Do you have your New Year’s resolutions all ready to go?
How many of last year’s did you keep? How long did they last?
Yeah, I know. This year will be different.
But, here’s the thing. No. It won’t be. Why? Because you are the same person you were 365 days ago.
Well, maybe not exactly the same. You’re a year older. And in theory, a year wiser. And this year changed all of us a little bit.
So, maybe this year really will be different.
Here is why this year won’t be any different and what you should do about it.
January 1st each year marks a new beginning, a fresh start, a blank slate, right? Do you know what else you can say about January 1st, 2021? It’s a Friday. The day before was Thursday, and the next day will be Saturday. The sun will rise a minute earlier and set a minute later than the day before. You have two more minutes of daylight, so there’s that. Otherwise, it’s just another day.
It will happen on that arbitrary day because of a decree made by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, which overwrote another arbitrary day set up by Julius Caesar. When you wake up on Friday, it will be today. Every day you wake up is today. And, as they say, tomorrow is another day.
And that is one of the reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail. There’s nothing extraordinary about the day you chose to begin them other than some random choice made by a long-dead Pope. And he didn’t care about New Years’; he was just trying to get Easter to show up on the right day. It’s just another day. And if you’re Asian, your New Years’ day was also chosen a long time ago. At least it was tied to an actual event, the first lunar cycle. But the fact that this particular lunar cycle is different from the one after or before is still somewhat arbitrary.
Another reason they fail is the day itself; the holiday. It comes at the end of a five or so week extravaganza that began on Thanksgiving if you live in the states. It also ends the weeklong Christmas celebration, or soon after Hannukah, or whatever holiday your culture has around the winter solstice. But however you got there, you’ve probably been eating, spending, and drinking too much.
And then, there’s last night. You stayed up past midnight for no particular reason, ate a bunch of crap, and drank like a fish. Today, you are going to be a new person? Do you feel like a new person? Probably one of your resolutions was to get up early and exercise. How’s that working out for you?
In short, it’s a bad day to start anything. But I’ll get back to that in a bit.
The final and most crucial reason that resolutions don’t work is that it puts too much pressure on us. We create unrealistic goals and try to turn ourselves into someone we have never been before. Like yesterday. It’s not a matter of why do they fail, but how could they succeed?
So, how can we make them work? Well, you can’t. Not really. You are trying to do too much on some random day when all you really want to do is lie on the sofa and watch football.
So, what can you do? I have a couple of ideas. You were hoping I would, right? Otherwise, you just wasted another four minutes of your year. But, I digress.
One thing you can do with some of your resolutions is to start them at a different time. We’ve established that January 1st is just some random day, so why tie any importance to it? It’s too late this year, but late next year, try this. Start your resolutions in December or even November.
Thinking about joining a gym? Don’t show up on January 1st with all the other sheep. Start your membership in December. This does two things.
First, by the time New Years rolls around, you’ve already built up some momentum. You’ve been working out for a few weeks. Today you can take the day off and lay around on the sofa watching football. The second reason is that tomorrow, you can look around with smug self-satisfaction as the fresh crop of newbies stumble in and try to figure out how a treadmill works.
And that brings me around to the best time to start a resolution, a change in your life for the better. Today. Do it today. Whatever it is and whenever it is, do it today. If you think about some change in October, don’t pencil it in for January 1st; start today. Do it when you think about it rather than let it pile up and try everything on one day.
If there is something you need to stop doing, stop doing it today. Stop now. Don’t do that anymore. Don’t wait.
Anything you have decided you need to start doing, start as soon as you finish reading this. Exercise? Stand up. Right now. Go for a walk. Twenty minutes, that’s enough for today. Go up and down the stairs a few times.
Do you need to diet? Go take a look in your kitchen. Have a trash bag in your hand when you do. You know what to do. Do it now. Then go to the grocery store. Today. Walk there if it’s close enough. You know that section of the store you have to walk through to get to the good stuff? Those are fruits and vegetables. Get some. Get some today.
Don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Make today’s resolutions.
This morning, when I woke up my wife, I continued a long-standing tradition. After telling her I love her, I said, “Happy Tuesday.”
But having said all that, I’m going to buck my own advice. Once again, I will try for the same New Year’s resolution I make every year. Maybe this will be the year.
I’m going to stop being so damn nice to people.
Now go away and leave me the hell alone.