something more productive. I’m sure there are many other Gen Yers out there who are just as frustrated as I am that they don’t see their net worth growing as quickly as they’d like. So what should we do when our goals are still so far away and every step we take toward them seems infinitesimal?
There are two primary ways to turn our frustration into determination. First, we should be looking for ways to increase our income and save more money. My last post described how I finally switched my cell phone onto my company’s plan, saving me about $100/month. I’m also going to be selling a few larger ticket items on eBay before too long, so that will bring in some more money, though it will just be a one time spike in income. The second, and much easier, way to channel that frustration is to focus on more appropriate goals. When I first started this blog last month, I set out some year end goals for myself. These goals are great, but to keep myself motivated, I need to focus on much smaller goals on a day-to-day basis. Some good micro-term goals would be going three days without spending any money, watching less TV, making a great dinner out of leftovers, etc.
These small goals give you an opportunity to accomplish things every single day, so you’re not waiting until the end of the month to see how much your net worth creeped up. You may already be doing a lot of these day-to-day savings tactics without even thinking about it, but treating them as small daily accomplishments helps you to let go of some of the frustration.
So no, on a month-to-month basis things are not happening very quickly. But every single day I’m making progress and accomplishing little goals. Don’t ignore those small accomplishments, you can’t get to the big accomplishments without them.
I did a pretty revolutionary thing about a month ago: I asked for a perk at work. I’m absolutely terrible at asking for things at work, but I’m fortunate enough to have a boss who is a great advocate for me and makes sure I get compensated fairly. It’s a fantastic position to be in, but I realize that it’s not preparing me for the rest of my life, when I will surely deal with other bosses who are nowhere near as generous. The idea that excelling at your job should be enough to get raises and promotions is a naive one. In a large company where you’re one of thousands and you only see your boss once a week, nobody will know how great you are unless you tell them.
I’ve recently been having trouble with my weight. I successfully lost about 12 pounds in 3 months back in the end of 2011, plateaued for a few months, and now I’m starting to put on a little weight again. True, I started P90X a couple weeks ago, so I am building muscle, but I feel like I’m putting on fat too (and I know that I haven’t been eating very well lately). So I think it’s high time to remind myself why I should keep pushing until I reach my goals.
This is what motivates me:
- Improving my overall health – I’m usually tired and get colds pretty frequently, so I hope that by exercising and eating right, I’ll have more energy and get sick less often.
- Align my body with my voice – I do musical theatre, and vocally, I should be playing ingenues, but because I’m not petite, directors don’t want to cast me as such. I can’t change my height, but hopefully by trimming down a bit, I’ll have a better shot of getting the parts I want. (I’m also working to broaden my vocal abilities so I can sing other styles, but it’s still a good motivator to lose weight.)
- Being stronger – What can I say? I like being strong. It makes me feel good.
- Achieving small goals – Every time I write in my food journal and hit my calorie target for the day, every time I lose a pound, every time my workout feels just a little easier than the time before, I have a feeling of accomplishment. That feeling propels me into the next day feeling great about my progress. If I ever feel like skipping a workout or overindulging, I must remind myself that if I give up one day, it will make me feel less motivated the next day. It’s the snowball effect – living a healthy life today will make it easier to be healthy tomorrow, living an unhealthy life today will make it easier to be unhealthy tomorrow.
- Accomplishing what I set out to do – Back in 2011 I started out this journey to lose weight and get healthier. I don’t want to stop when I’m so close to reaching my goals, and I certainly don’t want to backpedal. I said I was going to do this, so damnit, I’m going to do it!
I hope that by July 1st I’ll have some progress to report. Stay tuned and keep motivated!