The New Year is upon us, which means a new start, new ideas, a new job, a new beginning. January 1st is the magical date every year where you can start over with full confidence that you will succeed this time in whatever resolution you decide to tackle this time around. But is this flawed thinking? Does this actually work to our advantage or take us down a path of disappointment and failure?
New Year’s Resolutions are great in theory. You make a commitment to yourself that you will change some aspect of your life for the better (or worse if you decide) and January 1st gives you the comfort of knowing that it’s the beginning of the year, a great time to start something new. But why January 1st? The assumption is that, all of the sudden you will possess the will power, the determination, the grit to make a change in your life. The beginning of the year is suppose to give you this magical drive that brings you to achieve your goal. Or does it?
See, people are creators of habit. We love routines because they make us comfortable. They give us a sense of control. Look at your daily routine for example. I bet it goes a little something like this:
1) Wake up
2) Eat breakfast (or just drink coffee for some)
3) Brush teeth
4) Go to work
5) Eat Lunch (or drink an energy drink for some)
6) Leave work
7) Watch TV
8) Eat Dinner (warm up a Hungry Man for some)
9) Brush teeth
10) Go to bed
That’s a list of 10 things that are in your daily routine. This doesn’t include all the small details in between. So you have a resolution to lose weight and get yourself in the best shape of your life. Once the first of the year hits, you’ll go to the gym, get a membership, and magically know exactly what steps you have to take to achieve your goal. In the mean time, you decide that, since you will be eating healthier come the first of the year, you are going to enjoy every bit of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, as well every work party and dinner party in between. Now you’ve set yourself back another 10lbs (I believe the average person puts on 6lbs during the Holidays, but let’s round up). New Year’s finally comes and you decide, considering the first of the year is in the middle of the week this time around, Wednesday is no day to start a lifestyle change, so you’ll just wait until Monday. By Monday, it’s already January 6th, and the 6th is not the same as the 1st, so now you wait until February. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating my point a little bit here, but you understand what I’m trying to say. You can always find an excuse, whether it’s January 1st of June 24th.
Let’s say you finally decide to go for it. Remember that routine list? Let’s take a look at what will have to change just on our list of 10 things. First, your nutrition will change (probably drastically for most people), so that effects breakfast, lunch and dinner…oh, and you should probably add a meal in their, so now we go from 10 to 11. Next, you will start to workout, so the list of 11 just went up to 12. Finally, you should really start to go to bed earlier, yet another change. So we’ve changed 4 items on our list of 10 and added 2. Creators of habit don’t like change to begin with so attempting to change a handful of habits at once is daunting.
Here’s the point. Hoping that, come January 1st, you will suddenly have this will and determination to make a huge change in your life is great in theory. But a theory is a theory for a reason. Why should you put off to tomorrow what you can change today? Whether it is losing weight, or finding a new job, or running a marathon, change is hard. The more you procrastinate, the more likely you are to never allow yourself to achieve your goal. Make a resolution to change your life today. Start eating a better breakfast tomorrow. Once you have that down, pack your lunch for work. Give yourself time to adapt and adjust. Failure doesn’t happen because you didn’t have the right intentions. Failure happens because of bad planning. A research study ( Lally et al. (2009)) showed that, on average, a habit took 66 days to form on average…….66 DAYS!!! Give it time and don’t try to take it all on at once.
Remember, every day starts a New Year!