You’re reading a blog from an asset-management company. What could be more provocative than a title that promises a commentary on what’s ahead for the new year? Unfortunately, you and I know that no one can predict the future and that everyone is facing the same limiting conditions of uncertainty, complexity and urgency as they try to make good decisions. Our investment professionals do a great job in navigating these three conditions on behalf of their clients, but no one has an actual crystal ball (I know, because I checked).

What we can do at the beginning of the year is reset our thinking, break past patterns and set out to be intentional about our choices. I can’t think of a better time to put the patterns and challenges of 2020 behind us and tackle the new year from a fresh perspective.

Not Another Set of New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions because I know that I’m unlikely to keep them for more than a few days. There has been a ton of research in behavioral finance about why this is true for most people: the limitations of willpower to sustain positive change in human behavior. No one has summed up the value of New Year’s resolutions better than Dan Ariely in his wonderful book Irrationally Yours:

Dear Dan,

Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions?

—Janet

Dear Janet,

Yes. Very much. Every year for about a week: for about five days before the end of the year and for about two days after New Year’s Day.

—Dan