Take Advantage of the New Year as a Perfect Fresh Start
Updated: Mar 19
There’s just something about a new fresh year: full of possibilities, and all.
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” – L.M. Montgomery
Last year was a lot. How about we just leave it there. Face forward.
A fresh year offers the opportunity to create something new and different, separate from whatever happened up until now. Enter the popular New Year’s resolution.
Dating back some 4,000 years, the ancient Babylonians were the first to resolve to improve their lives at the start of a new year. Nowadays, about 45% of Americans make at least one New Year's resolution, some looking to change unwanted behaviors and others by committing to fulfill a personal goal.
Studies have shown that January 1st has a unique power to time the facilitation of positive changes. The reason? The fresh-start effect.
Temporal landmarks are any defined periods of time where there is a clear before and after. While a new calendar year is a standout among of these dividers, other temporal landmarks like Monday morning, the first day of any new month or a birthday can work as well.
The key is the break where past performance can be left in the past and everything from that point on can serve as a clean slate. A fresh-start helps with motivation, completely disassociating new efforts from previous lackluster ones. New game. Score 0.
Interestingly however, these performance re-sets help only when you have been previously unsuccessful. If you’ve formerly achieved your goals, fresh starts actually work against you as they interrupt the flow of what is already working. In these cases, acknowledge and celebrate your performance to keep the momentum going.
Each new year brings hopes and expectations of a new and better you. The most popular resolutions involve eating healthier, exercising more and saving money. But a new year does not bring with it a magic pill. I’m sorry.
Instead, improvements in these areas require a shift in habits and a shift in thinking if we don’t plan on having this same conversation a year from now. A clean slate is helpful but we all know that it takes way more than a flip of the calendar to miraculously improve our bodies or relationships or finances.
There is a massive difference between a wish or want, and a mission that you are intending to smash through no matter what. Feel how those two aren’t the same? That first group of resolution-makers are usually over it by February. If you mean it, in month two you are Just. Getting. Started.
Your chance of success is solely within your control and you are the only one responsible. It comes down to the question: just how much do you want it?
Resolutions are easy to make and even easier to break. So easy in fact that about 80% of resolutions fail about six weeks into the new year. A full third don’t last a month. A slim 8% of resolvers will stay committed by year’s end.
Why are the numbers so glum? The reasons experts give on the low success-rate is pretty consistent:
Often, our goals are unreasonable. A goal of losing 10 pounds this year is far more achievable than needing to fit into a size 4, especially depending on the what the label says on New Year’s Eve. Resolutions shouldn’t be too lofty. Don’t set yourself up for failure. It’s about making progress and proving to yourself that you can.
Other times, we may have a realistic goal but no real plan to get there. A wish is a wish but a goal requires a plan. Whatever the resolution, try to break it down into quarterly, monthly and weekly objectives or milestones that you can get your hands around.
Once you break down the steps that will get you there, schedule those little bastards into your daily, weekly and monthly calendar. Your goals should be reflected in your priorities and in your schedule. Reserve time. Give yourself deadlines so that you are committed to moving your resolution to reality.
The key: Now that you’ve scheduled progress on your goal, just stick to the damned schedule. No. Matter. What. Unless of course your resolution also included excuses like: unless I don’t feel like it, unless there’s something on TV, unless the world is still round, unless, unless, unless. You said you wanted it. You said this would be the year.
Everything around us feeds instant gratification and rarely celebrates the lonely, daily grind that over time, adds up to something great. Most people unrealistically expect immediate results and in absence of that fairytale, give up too soon. Like anything, like everything, the beginning is the hardest. Plan for that. Your odds of success go way up after the first 90 days, so don’t stop.
What helps is tracking progress. You can’t see progress you don’t track. It’s the documenting that can keep you motivated in the early stages of any big change.
Regardless of stumbling in keeping resolutions, just making the resolution itself period makes you 10 times more likely to change your behavior this year than the more-than-half of Americans that make no commitment at all.
Take it easy on yourself. Even the trying counts. It is not an all or nothing proposition. Even if you fall off by March, you can always begin again. There is always next Monday. Hell, you can restart in 15 minutes. If you slow down or stop on your resolved changes, when you recommence is arbitrary. Just begin again.
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