As the New Year approaches, it seems only natural that we contemplate how we want to begin 2018 and who we want to be in the year ahead.
In the past, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions. Big ones. Small ones. Many of them. Just one really important one. I suspect you have, too.
Time and time again, I’ve failed. It’s not hard to understand why … regardless of how tempting it is to reinvent oneself at the start of the year, statistically speaking the odds are against us.
Why New Year’s resolutions fail
Recent psychological studies have shown that while nearly half of us make New Year’s resolutions, at least 50% of us will abandon them within the first three months.
The longer-range view isn’t rosier. After two years, this same research shows that only 19% of participantsstuck to their original resolutions.
Why? A host of very valid reasons. Our goals are often overly ambitious and require too much dramatic change in our lifestyles and choices.
In addition, researchers have found that it’s critical that our resolutions align with our true visions of ourselves. When we make resolutions that are unrealistic or don’t match with our honest sense of self, it gives us “false hope,”setting us up for likely failure on the path to change.
Researchers have calculated that it takes approximately three months to form a new habit. From that point forward, people are much more likely to stay successfully on their path of change.
So, the good news is that if you dokeep your resolution for the first three months, you’re much more likely to stick with it!
My new approach to the new year
Studies and scientists aside, I’m taking a different approach this year. I’m saying “No” to New Year’s resolutions.
My experience is that they’re de-motivating. I make big promises, I (of course) am imperfect at meeting these big promises, and I feel defeated. End of transformation.
However, if I take a rearview look at 2017, I did manage to achieve some real, meaningful change amid all the chaos of day-to-day life.
I’ve lost 35 pounds by gradually changing my diet and my exercise habits. How? Because my doctor said I had to. In April. So I asked friends who’d been successful and followed their lead on slow, steady changes.
I’ve starting cooking more for my family, too. How? Because I opened up my schedule a bit in the afternoons and have put more energy into weekend planning and shopping for a successful week ahead. Nothing dramatic, just gradual adjustments leading to fewer pizza orders.
Plus, I’ve been having more fun! And what’s more important than that? How have I done this? By choosing to laugh and play more and stress less about my worries.
I guarantee that if I had vowed to achieve any of these changes in January, I would have failed. Miserably.
Why this year-end feeling of success? I believe it’s because I made these changes as the opportunities and needs arose. Meaning, I made them when the time was right and for an in-the-moment reason, rather than arbitrarily on January 1.
So, here’s what I would encourage you to do – just say “No!” Instead of making New Year promises you likely won’t keep, take stock of your life today and celebrate the successes that arose naturally out of your year. Like me, you’ll probably see some wonderful incremental changes that, added up, feel like a big success!
And when you wake up January 1, know that it’s just another day in the continuum of your changing self. No need for grand proclamations … just keep doing what you’re already doing.
Know you’ll rise to meet new challenges, and in the mean time, do the very best you can each day to embrace positive change and have fun!Happy New Year!