I hate January 1st, because it’s the day to start working on New Year’s Resolutions. And trust me: I’ve failed most of them. And maybe you have, too.
Even though many of us strive to do better every year, most of us fail our New Year’s Resolutions every time. In fact, there is a day dedicated to us failing our resolutions: Quitter’s Day (January 17), the day when — statistically — most of us stop following resolutions we’ve set for the year.
Why New Year’s Resolutions fail
I believe that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work, because our approach fails. We consider January 1st as the ‘holy day’, the day of change, the day of “Now it’s time.” Unfortunately, starting, following, and maintaining New Year’s Resolutions is a bit more complex than just doing things differently starting from January 1st.
Maybe it’s time to change our perspectives on New Year’s Resolutions and January 1st.
We don’t change in 24 hours.
I used to consider December 31st and January 1st as night and day. Maybe you might too. Think about it:
- “From now on, I’m only eating healthy.”
- “Now, I’m drastically reducing my screen time”
- “Starting January 1st, I’m going to sleep better.”
- “I’ll be a different person compared to last year.”
All ambitious intentions. But are they sustainable? Can you improve your habit from the very first day? Can you reach your goal right away?
Is January 1st really the day where you do everything differently? Don’t forget that there are just 24 hours between December 31st and January 1st. And don’t forget that building a habit and reaching a goal takes time.
We can’t fix things in 24 hours. And that’s our issue: We want to reach big things too fast and that’s unsustainable. And that is why we quit: We can’t reach our full potential on the very first day, nor can we maintain perfection every day. It is also difficult to see significant results of following a new habit right away.
Building a habit, reaching a goal, and realizing growth is like staring at a teapot that slowly warms up. You won’t have your tea right away and you’ll only know the water is cooked when the pot is whistling.
January 1st doesn’t need to be your Day 1:
January 1st marks the start of a new year, a new week, and a new day. Wow, many ‘news’! It triggers many people to leave 2021 behind and to start 2022 on a clean slate.
But don’t forget that a year consists of 365 days. You can start working on yourself on January 1st, but you don’t need to. If you’ve failed your resolutions, you don’t need to wait until next year: There are multiple moments in 2022 to try again. You can start and continue working on new habits and goals at any time.
Nothing has to be perfect right away.
An issue I personally experienced when setting New Year’s Resolutions, is the need to do things perfectly right away. And of course, I’d get demotivated when I wouldn’t see results from the very beginning. But I’d also kick myself for every little mistake I made — And then I’d just give up on my resolutions.
As said before, reaching a goal and growing a habit is a long-term process. It takes time and you’ll make mistakes along the way. You shouldn’t force yourself to do things perfect right away on January 1st (reaching perfection is nearly impossible anyway). You should start at the bottom and slowly work your way up: experiment, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.
Mistakes, bad days, times you couldn’t work on your goals — they’re all part of the process.
I lost weight because I ditched my New Year’s Resolution
Losing weight has been my New Year’s Resolution from January 2012 till January 2020. I’ve been overweight for the majority of my teenage and college years, and I’ve followed many extreme diets and drastic exercises at the beginning of every year. But I’d give up very soon because I didn’t see results, because it was hard to change from being a binge-eater to a healthy eater right away, and because I kicked myself for the mistakes I made.
But suddenly, in 2020, everything started clicking. Not in January — I had already failed the nth New Year’s Attempt — but in March 2020. I gave myself another attempt. This time, I would focus on eating more healthy and losing weight at a slower pace:
- First: I would identify what makes me gain weight: binge-eating, not exercising, and eating unhealthy food
- Then, I would slowly tackle every problem. I would start with walking 15 minutes a day, and switch the chips I binged for peanuts
- After that, I started walking more often. I also reduced my portion sizes.
- If that was successful, I would start biking, reduce binge-eating moments, and eat more healthier foods
I started small. And the better I got, the more I challenged myself. For me, this long-term process worked a lot better than handling multiple goals, promises and habits at the same time. Of course, I made some mistakes while improving myself, but I didn’t kick myself for my mistakes anymore.
The Long-term process matters
The habit of eating healthier and the goal of losing weight took me more than 1.5 years — and I’m still working on it. But I did lose 35 kgs (77 pounds) by starting slowly in March 2020, by being consistent, and by gradually increasing my efforts. That was far more sustainable for me than forcing drastic changes every 1st day of January.
Every time I think of learning a new habit or achieving a new goal, I now focus on the long-term process, not on New Year’s Resolutions
- I don’t wait till January 1st. I start whenever I feel ready.
- I focus on growing slowly and I realize that I won’t see results right away on January 1st (or any other Day 1)
- I allow myself to make more mistakes
Take it easy:
I do have some goals set for 2022, like reducing my screen time, becoming more productive, going outside more often and publishing more content. But I haven’t started these goals on January 1st. I’m going to slowly work on them throughout the year.
January 1st indeed is a great moment to look forward to a new year, new goals and new opportunities. New Year’s Resolutions are great to envision all the things you want to achieve in the future. But don’t forget that you have 365 days a year, and that there are many years to follow.
Take it easy.