It’s February and what a summer it’s been with success on the tennis court and the cricket pitch. Now that the kids are returning to school and we settle back into our ‘’new normal’’ routines, the new year begins in earnest.

January is normally a quiet month on the economic scene, but not this year. Inflation and speculation about rising interest rates dominated the month, sending global shares tumbling. US stocks fell 6% in January while Australian shares fell 7%. After US inflation hit a 40-year high of 7%, the US Federal Reserve is tipped to start lifting rates as early as March.

In Australia, inflation is sitting at 3.5%, while underlying inflation (which excludes volatile items) is at a 7-year high of 2.6%, within the Reserve Bank’s target range of 2-3%. The Reserve has said it won’t lift rates until 2024, or unemployment is near 4% (it fell to a 13-year low of 4.2% in December) and annual wages growth is close to 3% (currently 2.2%). While wages are going backwards in real terms, one third of a panel of 23 economists interviewed by The Conversation expect the Reserve to start lifting rates this year.

One of the big influences on inflation is oil prices, with crude oil near 7-year highs. Brent Crude jumped 15% in January and 65% over the year to US$90.94 a barrel. Aussie motorists paid record prices for unleaded petrol in January, with a national average price of 170.4c a litre.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index fell 8 points to 100.1 points in January, while the NAB business confidence survey fell to a 19-month low of -12.4 points in December on the back of COVID-induces supply chain issues and labour shortages.

The Aussie dollar fell US2.5c in January to close at US70c as the greenback strengthened on rate rise speculation.

Stepping stones to reach your goals

The calendar turns over to a fresh, brand new year, full of promise, so how do we keep these promises we make to ourselves and get to the end of the year with our resolutions intact and goals realised?

We all start out with good intentions when we set our objectives for the year to come, but motivation notoriously wanes with time and has the potential to sabotage our chances of achieving our dreams.

While many studies reinforce the notion that willpower struggles after only one month, a study tracking respondents over the course of a full year suggested that at around the three month mark half of resolutions fall over, increasing to a failure rate of around 82% by years end.i

Monthly micro goals

One way to deal with our waning motivation, instead of setting one daunting goal to be achieved over the period of a whole year, is to come up with a series of monthly, smaller goals. That will give you 12 ‘mini goals’ which ideally need to be achievable on a daily basis. The theory is that if you follow the same pattern for around 30 days, you’ll be establishing this pattern as a habit that you are likely to continue into the future. Each successive month will see you build on that success.

Working towards an end goal

Part of the key to making this approach work, is to ensure that all your monthly micro goals are working towards an overarching end goal. Your micro goals need to follow a theme.

This is where you can come back to your New Year’s resolution and base your theme on what you want to achieve for the year. Say your theme for the year is around career aspirations – for example achieving that promotion. Your first month could simply be setting aside some time each day to network and meet people within the organisation – improving your interpersonal skills. The next month might be focused on exploring tools to improve your productivity…and so on as you work your way through each successive month.

If your priority is to work on your health and wellbeing, and end the year capable of running ten kilometres, it’s also important to set some micro goals that get you there. Again, you can start small – a way of working incrementally towards your goal might be to start by drinking more water, then a month dedicated to getting more incidental exercise in your day, then a month focused on improving your diet and losing a little weight, working slowly up to lacing up your boots, hitting the track and increasing your endurance.

Smaller goals add up with time

We are calling them micro goals for a reason, it’s important to not bite off more than you can chew. The key is how they add up. Viewed alone these smaller goals may not seem like a lot, but the shorter duration makes it a lot more likely you’ll stick at them, developing good habits that will hopefully accrue, rather than fade over time. The fact that you are in effect starting afresh every month also gives you a much better chance of success.

Add some support into your plan

Don’t be afraid to put in some processes to help you get there – it can be a good idea to use online apps to aid or track your progress. It can also help to dangle the carrot and build in some rewards for when you get to the end of each month successfully. Tell friends and family what you are working on and celebrate your successes with them.

By the end of the year, you can look back with satisfaction at each little milestone as a personal win and you’ll have stepped towards, and finally reached an overall goal that may have seemed intimidating unless broken down into manageable chunks.

So what are you waiting for? Get out that calendar and pencil in a goal a month to reach your dreams this year.

i http://www.richardwiseman.com/quirkology/new/USA/Experiment_resolution.shtml

Robert Sekulovski of The Wealth Quay is an Authorised Representative of RI Advice Group Pty Ltd, ABN 23 001 774 125 AFSL 238429. This editorial does not consider your personal circumstances and is of a general nature only – unless otherwise stated. You should not act on the information provided without first obtaining professional financial advice specific to your circumstances.