Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It’s a few weeks into the New Year. By now many people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. The gyms are less crowded, Shacharit in shul is emptier, and we are settling back to our old routines. Even if you’re already off the bandwagon, don’t throw in the towel on your goals just yet. It’s still early in the year and there is still hope!

When it comes to goal setting and building healthy habits, there are some helpful tips to keep in mind. While I am not a self-help coach or a motivational guru, below are some things that have worked for me when establishing goals for my finances and my yiddishkeit. Like everyone, I am still a work in progress, but the following framework has been helpful as I’ve tried to build the right habits.

  • Keep things simple: In life, it usually makes most sense to keep things simple. With too many components or choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Instead of focusing on the myriad of options available, just pick one or two sensible items. Applying this to Torah learning, just pick two from the many great shiurim and topics available to learn that you’d like to commit to sticking with. I personally try to learn shnayim mikrah v’echod targum and the Daf Yomi. I like the idea of having a set schedule and both are easy to do from home or on the road.

When it comes to personal finances, there are also many cool things out there. However, the determinant of success always comes down to sticking to the basics. The foundation of personal finance is simply: 1) Spend less than you make 2) Invest your savings prudently in stock or bond funds. The breakdown of this portfolio should be based on your time horizon. 3) Ignore the noise (e.g. What your friends from shul and brother-in-law are doing) 4) Stick with your strategy over the long-term.

Homing in on just a few items on which to focus your attention can lead to big results over time.

  • Make it seamless: When creating new habits, it’s helpful to make it as easy as possible. There should be very little room for excuses as to why you can’t achieve your daily goals.

When I wanted to build the habit of going to shacharit in the morning, I made sure to lay out my clothes on a chair near my bed. It may be dark and cold in the morning. I may be tired. Yet, if all I need to do is roll over and put on my clothes, I am one big step closer to going to shul. I also have my Gemara and Chumash sitting on my dining room table, which I pass multiple times a day. Every time I see them, it’s a reminder that I need to learn before bedtime.

Something that has made learning Torah even easier for the masses is the rise of podcasts. There are countless excellent Torah podcasts available (not to mention my gevaldik personal finance podcast, “Jonathan On Money”). It’s simple to “subscribe” to a podcast on your phone. Once subscribed, whenever a new episode is available it literally pops up on your screen, allowing you to engage in Torah study with a simple tap of your finger.

This seamlessness may be even easier when it comes to building wealth. The key is automating as much as you can. This includes setting up automatic withdrawals from your checking account into your investment accounts and automatically having those funds invested. Automation takes the emotion out of the process and allows you to build wealth effortlessly.

  • Be held accountable: One helpful way to stay on track with a goal is partnering with another person who has your best interest at heart. In learning, this may be having a regular chavrusa or chaburah. Knowing others are relying on you, or your friends will notice and inquire about your whereabouts if you miss one day, motivates you to consistently show up. Enlisting a trainer or nutritionist can be helpful to ensure you don’t cheat on a new routine aiming to improve your health. In personal finance, accountability can mean hiring a financial advisor to help you stick with your strategy and make suggestions and modifications where appropriate in order to achieve your goals.

On the topic of accountability, I outlined my learning goals above. I welcome any Jewish Press reader to ask me where I am holding in the Daf Yomi or what Parsha I am up to in Shnayim Mikrah.

  • It’s OK to be human: Remember, the occasional misstep shouldn’t derail your goals. It’s normal to make mistakes, sleep in and miss Shacharit, eat a piece of kakosh instead of a salad, or spend money on something that is imprudent. That’s what makes us human. The important thing to keep in mind when trying to create new habits, is not to let a single mistake become the new routine. Making the same error day after day begins to form a new bad habit.

Instead of giving up after you mess up, just move on and get right back on track. Tomorrow, you will make it to shul, eat more healthfully, and resist spending money on something you don’t need. One of the lessons I’ve learned from Daf Yomi is that if you fall materially behind, when you’re ready to rejoin just pick up from wherever they are in the cycle. Dwelling on the past and trying to catch up will compound the issue and make getting back into a routine more difficult. The key is getting back on the train and moving forward.

  • Write it down: Physically writing down your goals and looking at them regularly is helpful. It keeps people focused and serves as a good reminder in the event you begin to veer off course. I wrote this article to serve as a (very public) reminder of what my learning goals are. Whatever your goals, privately writing them down and putting them in a place where you see them daily can really help increase your follow through and likelihood of success.

Hopefully the small modifications we make in our lives today will allow us to be more accomplished in our Torah learning, yiddiksheit, and finances come January 2025.


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Jonathan I. Shenkman, AIF® is the President and Chief Investment Officer of ParkBridge Wealth Management. In this role he acts in a fiduciary capacity to help his clients achieve their financial goals. He publishes regularly in financial periodicals such as Barron’s, CNBC, Forbes, Kiplinger, and The Wall Street Journal. He also hosts numerous webinars on various wealth management topics. Jonathan lives in West Hempstead with his family. You can follow Jonathan on Twitter/YouTube/Instagram @JonathanOnMoney.