A New Year is like a fresh piece of paper: What Will You Write?

The New Year has begun.  The New Year brings new opportunities and new tax laws and, of course, self examination which, without perseverance, will accomplish very little.  Did you make any resolutions? Have you failed to keep any of them? Resolutions are easy to make, but difficult to maintain. One thing is sure, if you do not take a personal inventory of your personal welfare, you will never be successful in overcoming less productive habits.  It is true, “If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.” Most resolutions pale into oblivion in a relatively short time.  A new year is time to set goals: to eat better, to save more money, to work harder, to worship deeper, to love more, to budget time wisely.  If you have not already thought about it, may I suggest you make the resolution to pay taxes commensurate with the earning of income and to provide your tax preparer with financial information for tax preparation. This you should do before the tax filing deadline is encroaching. Do not put off your resolve to stop procrastination since that would be counter intuitive.   The road to a new you is definitely the road less traveled. But that road, as we all know, is difficult to follow. Human nature makes us promise big changes but it also allows mitigating circumstances (also known as allowances or self-forgiveness). We are notoriously bad at resisting temptation, especially, if we’re busy, tired or stressed. According to research, by January 8th, 25 percent of resolutions have fallen by the wayside. And by the time the year ends, fewer than 10 percent have been fully kept.

Unfortunately, the problem of New Year’s resolutions is, in a way, the problem of life itself. Our tendency to be shortsighted comes at a considerable cost. We value the pleasures of present more than the satisfaction of the future. Our generation counts   on immediate gratification. Psychologist Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiments, in which children who could resist the temptation to immediately eat one sweet treat would be rewarded with a second sweet about 15 minutes later. Professor Mischel found that those who could wait, those who had self-control  were also the ones who had better academic and professional success years later.

Since then, many studies have linked self-control to achievement in a wide range of areas, including personal finance, healthful eating and exercise, and job performance. Put simply, those who can persevere toward their long-term goals in the face of temptation to do otherwise, are best positioned for success.

I believe this view of self-control is wrong. In choosing to rely on rational analysis and willpower to stick to our goals, we’re disadvantaging ourselves. We’re using tools that aren’t only weak but also potentially harmful. If using willpower to keep your nose to the grindstone feels like a struggle, that’s because it is. Your mind is fighting against itself. It’s trying to convince, cajole and, if that fails, suppress a desire for immediate pleasure. Given self-control’s importance for success, it seems as if human intuition should have provided us with a tool for it that was less excruciating to use.  Bind up your failures, make resolutions to forge ahead and be successful.  Take a brief glance to the past and move into the future. Where you are headed is more important than where you have been.  That is why automobiles have small rear-view mirrors and very large clear windshields.  Happy New Year to each of you. Remember the three P approach to life: Plan, Pray and Persevere.  God speed to all.
For more information, call Wilson & Wilson, PC, CPA, CFE at 615-673-1330 or  email  jim@ wilsonandwilsoncpa.com