New Year’s resolutions have become an intrinsic part of our annual rituals, often symbolizing a fresh start and an opportunity for personal growth. These commitments serve as markers for self-improvement and goal setting. Psychologically, they play a significant role in motivating individuals to make positive changes in their lives.


I’ve always been a staunch “anti-resolutionist.” My opposition is driven as much by the crowded gyms in January (which usually thin out by the third week) as it is by a sense that something should be started immediately if it’s important enough to be done, and not delayed to some arbitrary date on the calendar. 


But I do understand the importance of resolutions, and the new year is as good a time as any to get started on personal and professional growth. The start of a new year signifies a clean slate, creating a psychological divide between the past and the future. This temporal landmark effect serves as a catalyst for change, allowing individuals to mentally separate themselves from previous shortcomings and focus on new possibilities.


The process of setting resolutions also involves introspection and self-reflection, which are crucial for personal development. It encourages individuals to evaluate their lives, identify areas for improvement, and set specific, achievable goals. Research in psychology suggests that successful goal pursuits require a strategic approach. Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals, commonly known as SMART goals, increases the likelihood of achievement. Additionally, creating a plan with actionable steps, monitoring progress, and adapting to setbacks are essential components of goal maintenance. Leveraging social support and accountability can significantly impact goal adherence. Sharing resolutions with friends, family, or a support group fosters a sense of commitment and encourages individuals to stay on track. Finally, linking or chaining new, desired habits to existing habits or behaviors increases the likelihood that the new habit will be retained. 


In the realm of accounting and finance, New Year’s resolutions hold particular relevance. Professionals in the field often grapple with the need for precision, organization, and continuous improvement. At the same time, the profession is faced with a changing operating environment and emerging technologies. The megatrends shaping the profession—talent management and the future of work; enterprise risk management; digital transformation; regulatory and policy changes; and environmental, social, and governance mandates—can serve as catalysts for establishing resolutions. Setting targets for career advancement, such as pursuing professional certifications or expanding one’s network, can also be integral resolutions in this field.


IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) offers many resources to help practitioners achieve their career resolutions. Certifications like the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant), CSCA® (Certified in Strategy in Competitive Analysis), and newly launched FMAA™ (Financial & Managerial Accounting Associate) can help accounting and finance professionals hone their skills and demonstrate proficiency. Other IMA resources such as continuing education courses, webinars, podcasts, conferences, and publications can strengthen knowledge and provide access to new opportunities.


New Year’s resolutions serve as powerful tools for personal development, rooted in psychological principles of goal setting and self-improvement. For IMA members and accounting and finance professionals, resolutions play a vital role in aligning personal and professional goals with the issues impacting the profession. It’s convincing enough for even a staunch anti-resolutionist like me to be persuaded—and maybe to pick up a few new habits in 2024!

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