Resolving to stop to make a new start

The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings. He was depicted as having two faces, one looking to the past, and one pointing toward the future.

This is where our modern-day New Year’s resolutions originate. When the clock ticks over we officially mark the end of something, and look forward to the beginning of something else. January — a time for change and renewed hope.

I’ve never been one for making serious resolutions. Any that I’ve made have been abandoned within weeks. Over the years I’ve changed my mindset regarding change itself. Lasting change isn’t something that occurs as a result of publicly stating that you are going to change something. Change is dependent upon behavior.

I’ve noticed that any time I’ve approached change by only focusing on the end goal, then change becomes too overwhelming and daily practice doesn’t embody the action required to achieve the desired changed state. It’s happened to all of us and we all seen it play out around us.

Top three resolutions:

Lose Weight

Get Organized

Save More Money

If New Year’s resolutions had any dependable rate of return by now we would all be of ideal weight, have enough money, would have zero bad habits, and would be the picture of health and happiness.

When most make a resolution, or state any intention to change, the focus is on everything they will have to do to achieve this goal. That’s what we’ve all been taught.

If you want to lose weight, you have to eat healthier and be more active. If you want to get organized you need to make a run to the office supply store and buy colorful folders, notebooks, organizer boxes and start color-coordinating your life. If you want to save more money you have to set money aside every week or month and be diligent about it.

What is most often overlooked, however, is what we need to stop doing in order to reach our goals. This is often the reason why most of us well-meaning individuals abandon resolutions and never really break old habits. We don’t focus on what we need to stop doing in order to be successful. We just add more action to the pile. Action that often leads to a life that becomes overwhelming, which leads to exhaustion, which leads to never reaching the seemingly simple goal we stated at the beginning of the year.

Perhaps a better way to approach well-intentioned change is to take a note from Janus; keep one eye on our past behavior with regard to how this behavior will impact our desired future. One intention I set for myself is to save more money, No. 3 on our handy list of top New Year’s resolutions.

The traditional way to approach this is to set money aside at regular intervals, something I should be doing already, but now, maybe I should set more aside. Maybe I should look at investments, divest some assets, lower my tax burden. Wow. Now I’m overwhelmed. Do I even have any investments worth looking at?

In my recent adult life I’ve learned that how much money one makes is not a true indication of wealth. A main factor of wealth is living below your means, not getting stuck in a cycle of poverty mindset and spending every dime that you make on a bunch of stuff. If I only look at what behaviors I believe I need to add to my life, I’ll miss some very simple and powerful ways to make immediate change without overwhelming myself.

Stopping.

Instead of starting something new, simply stopping something old can redirect the course of your life and help you achieve more than originally intended. I’ve identified a specific category of items that I will no longer spend money on this year (clothing, accessories, jewelry, shoes, etc). I’m not adding anything new; I’m choosing to stop engaging in an activity that is not necessary. In doing so, I don’t add more stress to my life and I open up more financial freedom.

At the end of 2017, if I stick to this simple resolution to stop, instead of start, then I’ll have accomplished my goal to save more money, and also taught myself a lesson on materialism and the value of life without the superficial gratification of “stuff acquirement.”

This may seem very silly and trivial but I use it as a basic example of how a change in mindset and a reframing of goals, and the behavior necessary to achieve those goals, can help you reach success. So now it is your turn. What are you going to stop doing this year, so you can start living toward a better future?

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.