It’s a brand new year, and it’s time for a brand new list of unrealistic goals to set. Go to the gym, run a marathon, buy a house, learn a language. Yes, those are all wonderful aspirations, but let’s be honest with ourselves. We’ll probably go to the gym a few times in January, register for a 5K and back out, look on Zillow until we get depressed, and maybe, if we’re lucky, go out and buy Rosetta Stone and hardly ever use it.
We set these kinds of goals because we really do want to improve; we just sometimes forget how we actually do that. For example, surely we all have that friend with god-like genetics who is posting all about their gains or trimmed sizes. “That’s what I want to look like,” we say. Then what do we do? We full-out stop eating and start curling 40s at the gym. We resolve to do exactly what they do. And then, February hits.
It didn’t work out for you last year, or the year before. It’s likely not going to work out for you this year.
But despite our frequent failures we truly can accomplish just about anything when we set or minds to it. Humans have achieved some of the greatest feats simply because of some sheer determination or ambitious will. But that will often came from a long series of smaller goals that got them there, not everything all at once. Before we wanted to go to the Moon, we first went to the sky, and then space, and then the moon. We, like NASA, need to start somewhere realistic.
So here are 10 realistic new years resolutions that can get you to that next big goal without defeating yourself in the process:
1. Make a simple budget
We are all trying to save money. But as hard as we try to retain something of a savings, the big bad markets and industries of the world are working twice as hard to get us to spend that cash. But now-a-days it’s not that difficult to be aware of our spending and saving habits. Take 5 minutes and download the Mint app or YNAB. They sync with your bank accounts and analyze your purchases. You can see how much you’re spending on gas, eating out, and everything in between. You don’t need to completely revolutionize your spending habits, but sometimes just seeing that you’re spending more than you should on food or your net income to output ratio can help you start making a budget.
2. Run a block around your house once or twice a week
Working out is the worst. People don’t do it because it’s comfortable. But there are so many reasons to exercise that you simply can’t ignore it. If you’ve tried and failed going to the gym, then maybe try this. Run around your block a few times a week. Sometimes what inhibits us from going to the gym is knowing how much effort it might take to change, drive to the gym, and log in a grueling hour on the treadmill. I can tell you firsthand that I would have never started going to the gym if I didn’t do some small runs first. Get in the habit of getting your heart rate up. You’d be surprised how quickly you might be willing to up your distance and speed.
3. Try out a new hobby for a month
Our hobbies can in many ways define us. But too often we try something out and determine we won’t cut it before really giving it an honest effort. Whether its rock climbing, painting, or photography – pick a hobby and try it out a few weeks. Give yourself time to get the hang of it. Doing something we’ve never done before forces to get out of our comfort zones where we aren’t progressing. Sometimes we serendipitously meet that special someone picking up a new thing. Whatever it ends up being, give it a month before you call it quits.
4. Write a short story
Tapping into your right brain can be invaluable. Having those creative juices flowing within your brain can help in all areas of your life. One of the best ways to tap into that is by simply writing a short story. Take an afternoon and just write. It can be about a real event or a science fiction something that has been floating around in the back of your mind for some time. Just write it. It doesn’t have to be anything amazing, but getting your thoughts out on paper can be very cathartic and can lead you to newer, even better ideas.
5. Spend a day cleaning out that one thing
We all have one. For some it’s their car. For others it’s their garage. For me it’s a storage closet. It’s something I’ve been saying I want to clean for some time now. Well in 2015, clean it. Mark the next open Saturday and just do it. I promise you will feel outrageously accomplished.
6. Make a small investment
If you talk to any financial planner they will almost all tell you that it’s important to diversify your portfolio. But most of us don’t even have a portfolio. This year take a little time to research that. Get some details on your 401k at work. Look into a Roth IRA. Find a small investment and pull the trigger. It doesn’t have to be anything substantial, just put your toes in the water. Two apps I would recommend are Acorn and Robinhood. The first is a super easy way to invest. It rounds up all your purchases to the next dollar and takes all that change and invests it for you. The second is a zero-commission trading app that allows you to simply buy stock in anything without having to pay a fee.
7. Learn to cook one new meal
You will never stop asking the question, “What should we eat tonight?”. Whether it’s for that special someone or just an addition to your cooking pallet, learn a new dish this year. You could try one of the thousand recipe apps out there or simply call your grandma or a relative and ask them how to make one of their signature dishes. Either way you’ll be glad that you took one evening to learn how to grill a steak or make Chicken Parmesan.
8. Figure out your local government
One of the most frustrating things about politicians is that the ones that make the most decisions that affect us are the ones that we know nothing about, yet the ones that have the least effect on our lives are the ones that are pasted to our bumper stickers on our cars. This year, instead of wasting yet another year worrying about whom the next president might be, take a few hours and figure out who your local leaders are. Learn about your local school boards and mayor. Next November you can walk in proudly knowing all of the elected officials on the ballot, and you will be better for it.
9. Put together a 72 hour kit
You never know when an emergency will strike. It might be a power outage, or it might be Armageddon. Either way you’ll be glad you took one morning and put together a quick emergency kit. You know that you need one, so get one- water, some dry rations, maybe even some jumper cables. It’s an easy thing to do, and this is the year to do it.
10. Study about 3 things you know nothing about
Do you know what BitCoin is? How about the difference between a modem and a router? How much do you know about Issac Newton? This is the year you learn about them. Occasionally take some time on your way to work and turn off your typical radio or news stations and listen to a podcast. It will give you knowledge to share and make you a more interesting person. This year when your co-workers start talking about that random thing and now you will now know exactly what they are talking about. In fact you’ll know more than what they are talking about. And oh how marvelous that it will feel being oh so informed.
11. Store your passwords
Few things are as annoying as not remembering a password or needing your account number and not having a check on you. Take an hour this year and store all your account numbers and passwords in an app or write them down somewhere (I’d recommend the former). I use an app called Pocket that has one master password, but it allows me to store my license number, bank numbers, my wife’s social, and anything else I might need at a moments notice.
12. Cancel all those things
One of the ways we can get so tangled or behind in our finances is because we never take the time to sort out all of our services. Do we need Spotify? Do we need insurance on our phone? Do we need that extra thing on our Internet plan? Do we really even need cable? It’s tough because you’ll end up spending a lot of time waiting on the phone with people in other countries, but spend one afternoon tying up all of your loose ends and get rid of all of those services that are nickel and dimeing you slowly into debt.
So is this the year you completely turn your life around? Maybe. Or will this year be another bust for resolutions like last year? Let’s hope not. But I think if you take at least a few things off of this list you’ll come out on top this 2015.