I love starting over. I adore the feeling of a fresh start, the look of a blank page that I fill with my plans, dreams and desires. And I do this all the time: I assess my year, analyse what went well and what went slightly wrong, and then I create a new action plan to follow. I love doing this!!! I think it’s an amazing practice, helps to refocus my life, makes me think about where I’m headed and helps me to make adjustments as and when needed.
Interestingly though, I don’t enjoy doing this in January. Especially not on the first day of January.
It’s not because I love going against the flow, far from it! In the past several years, I did the usual New Year’s Resolution, and I was even smart about it, because I did it in a way I was taught. I thought about what I wanted to achieve, added deadlines and all that jazz, but more often than not, it didn’t do the trick.
As it happens, one of my most successful “New Year’s Resolution” happened in August, 10 years ago. I got fed up with the way I looked, I was deeply unhappy with my size and fitness level, and decided that enough was enough. I made a decision that month, that it was time for me to do something about this situation that made me so unhappy, and frankly, pretty bad for my health. In the next 10 months that followed, I’ve changed the way of my eating, started to exercise regularly and lost 20 kg (over 40lbs). I went down from size 20 to size 10/12, and I was the happiest and healthiest ever. Unfortunately the way I did it wasn’t sustainable, and I’ve gained back all of the weight and some.
In the past several years I’ve made (and subsequently failed) several New Year’s Resolutions (chief amongst them was always to lose weight) on the first day of the New Year, but I never came close to that success I achieved before.
Of course, it wasn’t the fault of January, but the truth is that the beginning of January isn’t the best time to make grandiose promises (especially if it involves weight loss), and this point has been proven year after year. Our great intentions to turn our lives around usually fizzle out by the beginning of February. Just take a look at the gyms: in January you can hardly find an available treadmill or elliptical trainer during peak time, but come February it all goes back to normal. We just simply can’t hold onto our good intentions long enough - if you ever bought an expensive blender in January with the intention of starting every morning with a healthy green smoothie, but the thing is just standing on your kitchen countertop gathering dust, you know what I’m talking about. Creating and sticking to new habits is not easy, and it can be damn hard in January.
Why is that?
My friend, Claire is the person whom I usually turn to for updates regarding each season and what to expect around that time of the year. She told me before the Holidays, that this is the time of the year, when we should withdraw a little bit and start listening inside. This is the time of quiet introspection, stock taking and thinking. Of course, as the days are getting longer now, after the Winter Solstice, it’s natural that we start thinking about our hopes and dreams and the way we want to manifest them. It’s natural that eventually we want to set our intentions and start working towards them.
However it doesn’t happen overnight, and certainly not from the last chime of the clock at midnight on the 31st of December. And I believe this is where many people set themselves up to fail, because they think that the 1st of January is the time when we have to pour all we have (which, after the Holidays is often very little) into our new adventures and intentions. This time of the year we still have that strong urge to listen inside and contemplate (the very things this time of the year is all about), and it pretty much goes against our nature to introduce new habits, or become more physically active, or willpower to work every night in order to launch our new business within a month. All of these intentions are great, and they are all achievable, but we need to be aware of what we can expect of ourselves this time of the year.
Did you know that the 19th of January has a nickname? It’s called “Quitters Day”, because this is the date by most people abandon their New Year’s Resolutions.
So let me save you the pain of going through this and feel bad about it.
This year, do this differently.
Don’t feel bad if you haven’t set your goals and started working on them just yet. Take your time, spend time on stock-taking, soul-searching, and set goals that really matter to you.
Why not try to set some quarterly goals? Knowing that you only have 90 days to complete them will help to keep them reasonable, and the relatively short time will motivate you to take action as soon as possible. And you get to review them and change course if necessary only after 3 months, so it will give you a more realistic perspective.
Making New Year’s Resolutions is not a privilege you can only do on the 1st of January. Did you fall off the wagon? Do you need to rethink the path you took? You don’t have to wait until January next year. Hit the reset button any day of the year - you are allowed to do it as often as you need.
If you end up setting goals, make sure to break them down into small chunks. Start with the end goal, and work backwards, identifying each step you need to take along the way in order to achieve your goal. You did this well if you’ve managed to break it down to small steps that you can start working on straight away.
Last but not least, be gentle on yourself. It doesn’t mean you should give yourself excuses to not working on your goals, that’s not what I mean. But be gentle and understanding when things don’t work out immediately. Try to listen to your self-talk and when that inner voice gets really harsh and almost rude, quieten it. Going after your dreams and goals is after all a wonderful thing and it is admirable that you want to better yourself and improve your circumstances. So be gentle and understanding with yourself, and if you fail, just go ahead and start over.
You’ve got this!