There are lots of reasons people fail to meet their New Year’s resolutions, but I think an overlooked one is timing.
Is there a worse time of the year than post-Christmas to make goals for the next year? You’ve been stressed by the busyness of the holidays, and you’re barely out of your food coma. Also, there is a chance your goals have not a little to do with comparing yourself to the family and friends you’ve just seen for the first time in forever, and are a bit ahead of you in some areas of life.
The end of the year is a bad time to make goals to set next year’s goals.
Last year I accidentally conducted an experiment on staring New Year’s resolutions in November. I wasn’t happy with the physical shape I was in last fall, and I knew I wanted to make a change. So I started exercising on a regular basis. (I even got a couple workouts in while visiting family over Thanksgiving and Christmas.) By the time the ball dropped in NYC, I had lots of momentum and success behind me, and I’ve kept at it through 2015. That’s when it occurred to me that this is the way to be successful at New Year’s resolutions.
What advantages are there to starting your New Year’s resolutions in November?
1. You’re able to reflect on long-term goals without holiday distractions. Maybe you have the ability to break away from the hustle and bustle of the most wonderful time of the year to reflect. But if you’re like me, and the holidays include visiting lots of family with three small children in tow, then even if you can break away, it’s hard to shift your mind toward long range planning.
2. You get to fail in preseason. Of course your going fall off pace early on (and later on), and those first few failures in January can derail your aspirations. But when you start working toward your goals while your old calendar is still hanging on the wall, falling off the horse doesn’t seem quite as disastrous. That makes it a lot easier to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and stick your boots back in the stirrups.
3. You can start the year with all your tools in your belt. Some goals will require you to acquire resources to help you be successful. Perhaps to meet your financial goals you’ll need to find a financial advisor or purchase budgeting software (and here’s a link for 10% off the best budgeting software on earth). Maybe your exercising goals mean you have to purchase some equipment. Whatever you need, starting a couple of months earlier will give you time to get all those preliminary steps out of the way so that you can make actual progress starting the first of the year, if not sooner.
4. You can begin the year with your new habits already in place. The pressure is high to come out of the holiday hangover being uber productive, but creating new habits doesn’t come easily. Some people say it takes 21-28 days. But others say it takes 66 days. Let’s assume we’re not super-habit makers and give ourselves two months instead of one.
5. You won’t be deterred by the cynicism of others. Come January, you will face friends and foes. Your friends are those who talk, blog, and tweet about how to achieve your goals. And the foes are the cynics who remind us that most resolutions don’t see the light of March. It will be easy for you to focus on the tips that help because you will already be kicking butt on your plans.
Keep ‘em to yourself
Before you go blabbing your goals to all your friends, let me warn you: studies have shown that you shouldn’t share your goals with others. Why is that? It gives your brain a sense of satisfaction that is similar to achieving the goal itself. The result is that you are less likely to finish the goal. Solomon had something to say about this phenomenon: “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty” (Prov. 14:23). Seek satisfaction in telling others what you have done not what you are going to do.
I have told my goals for 2016 to the lovely and talented Mrs. McKiddie – after all, I need her help and partnership on several of them. But besides that, mine are shut up in a moleskin. That said, the fact that I haven’t written for this blog in a long time (months!), and this post just happened to be published in the first week of November should give you a clue as to what one of my goals has to do with.