The New Year is frequently a time for new beginnings. For many, it’s a fresh start for health and wellness, careers, and mindfulness, just to name a few of the common areas in which we often hope to achieve growth and improvement.
And yet sometimes, we find that despite even our highest of ambitions, things somehow find their way back to old habits. Does this indicate that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time that inevitably end up failing? No, not really. Taking a moment to create a fresh start for oneself is never a waste of time. The flaw tends to lay more with a tendency we have to make unreasonable goals (but with the best possible intentions, of course). Luckily, there is a fairly easy fix!
For example, take a look at those making a major fitness commitment. For someone not working out weekly, a new commitment of just 3 days a week is actually a major change to one’s routine and lifestyle. But for most of us, 3 days per week doesn’t seem terribly ambitious (especially after copious amounts of holiday treats), so we all tend to gravitate more to the extreme and decide that 5-6 days per week should be reasonable enough. In reality, such a drastic change to one’s routine typically turns out to be rather difficult to maintain in the long-term, especially when we factor in full-time careers, school, children, family obligations, etc. So when our goals are unreasonable, they typically don’t work out quite the way we had hoped.
The simple reality is that no major changes ever take hold in one’s life unless allowed to become a habit. There are differing opinions out there as to how long that really takes, but sources seem to agree that it’s at least more than a month, with many claiming that it could be as long as 2-3 months. So if you go all-out 5 days per week, you may max out the honeymoon stage of your life change before a habit officially forms. It’s not impossible to create the habit after the honeymoon is over, but it certainly does take a lot more discipline. What often ends up happening is that frustration and stress set in and we end up abandoning our goal altogether—until the following New Year, at least.
On the other hand, a more reasonable approach could be to ease into a new life change more gradually. In the case of the gym, let’s try 3-4 days per week and see how it works. Have fun; enjoy the honeymoon stage. Let your new lifestyle become habit before you lose your steam. Once it’s habit, everything comes easier. And if 3-4 days per week is a cinch, you can always add more days!
In any event, that’s just one example. The same concept really applies to any big change. Ambition and zeal are good things; they get the fire started. But if the fire burns too hard and too fast, it burns up all the fuel within a short period of time. So whether you’re looking to get back into shape, find a brilliant new career, or simply become a more positive person in the New Year, just focus on baby steps. They’ll get you to your goal.
And if you have a set-back, you can always regroup and try again. There’s no rule that obligates you to get it right the first time. And there’s no rule saying you have to wait for the new year to have a fresh start. Every day is a new day and a chance to make positive change in your life.
Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter