Start Your New Year’s Resolution Early

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.

Enjoying an empty park on a weekend run in beautiful Portland. I suspect this place will be packed come January.

Enjoying an empty park for a weekend run. I suspect this place will be packed come January.

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?


  1. Hey Matt,

    I absolutely love this – and not just for the hilarious quotations you (hopefully) made up! (Or overheard? They’re really not all that farfetched, unfortunately.) I recently got my butt into gear on my shoulder season fitness routine instead of waiting until the Christmas cookies and meals were behind me, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve got a jumpstart on clean eating too, and by the time the holidays are over I’ll (likely) be in better shape than I was in September!

    I’m really glad I found your blog – looking forward to following on your journey, especially as you and your partner embark on your adventures!

    • Thanks for your comment! The downside of writing a post like this, though, is I actually have to follow through on the whole exercise thing now!

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