The new year is nearly upon us and for many, it is a time to consider New Year’s resolutions, even though we frequently make them grudgingly.
Far more interesting than telling someone about your resolutions for 2020 is going around and quoting statistics about how ineffective they are, and how many well-intentioned self-promises are forgotten by the end of January.
You can point out that January 1st is arbitrary; just as good (or bad) as any other day to start something new.
With a 360 View, however, we are not ready to give up on New Year’s resolutions just yet.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Can Still Work For You
Admittedly, the track record for resolutions is embarrassing. There is a reason for this as many people treat their resolutions like wishes from a genie in a bottle.
People mistakenly assume that when the calendar flips, so will a switch in the brain that will make personal willpower appreciably stronger than it is now.
However, one thing we have learned from the study of habits, is that willpower is not enough. It is an exhaustible resource; while you can coast by on willpower alone for maybe the first week of January, your willpower is going to fade at some point. If that happens before your new resolution becomes a habit, it will be difficult to embrace long-term change.
So there is the first key to making a resolution that is not just another wish: make it about changing the habits that are necessary to create the bigger change you really want.
For instance, if you resolve to lose 20 or 50 or 100 pounds, do not get up on January 1st and try to lose 20 or 50 or 100 pounds. Instead, wake up on January 1st and begin creating an exercise habit — maybe starting with just 5 minutes.
Physically, you may feel as if you are accomplishing next to nothing, but far more importantly you begin re-wiring your brain for exercise in a way that helps you develop a consistent habit, that last well into the new year.
So, what of this business about January 1st being arbitrary?
Agreed, the actual date does not matter. But here is what does:
New Year’s Day has on its side the fact that we anticipate the date. It is circled on our calendars. If we decide in advance that we are going to make a change beginning on that particular day (as opposed today), we have time to build up some tension and excitement about making a change before the time to change actually arrives, which gives it some gravity in our minds.
Of course, this is not what most of us do by default when we get fed up and decide something must change. Instead, when we wake up one day feeling particularly bad about some habit or event, we resolve to change. Starting. Right. Now. Sound familiar?
Yet only one day later (and sometimes not an hour or even a minute later), our motivation is gone and the change is forgotten. If you are like most people, you have repeated this feeble attempt time and again, getting more discouraged and convinced of your inability to change and lack of self-discipline with each successive failure.
It may be helpful to delay the change until a set date in the near future, and make plans for success before reaching that date.
However, even armed with this information, when you are in that rare state of being frustrated and excited enough to change something in your life, it is tough to find the patience to delay the start by a few days.
New Year’s Day offers us a perfect opportunity to do exactly that. It is one time when it seems natural to delay the start. Of course, if you do what many people do, which is to decide on December 31st at 8pm that tomorrow you are going to start – this may not be any more effective than any other spur-of-the-moment declaration to change.
But what if you started planning NOW?
What if, for the next few days, you thought long and hard about the single resolution, or goal, that would most serve you over the next year? Once you came up with it, and wrote it down, and shared it with someone who matters to you, what if you then carved out some time in the next week to really plan how you are going to achieve this goal?
This does not mean a 10-minute scribble on a napkin. Is it possible that between now and New Year’s Day, you could set aside two or three hours (on a weekend morning, perhaps) to figure this out?
Take several minutes to write down the answers to these questions about your New Year’s goal:
- Why do I want (need) to do this so badly? Why does it absolutely have to happen now? How do I know I am capable of doing it?
- What are the habits I would need to develop to make this change? Specifically, what one habit is the most critical, the one I am going to start creating today and develop before the others? (Remember, one habit at a time!)
- What do I currently have going for me? What resources could I use to learn, stay accountable, and help me in other ways?
- What other resources do I need, and how can I get them? For example, “I need to get this book / expert / old friend who can teach me about ___.”
- What intermediate goals (with deadlines) can I set to break this big goal up into smaller chunks?
- How can I set up the process to avoid becoming overwhelmed and not have to rely on willpower? (My advice: If you think you’re starting small, start smaller. You have time.)
- What can I do during the next 24 hours and the next [however much time you’ve got until New Year’s Day] to get a head start? What can I do during the month of January to be well on my way by the end of that month?
Getting your goal in your head and giving yourself some time to plan and anticipate the start will do so much towards making your resolution one that lasts, and not one of those attempts that quickly fades before the first week of January is over.
We know it is a bit early, but we wish you success in whatever you decide (now!) to take on in 2020.