Every new year, many of us hit the ‘reset’ button on our lives and are imbued with new energy and determination to live our lives in a way we can only hope is ideal. This hope is often supported by a list of new year resolutions on what we would like to achieve come year-end.

Interestingly, online research has shown a spike in the search traffic for certain keywords such as ‘weight loss’, ‘gym’, ‘yoga’, ‘fitness centre’, ‘save money’ and ‘investment’ on days leading up to the end of December and throughout January of the following year.

This possibly suggests that many of us harbour the desire to make an improvement in these areas come new year, which explains the spike during this period as we reflect on the past year and what we can do in the following year to improve our lives.

Of course, setting goals is an important step because if we are in the possession of a moving goal-post, we might as well call it a day trying to hit a target since there is literally no target!

Understanding our objectives and goals is important so much so that it would win us half the battle, but if we do not have proper follow-through, we may see our list of goals for a brand-new year being demoted to mere dreams before they eventually turn into regrets when we run out of time to restart any attempt to do that particular task later.

Prioritising What is Important

When it comes to setting resolutions or goals, it is best that we be realistic and smart. We have to understand, first and foremost, that time is one of the universal constraints that we have to deal with, and that it is therefore important for us to draw up our new year goals based on what is really important to us. Needless to say, proper prioritisation is essential.

Setting Our Goals with a Comprehensive Perspective on Life

Life has a wide array of components and the fulfilment and satisfaction of each area collectively add up to determine if we have a great or less satisfactory life. When we review our past year and plan for the new year ahead, we can ‘slice’ it up to a few areas, namely:

  • Relationship
  • Family
  • Financial
  • Health / Physical
  • Career / Work / Business
  • Spiritual / Mental

Setting our new year resolutions or goals within a wider scope and a more comprehensive perspective will allow us to guide ourselves towards a more fulfilling life in each of the areas. This way, we can make collective improvement in our lives and will not have an imbalance of sorts whereby we do well in certain areas and do lacklustrely in others.

For example, you may have earned a lot of money, but this is done at the expense of spending less time with your family, or hurting in the health department as a result of an exhausting schedule with no sufficient rest.

Follow Through Determine Make or Break

There is also a trend whereby one would set his/her new year resolutions or goals at the end of the first month or somewhere in between or at the second quarter of the year. By the time we get to them, most of the items on the checklist would already be long gone or no longer command a place in our brains.

This is an interesting observation. Why do we spend time (and in certain cases money) on things such as gym memberships or to purchase certain items as part of our goals for the new year, only to give up on them so soon?

Breaking Down Goals to Form Smaller Sub-Goals

After determining our goals, it is necessary for the success of these pursuits that we also take time to come up with a small plan on how these goals can be achieved and how we can take action to fill up the baby steps.

A series of small steps and achievements when added up will become a milestone.

Start early, but do not project too far into the future. Set your sight on the next three months and set the small bite-size goals that we aim to achieve within this three-month period. A quadruplet of goals achieved within this three-month period will give us success in this particular area.

For instance, if the goal is to have a savings of RM12,000 in a year, common sense would suggest that we ‘plan’ and save RM1,000 on a monthly basis, and we shall have RM12,000 at the end of the 12-month period.

Instead of a RM12,000 goal, why not set a goal of RM2,000 for the first three months, and work towards that goal first? This allows a person to start small and easier before making adjustments later on to increase the amount depending on the cashflow position and the events that happen in between.

There may also be a particular season where you expect to incur additional expenses, and for that period of time you are not able to save RM1,000 per month. This is OK – allow yourself some flexibility to catch up in the months to come.

Planning Beyond One Year

It is essential that we should try to set goals beyond 12 months and have a good picture of where we see ourselves three to five years from now. Each year then becomes a bite-size goal for the three-to-five-year plan, and each quarter of the year becomes a mini bite-sized goals for the overall plan. Ultimately, when each of the sub-goal is on-track, the grand plan will automatically fall into place as well.

Setting goals beyond just a short-term period allows us to think in a more strategic mind-set and enables us to steer our lives towards the direction that would be worth recalling when the next new year rolls by.

Kevin K.M. Neoh is a Licensed Financial Planner who is licensed by the Securities Commissions Malaysia and Bank Negara Malaysia.

As a CFP Professional who holds a strong belief that families of all income levels should have access to professional financial planning assistance and that the financial world is too complex to shoulder alone, Kevin actively seeks to assist people on the street to live a financially confident life.

Kevin was also awarded Malaysian Financial Planner of The Year Award (MFPYA) in 2016, and 2017. MFPYA is National Financial Planner of the Year Award for all financial planning credentials from regulator-recognized bodies in Malaysia, based on global standards adjudication.

 
Kevin is a Licensed Financial Planners from VKA Wealth Planners Sdn.Bhd, Malaysia’s fastest growing home-grown financial planning firm. Kevin can be contacted at kevinneoh@vka.com.my.

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