In an article last week (“Should You Make a New Year’s Resolution?“) I talked about New Year’s Resolutions and how to tell whether or not it’s worth it for you to make one. In this post I’d like to touch on a related subject, which is the value of New Year’s as a time to commit to a goal–that is, to make a resolution.
I’ll say first that the New Year certainly isn’t the only good time to commit to a goal. Almost any time, even when things are at their worst, can be a good time to change things for the better (see “Why the Worst Time to Change Things Can Be the Best Time to Change Things“).
Even so, the New Year offers some special advantages:
- With the winter holidays over, for many of us the New Year is a great chance to incorporate something different into our normal routine without having to worry about the interruptions of vacations, holidays, or most other unusual circumstances. While it’s essential to find ways to continue to pursue our goals even when we’re pulled out of our routine, it’s easiest to get a habit rolling when things are at their most normal
- There’s an emotional advantage to getting a new start, and even though on some level a new year is just a change in numbers, it does a real feeling of something new beginning that we can harness to our advantage.
- Maintaining a winning streak can give extra durability to habits we’re trying to build (see “Harnessing a Winning Streak“), and January 1st is a convenient and effective date on which to start a new winning streak.
- In a very real sense, it’s never a bad time to improve our lives. Even without its special advantages, January 1 is still a good date to start something positive.
I would offer a few cautions about starting a new goal, though:
- Don’t start something new that will disrupt a good habit you’re already working on or that will sap too much time or attention from other priorities.
- As tempting as it may sometimes be to try to remake our entire lives, choose only one goal to work on energetically at a time: choosing two or more almost always results in overstretching our time and attention, leading to failure. And be sure to choose the one thing that’s really most important to you.
- Choose a set of behaviors (something you can control) and not an outcome (something you can’t control). For example, you might resolve to eat healthily and exercise (two ways to pursue a single fitness goal), not to get skinny; resolve to adopt good task management practices, not to “be more organized”; or resolve to work on your business idea, not to “get rich.”
- Prepare first. It’s often hard to give proper support to a spur-of-the-moment resolution. By planning in advance you can make schedules, enlist help, read books, join groups, or do whatever else you need to give yourself the best chance of success.
- Don’t give yourself a “bad habit bachelor party”: that is, don’t behave badly as a last gasp, as this will make it harder and more jarring to behave well. Making good choices is a reward to yourself, not a punishment, something that it will make you happy to embrace, not avoid.
This series will continue next time with a suggestion of a good way to review an entire life and take stock of what one goal is most worth pursuing for a particular person.
Photo by legalnonresident