I digress briefly from musings on work and travel to bring you this seasonal rant.
I hate New Year’s resolutions.
Every November and December, as the holidays descend upon us, self-control goes out the window for an enormous number of rational, well-meaning adults.
“I know we have to put it on the 28% APR credit card, but Junior just can’t live without the most state-of-the-art console gaming system and 4K TV!”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to offend Grandma by not eating six slices of her famous lard and butter pie.”
“I’m too full from my 24 oz. Pumpkin Spice Latte to go for a walk today.”
“Biking to work in the rain? No thank you! I’m waiting until May!”
And so, every January, like clockwork, the guilt of months of impulsive decision-making comes crashing down upon us. Each New Year, 40-50% of American adults make resolutions. God forbid you turn on a television this time of year: every gym, fitness club, weight loss program, diet food, exercise gizmo, smoking cessation patch, vitamin supplement, low-calorie restaurant, wearable fitness tracker, and credit card refinancing service you’ve ever imagined is queued up to capture this massive market of eager-to-change consumers.
Of course, you already know the punchline: Almost no one will follow through on any of these resolutions for more than a few weeks.
There are plenty of reasons for failure. Many goals aren’t realistic. They’re not specific or actionable. They don’t include a tactical plan.
But in my view, there’s an even bigger reason these goals fall apart: they’re phony.
Whether your objective is weight loss, or exercise, or cooking at home, or saving more money, or quitting smoking, if you really cared about building a habit, you would start it today.
Paula Pant frequently shares an aphorism about values: “Don’t tell me your values. Show me how you spend your money, and I’ll know what you value.” You can easily expand this notion from money to actions: show me what you actually do, and I’ll know what you value.
So here’s a humble (maybe?) suggestion: if there’s something you’re saving for a New Year’s resolution, stop waiting.
For me, this is the time of year I need to force myself into regular outdoor exercise. The beautiful weather of summer – endlessly conducive to bike rides, hiking, and spur-of-the-moment outdoor adventures – is long gone here in the Northwest. With ski season approaching, I need a kick in the pants to get some regular cardio exercise and not be gasping for air on the mountain come February. So, as I do in most years, I’ve already started.
There are tons of benefits to not waiting until the New Year: Rather than dream up lofty goals after multiple holiday breaks, I build habits into my normal routine. If something isn’t working, there’s no arbitrary “New Year’s resolution” pressure about failing – I just fix it. When January finally rolls around, the discipline is already in place. And, admittedly, I get the added bonus of a bit of smug satisfaction when going on a cold Christmas morning run, knowing that every gym in the world will be overrun in one week’s time.
So, are you saving a goal for January 1? Why not start today?