On January 1st, millions of us will emerge from our beds with a head full of promises to ourselves and total self-belief that we will achieve whatever we have set ourselves as our New Year's Resolutions. But a few days or, for those more dedicated souls, weeks or months later, the vast majority of us will have achieved very little, if anything at all. So why is this? What is it about New Year's resolutions that almost sets us up to fail? I really don't mean to put a downer on your self-improvement plans. Positive and permanent change is to be commended. But I know that the most permanent changes I have made in my own life have had nothing to do with an arbitrary date. So here are my 5 best reasons why January 1st really is not the best time for self-promises.
1. We promise ourselves too much.
That deadline of one specific date makes many of us write long lists of things we want to improve. Change is best done gradually and we certainly cannot make many changes all at the same time. Changes are best made one at a time, adapting to circumstances as we feel comfortable. By asking ourselves to adapt to too much all at the same time is just setting us up to fail.
2. January is the coldest month for most of the world.
January isn't a natural time for our bodies to make changes. Unless of course you are lucky enough to live in parts of the world where January falls in the middle of the summer. During the winter, we naturally want to store food, rest and hold on until the spring. So many of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder too (S.A.D.) The human body does not naturally associate the dark winter with positive change - that should be left for the spring, the period of growth and rebirth. Days are becoming longer and lighter and we are naturally more positive and most likely looking towards the future. Easter time would be a far better time to aim for personal change.
3. Changes are best made when we are truly ready.
It wasn't very long ago that I gave up smoking. Many people tried to make me quit. Many people failed. I half-heartedly tried to make myself give up, but when my heart wasn't really in it I knew deep-down that I would never succeed. I had to wait until I was truly dedicated to the task in hand. I then quit without any problems whatsoever. There is no point in setting ourselves an arbitrary date to try to achieve something that we don't entirely want to do at that moment in time. Success would come easier if we attempted it when we really felt it was right.
4. Being good in January is a bit of a shock after Christmas....
In my household, Christmas is all about eating, drinking and being merry. Lovely. Then January 1st comes along and we suddenly have to be good? That is a bit of a contrast to what has gone before it. It's not exactly as if we are easing ourselves gently into positive change is it?
5. The majority of resolutions are all about what you think you should be doing, not what you really want to do.
Resolutions, more often than not, have a great deal to do with social acceptance. We often aim to become what other people want us to be. Or, more accurately, what we 'perceive' other people want us to be. It's all very acceptable to set yourself a target of 'stop smoking', 'lose weight', 'drink less' - but who are you doing it for? If the reason isn't that you truly want it for yourself, then there is very little chance that you will be able to achieve it. Without true dedication and a real plan, very few resolutions are achieved at all.
So - should I not make any resolutions at all?
I'm not saying that positive change isn't good. We all know that true positive change is fantastic. What is not so good is setting yourself up to fail, using an arbitrary date to set goals you have no real belief you can achieve. All that will happen is that you will end up feeling bad about yourself. My advice? This January, make a list of things you would like to have achieved by the end of the year. Manage them, one at a time and only when you're ready. Check them when you're done. That way you will hopefully have made a great deal of change by the end of the year. It worked for me this year :-)