The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.
The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
In the Medieval era, knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
And today, we have our New Year's Resolutions. But how great are we at keeping them?
A 2007 study by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning.
So what is going wrong? Here's 7 tips from us to make sure you maximize your chances at meeting your CFA (or any other) New Year's resolution.
This is the most important tip of all, so it goes first and foremost. Don't say 'I resolve to pass the CFA exam this year', say 'I resolve to cover X chapters every week and Y practice exams before exam day'. Set a goal that is objective, fully measurable and dependent on your hard work and commitment.
#2 - Keep it simple.
If you can, just focus on one resolution. Identify what is the most important thing that you should achieve this year and zero in on that. Boil that down to one sentence, and this will be your guiding mantra for the rest of the year.
#3 - Make a plan and write it down.
Once you've decided what your resolution is, spend 10-15 minutes with a notepad and outline a plan of action. This is obviously key to properly achieving your goal - can't succeed if you don't have a plan. But too many people every year make resolutions and don't even think about any sort of plan to achieve them.
#4 - Start small.
Create small goals for yourself and distribute them across time. If you're planning to cover the CFA syllabus in 3 months, you should aim to cover 1/12 of the syllabus every week. Plan out each weekly segment and focus on that.
#5 - Make it attainable.
If I started the year saying that I wanted to end the year beating Roger Federer at tennis, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do a thing about it. Why? Because it's just too damn unattainable. Know what your realistic limits are and plan within them. In addition to your minimum required goal, set a stretch goal (a goal in which it would be awesome to hit, but not your minimum required) to help inspire you to greater heights.
#6 - Tell people.
You're 10% more likely to achieve any goal you set for yourself if you share your targets and plans with other people such as friends or family. Why? Two reasons:
- Social support. Your friends and family will understand and help when your resolutions mean you have to make different decisions in your normal social life. In a CFA example, this might mean missing a dinner, staying in weekends, or delegating some chores to others temporarily.
- An accountable promise. If you've told a whole buch of people you're taking the CFA and you have a plan to maximize your pass rate, you're much more likely to stick to it as you wouldn't want to be seen going back on your words. By telling people, you make yourself accountable for it, and that will drive you on afterward.
#7 - Think positive.
A task such as planning to face the CFA exam is a fairly large undertaking. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking - be encouraging to yourself and your progress. Focus on what you'll be getting with the CFA charter. Don't let the exam defeat you - if you don’t feel like you’re accomplishing enough, you get a defeated attitude. At this point, instead of moping, just shut out everything else, set a study goal for the next 2 hours or so and hit that goal. Nothing beats a lost and/or defeated attitude with some good, hard honest work.
What resolutions are you making for 2013? Practice tip #6 and share them with us in the comments below!