I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Honestly, I never really have. When I was younger there wasn’t anything I wanted to change badly enough that I resolved “this would be the year!” Now that I’m a bit older and I pretend to be a whole lot wiser, I’ve come to the conclusion that if something is important to you, why wait? The new year in and of itself isn’t going to be inherently different. Sure, the people around you might work furiously on their resolutions for a couple of weeks before reality sets in, motivation dwindles, and the flurry of activity previously encircling them fizzles and dies. They, like you, still have all the same time constraints, commitments, and responsibilities that kept them from following through last year too.
In and of itself, that sounds really pessimistic, but it actually isn’t intended to be. The truth is, life as we’ve built it tends to be pretty mundane. People are creatures of habit so it’s really not a surprise that much of our day follows the same predictable patterns time and time again. The problem– as I see it– with New Year’s resolutions is the seeming expectation that everything is going to be radically different right fucking now. Someone who wants to finally get fit, but has been totally sedentary for years, resolves to go to the gym 5 times per week– we’ve all seen the memes– they’re ready, they’re committed, they are going to keep this up for… not very long. For some it’s a few weeks, for others a matter of days, and some commit and never get started.
Don’t get me wrong, getting fit and improving your physical health are fantastic goals. But let’s be rational and honest with ourselves for a minute. Anyone who does 5-a-weeks can tell you that it’s a) time consuming, and b) hard as fuck, even if you’re conditioned for it. How much more difficult is that going to be for someone who has been inactive? Not only are they trying to create a new habit, they’re trying to squeeze it into their probably already busy schedule and it’s going to be extremely unpleasant. This is not a recipe for longevity.
Let’s take another popular example: “This year I’m going to get organized!” First of all, what does that even mean? A non-specific goal is like a moving target: how are you going to hit it? (You can actually apply that same principle to the fitness goal, or any goal, but that wasn’t the point I was making previously). Sooooooo specifics: if like me, you want to declutter your house– i.e. you want to trash, donate, or otherwise remove those things you don’t need and aren’t using– again, an admirable goal– the thing you have to remember is that you didn’t accumulate all of that stuff overnight and you certainly aren’t going to be able to clear it overnight, short of burning it all and starting over. Seriously, don’t do that, it’s super dangerous. You’re going to need time and energy, and in some cases emotional fortitude, to deal with all of the stuff you’ve been collecting.
Are you starting to see where I’m going with this? Rather than thinking about the New Year as the starting point to a 100 meter dash, think of it as a mile-marker in a marathon. You’re already running a race, don’t quit in the middle to start a new one. Click & Tweet! Distance runners use laps to measure race progress. They have target times per lap, which gives them a unit to measure progress and they adjust accordingly in order to stay on track for whatever the ultimate goal is: finishing the race, personal best, first place, etc.
Be a marathon runner: don’t try to achieve all your goals for the new year in January. Yes, a new year is a great time to assess progress and adjust accordingly, but remember that the adjustments don’t have to be huge to be impactful. Start small and build, consistency is far more important than volume. E.g.: rather than resolving to hit the gym at the ungodly hour of 6am 5 days per week, resolve to walk for 15 minutes per day after dinner. It’s good for digestion, doesn’t require a membership, and it’s far more sustainable. Plus, the cumulative effort will add up. Same goes for decluttering your house. Instead of thinking you have to find a whole weekend (or week, depending on the amount of stuff you’re hoarding) to take care of it all at once, spend 15-30 minutes a few times per week working in one area at a time until until you’ve made the rounds through the whole house.
Whether it’s a new year, new month, new week, or you’re just ready to make a change– believe it or not, you can make a change at any time, you don’t have to wait until the “start” of something new– look first to what you’ve actually achieved and take honest stock of where you are. Then reflect on the things you’d like to improve and achieve. Is it your finances? Your health? Do you want to write a book? (Yay!) Do you want to travel? All of the above? Pick the one goal that is most important to you and get specific. That will be your priority focus. Here’s the deal, you can’t change everything at once. There’s no magic wand or magic words, it’s going to be a whole lot of work and the more divided your focus is, the harder it will be to generate new habits. Be patient, you’ll get to the other goals, they don’t have to wait until next year, but take starting them on one at a time. Last, but certainly not least, try to enjoy the process, there’s no reason change needs to suck.