The Gray Divorce Podcast: Episode 6 Why New Year's Resolutions Fail and Three Suggestions for Gray Divorcees

Andrew Hatherley |

In this episode I discuss why we have such difficulty keeping New Year's resolutions. I also discuss three divorce resolutions in the form of actions that you might want to think about after emerging from a mid or late life divorce. And know that none of these resolutions actually needs to begin on January 1st!

Did you know that over 90% of people who make resolutions will fail to keep them by the end of the second week of February?

Why do we have such a hard time keeping our New Year's resolutions?

I think the problem stems from goals and I discuss a few of the issues around goals that may explain why keeping resolutions, and divorce resolutions particularly, is so difficult. These include:

Our goals may simply be too ambitious. It’s probably not a good idea to plan on entering an Ironman competition in six months’ time if we run out of breath going up the stairs!

Sometimes our goals just take up too much of our time. We simply aren't able to carve aside the necessary time to get it done.

Some goals bring with them a heavy financial burden. Expensive gyms, expensive food plans, any number of things might cause you to quit on a resolution that may otherwise have been accomplished if the financial cost hadn't been so high.

Ultimately the problem with goals isn't the goal itself but it's the mindset of focusing on the end result, focusing on the finish line and the payoff rather than adopting positive habits and the determination to alter our behavior for the better.

It's all about the process!

Focus on the process not the goal. In doing so you're creating a behavior that will pay off regardless of the goal. The successful completion of the resolution is tied to the discipline of performance, not the product.

Understand that what's standing between you and the completion of your goal it's not the decision to pursue it, it's understanding that a discipline is needed to take on the process.

Three life changing divorce resolutions for those emerging from Gray Divorce

  1. Resolve to focus on the present. don't obsess about what went wrong with the marriage or try to figure out why. focusing on the past can be depressing and focusing too much on the future can cause anxiety.
  2. Resolve to take care of your finances. There's no doubt about it our standard of living drops after divorce. I discuss some good financial habits you can adopt to work your way back.

Resolved to take care of your health. It’s a cliche but really there's nothing more important than our health. I discuss the virtuous versus the vicious health cycles and some steps that will take us down the healthy road.



Announcement: Welcome to The Gray Divorce Podcast, hosted by divorce financial analyst and retirement planning counselor Andrew Hatherley. Join Andrew and guest experts as they help late life divorcees build the financial and mental foundation for a meaningful future. There is life after divorce. Now on to the show.

Andrew Hatherley: Hey, every. Happy New Year to everybody. I hope you had a terrific holiday season and all the best for 2023. Now, we all know that New Year's is traditionally a time to resolve, to do something differently or perhaps embark on something new. The most common resolutions are to exercise more, lose weight, quit smoking.

Watch your spending. Maybe get organized. Perhaps we might resolve to take up a new hobby or sport or some other interest. These are all great resolutions and if acted upon can lead to improvements in our lives. But we know what happens with resolutions, don't we? We've all heard the anecdotes about gym memberships and how by February most of them are abandoned.

In fact, research shows, yes, the dreaded research shows that over 90% of us will fail at keeping our resolutions. Past the second week of February, I've been doing some research into why New Year's resolutions fail so much, and a lot of those reasons are related to goals. Now, one of the problems may be that our goals may be too ambitious.

Just too big to achieve. Think of committing to entering an Ironman competition. If you've never run a 5k, it's likely not gonna happen. Or we have goals that are just too overwhelming. Maybe losing 30 pounds, that's quite a bit. Maybe instead we should concentrate on losing a pound or two a week and see where it goes.

Other goal related problems stem from the fact that the goal just takes up too much of our time or a much bigger commitment than we originally thought. Maybe the goal creates a financial burden. I know my neighborhood has a gym and the monthly fee is $175. You know, a lot of people are gonna quit after a month or two if they don't see immediate results with that kind of investment.

Full disclosure, I used to be a member of that $175 a month. Jim and I did quit it. I'm back to the $20 a month, Jim. It's not as impressive to talk about with my society friends. Hint, I don't have any society friends, but hey, I'm still going to the gym, which is much more important than the show off value of an expensive gym.

It's my experience that the problem isn't necessarily the nature of the goal. The problem is in the mindset of focusing on results. That is focusing on the goal itself, the finish line, the payoff. Let me use this podcast as an example. You know, when I started doing my research about creating a podcast, I found that 90% of podcasts like resolutions don't make it past their fifth episode.

Now that sound you hear is a bottle of champagne popping because this is episode number six. But in deciding to do a podcast, I think a lot of people look at the payoff and not the process of doing the. And what's the payoff? Well, for many, it's generating revenue for your business by engaging with potential clients through the podcast, and I won't lie, I'd love to take on a few great clients who relate to the message that I'm delivering in these podcasts.

Other podcasters might be looking for fame or notoriety. I'm an introvert. I don't care about that. Others look at making money from the podcast itself, and the fancy word for this is called monetization. Essentially, the idea is that the podcast becomes so popular that money can be generated from advertising

Now, those might all be pleasant payoffs from doing a podcast influence business growth monetization, but these benefits all take time. Just like losing 30 pounds takes time. Success requires a process. It requires discipline. It requires habitual action. And if you're going to maintain that habit, you should probably find some pleasure in the journey.

So I've concluded that the problem with most resolutions is that they focus on the end of the story rather than the process. The focus on goals is a focus on outcome. I don't think resolutions should be stated as goals. Rather, they should be stated as actions. Try to think as if you were looking back after having achieved your goal, what would you have needed to have done to get to that point?

A good resolution is one that focuses on and embraces those. If your, your New Year's resolution is to lose 15 pounds or write a book, then what you're telling yourself is that you'll find pleasure in losing that weight or writing the book. What if you focused instead on embracing the habits needed to bring you closer to that goal?

Instead of focusing on that 15 pounds, focus on working out three times a week for half an hour and see what happens as a result of that over time. Who knows, you just may end up exceeding your original goal. This is one of the most important points that James Clear makes in his book. Atomic Habits Goals can actually be limiting.

By developing the right habits, you might find that you can blow right past those original goals. Several years ago, I had the great experience of co-writing a book with a friend of. This was a full length novel, 90,000 words, 330 pages. Since we were sharing the writing, I was responsible for half the content, so that would be 45,000 of those words, about 165 pages.

Now, if I had focused on the enormity of those 45,000 words or the image of a nice, big novel, I might have been overwhelmed and given. If any of you are fans of the TV show Family Guy, you're probably familiar, with a scene between Stuy and Brian. You can see it on YouTube in which Stewie asks Brian how he's coming along with his novel.

So Brian, how's that novel coming along? Are you still working on that second act, developing the character arc? , other than an opportunity to demonstrate my lame Stewy Griffin impression, let's think how many of us are like Brian and have been thinking about writing that novel for 10 or 20 years? So instead of thinking about the big novel, think about writing 5,000 words a month for nine months.

That's what I did actually. I broke it down even further to 1,250 words a weekend. That's actually pretty achiev. In fact, if you steal a couple of hours during the week, maybe you only have to write six or 700 words a weekend. An Ink Magazine article a couple of years ago written by Thomas Coops, summed up three basic rules to coming up with solid and achievable New Year's resolutions.

The first is to focus on the process, not the goal. By committing to the process, you're not only improving your chances of reaching your goal, but you're also creating a behavior that will pay off regardless of the specific goal achieved Achievement like happiness is the byproduct of a process, not just the at attainment of a goal.

Second, the success metric of a resolution is tied to the discipline of perform. Take for example, the process of writing 500 words a day. By setting a daily word count, you are creating a habit. Results come from the process and discipline of doing rather than that of planning and waiting. Third, far too many people fool themselves into believing that what's standing between them and their goal is just the decision to pursue it and what's really standing in the.

Is the process that they don't want to deal with it. People tell themselves, I can lose 20 pounds. I just haven't decided to do it yet, but I will. And then you'll see, or, yeah, I'll write that book someday. It's a great story. I just don't have the time right now to do it. Coops says that this is the essentially flawed foundation of most New Year's resolutions in our imaginations.

We're all writing acceptance speeches for our induction into the Achievers Hall of Fame. The difference is that those who actually get to raise the shiny award haven't shirked the discipline needed to get them there.

Another final point about resolutions. What's with January 1st anyway? Do we really think that an arbitrary date on the calendar gives us sufficient impetus to change our lives? The fact is, the chances that any of us are going to be ready to make significant, significant commitments based on the calendar is pretty slim.

After you've experienced enough January 1st in your life, you end up. Falling like me into the 72% of people over the age of 45 who just don't bother making resolutions at all. I was probably around 50 when I stopped making New Year's resolutions. I found like many people that people don't change their lives until they're ready to change their lives.

It's like lecturing your teenage kids. Ultimately, 9 times outta 10, they'll find out the hard way. Divorce and in particular gray divorce forces us to accept that we're going to have to make some changes in our life. Some may not be welcome, but they may be necessary, and we may find that slowly these changes can help us develop good habits.

And lo and behold, by taking action, we may start a virtuous cycle in which one good habit can build on another good habit. And we start to create a much richer life for our. Ultimately it's overcoming challenges which enriches us. I love that saying that nothing grows inside our comfort zone. Chances are, if you're recently divorced, at least some part of your life is in a discomfort zone.

Let's choose the opportunity to choose growth. Now, I'd be remiss, given that this is the Gray Divorce Podcast, if I didn't offer a few suggestions. Life-changing resolutions that have either worked for me or worked for people I've known who've gone through gray divorce. So here are three resolutions you might want to think about.

Side note, none of these resolutions actually began on January 1st.

One, resolve to focus on the. It's easy to obsess about what went wrong with the marriage and to try to figure out why focusing on the past can be depressing, and focusing too much on the future can cause fear and anxiety. Many people have found that meditation, breathing exercises and journaling have a calming and sometimes even energizing influence .

Maybe they just help people in putting things into a present perspective. I recommend experimenting and finding out what's right for you. For instance, there are many different types of meditation and breathing exercises from transcendental meditation in the morning and afternoon to short breathing exercises, whenever the urge strikes to more challenging breathing exercises.

Typified by those that the Dutch motivational speaker Wim Hoff recommends. I would say that his breathing exercises are not for the faint of heart, either, literally or figuratively. Another thing, I'm a big believer in monotasking. Now maybe it's because a man, but I find it difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time.

One thing I know is that when I focus on one task at a time, I'm not frantically shifting my attention from one thing to another. Monotasking can help you be more present and attentive. Second resolution result to take care of your finances, so there's no doubt about it. Divorce causes a drop in your living standard.

The assets that went to support one household now have to support two. That's why it's crucially important to budget. , hopefully this is something you've done during the divorce process to help you develop an accurate picture of what funds are required to maintain an adequate standard of living.

Regardless, it's important to take stock of your new financial environment, and a key component of that is tracking income and expenses. Another thing, every year I check my credit, this is particularly important while going through divorce and in the first years after. But now I do it every year. It's developed into a habit that I think is a good one.

Go to annual credit to learn about getting your pre-credit reports immediately after divorce. Act on any quadros in your marital settlement agreement. If you don't know, Quadro stands for. Qualified domestic relations order and is used in divorce to instruct a 401K or pension administrator to move some percentage or amount of funds in a retirement account to a separate account for the soon to be ex-spouse.

This is something I help people with all the time. It's important to get those retirement accounts transferred and to review your investments. If you're not familiar with investments or Quadros or non quadro ira. Speak to a professional such as myself, who specializes in working with people going through the finances of divorce.

Last but not least, I strongly recommend setting up an Excel spreadsheet and tracking your net worth every quarter after your divorce. This was perhaps the most important post-divorce, finance, financial resolution I made. It was pretty depressing to see my net worth cut in half after the. But rather than focus on what was lost, I found that the process, as we discussed before, always process of seeing my net worth start to build up on a regular basis.

Every quarter was very encouraging. I know I was pretty bummed out after my divorce when I had to finance the purchase of a new car. I hate financing, car purchases. The financial advisor in me hates owing money on a depreciating. so I resolved to get that car paid off as soon as possible. The beauty of tracking net worth is that net worth grows when debts and liabilities go down.

So as I paid that car off my net worth rose and I would see that every quarter on my spreadsheet, if I was focused solely on my retirement account balance or my checking account balance, I wouldn't be able to appreciate that slow but steady growth in my net worth. Which illustrated to me in a tangible way that things were getting better.

A third resolution for gray divorcees is to resolve, to take care of your health. Honestly, this is probably the most important resolution any of us can make. Divorce can be one of the most stressful life events we can experience. While it's obvious that stress can have a negative effect on our mental.

It can also make us much more susceptible to physical illnesses, principally by wearing down our immune system. It's really a vicious cycle because when we're depressed, we don't wanna get out of bed, really. We don't wanna do anything, and this can mess up our sleeping patterns because then we don't have the inclination or energy to exercise, and we probably have more inclination to eat and drink unhealthily.

I remember and if. I've heard this story before. You can skip forward about 30 seconds, but I remember going to my doctor about a year after my divorce and telling him that I felt kind of down, kind of depressed. Now, I wasn't suffering any sort of debilitating depression, but I was certainly low energy and not particularly happy, let's say.

Well, I was a little bit shocked, and in retrospect, perhaps I shouldn't have been when my doctor immediately responded with a list. Medicines ending either in teen or pram, which you may know by the commercial names of Prozac, Paxil Loft, Lexapro, et cetera, et cetera. It was almost comical because I remember my response was, whoa, doctor, how about sleep, diet and exercise living in Las Vegas?

He was probably just as surprised by my responses. I was by his long story short. I chose not to take him up on his kind offer to prescribe me antidepressants, and did some research on sleep, exercise, nutrition, and I was fortunate that, you know, my depression wasn't that bad, and certainly speak with your medical professionals as to whether or not that's something that you need.

But I'm thankful that I focused on sleep, exercise, and nutri. Because it encouraged some habits that have become a part of my lifestyle. I rarely get less than seven hours sleep every night, and many times more than eight, and I haven't set an alarm clock with the exception of not wanting to miss an early morning flight in about three years.

My keys to getting a good night's sleep, I rarely eat after 5:00 PM Certainly no food or alcohol anywhere near bed. I read a book or magazine before bed and stay off my phone or iPad, and inevitably I sleep better at night if I've had some sort of exercise during the day. Now with respect to exercise, I never thought that I'd be the type of person who would get up at five or six in the morning and go to the gym, but I become that person and I do it three or four days a week.

Now, I'll say there initially there was, well, there still is some element of vanity and wanting to look good and wear flattering clothes. But what really surprised me about exercising in the morning is that mentally and physically, I just feel a lot better and have, have a much more productive and ultimately less stressful day and a better night's sleep if I've exercised.

And once again, that's a virtual habit cycle. I mentioned a third factor, didn't I? Yes. Nutrition. I've gotta admit, this is the toughest one for me. I love cookies and cakes and candy and bread and pasta, and I've gone through extended periods of time where I've been a good boy and I've had a healthy diet and lost significant amounts of weight.

But I admit that I've fallen off the wagon a few times when it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches and. But you know, none of us are perfect and, you know, one day at a time, I have no date, no, no doubt that one day the day will come again. When I determine that I'm ready to return to the habits necessary, that will get me back into my 32 inch jeans.

But I sincerely doubt that it's gonna happen on January 1st. Take care everybody, and we'll catch you next time on the Gray Divorce Podcast. Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of The Gray Divorce Podcast. To learn more or get in contact with your host, you can visit Andrew's website at

Also, please feel free to rate, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. That helps others find the show and we greatly appreciate it. Thanks again for listening and we'll catch you in the next episode.

Announcement: Information provided is educational only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Each situation is unique and should be discussed with your tax or legal advisor prior to implementation. Andrew Hatherley is not an attorney and does not provide legal advice. Information provided is financial in nature.

Advisory services offered through Haly Capital Management, LLC. Divorce Financial Analysis Services offered through Wiser Divorce Solutions, an affiliated company.