Seize 2017

Money shouldn’t hold you back from real change in 2017

New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition. As in, the ancient Babylonians were setting self-improvement goals 4,000 years ago. And just like us, they were soon breaking them. If you’ve made promises to yourself about some major lifestyle changes in 2017, chances are good you’ll start to see some slippage sooner rather than later.

This year, I will…

Lose weight.

Stop smoking.

Get in shape.

Save money.

Sound familiar?

Bumming a smoke – or just a Coke – from a co-worker. Those leftover Christmas cookies. Ordering a little more than your holiday gift card could cover. It happens.

The reason New Year’s resolutions usually fail is twofold: They’re overly ambitious, and they don’t come with tangible plans attached.

You can, of course, sign up for a weight loss program or gym membership – those places are swarming with motivated newbies this time of year. And that kind of support and commitment is one way to tip the odds in your favor. But you’ll do even better by stepping back and taking a breath before you make any promises to yourself.

Say you want to get in shape. Well, what does that even look like? If you’ve been lounging for years, you won’t be running marathons this June. Just not going to happen. You’re more likely to overextend, burn out and even hurt yourself if you go all-in with twice-daily workouts. Then, disappointed with yourself, you’re back on the couch.

So start small. Make a list of things you can realistically do. Then incorporate them into your life one at a time. Take the stairs at work for a month before you join that yoga class. Keep up the yoga for a month, then start meeting friends for walks.

The “transform by baby steps” principle isn’t new, but people who’ve made real change happen in their lives swear by it. If your goals are tied to money, the psychology becomes a little more complicated. It probably involves you telling yourself things like this:

“I don’t have enough money to do that.”

“More money would solve most of my problems.”

“Making less money would be irresponsible and selfish.”

“I have a secure career path and I’m sticking with it.”

When you take the time to really dream about that thing you’ve always wanted to do, you probably hear some of those self-defeating justifications. That’s because most people make terrible life coaches for themselves. Money is an easy thing to hang your insecurities on when the thing you’re really afraid of is taking a shot at your ultimate goal and failing.

Adam Savage of “MythBusters” fame is fond of saying, “Failure is always an option.” That’s because truly successful people have a string of failures in their pasts. Nothing worth doing is achieved without risk. Not opening your own bakery, writing that screenplay or traveling around the world. If you’re not chasing your dream, don’t blame it on money.

The Great Recession ripped the mask off money myths for millions. Here are some things the latest financial crash reminded us of:

You don’t need a lot of money to start a business.

Money in the bank doesn’t make you happier.

You can live on much less money than you do now.

No job is secure.

You’ll have more than one career before retirement – if retirement is even the ultimate goal.

Scary? Yes. But freeing, too. Yes, you might have family responsibilities – but those don’t have to include PlayStations and cable. Your true legacy could be one of ambition and excitement for those around you.

A new year doesn’t mean you should quit your job and buy a food truck if you can’t make a bologna sandwich. But 2017 can be the year you finally restore that muscle car in your dad’s shed, the year you actually enroll in a small business class, the year you get on a plane with nothing but a backpack and a map.

It’s easy to forget that money is just a tool to help us shape our lives according to our dreams. We’re not supposed to shape our dreams around accumulating more of it. Money isn’t the goal. A great life is.

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