Guest Post by Cael Kalbrandt
It’s January 8th, high time to assess the damage done to your New Year’s Resolutions. Come on, be honest: have any of them even made it this far?
Didn’t think so. And don’t bother denying you made any. Even the half-hearted ones count for the purpose of this little treatise.
It’s human nature to ride the current of a momentous change. When your whole world is upset, for good or for bad, the ensuing chaos makes it easier to introduce other changes. Or you dig in and hold on to what you know. Humanity is fickle…
For some unfathomable reason, changing a digit on a calendar is considered so momentous, it warrants making radical changes. Never mind that the digits on the calendar change all the time. Every. Single. Day. Yet for some people it’s impossible to quit smoking on October 3rd or start going to the gym on April 25th.
Fair enough, I say. If January 1st is genuinely the only opportunity you see to make changes in your life, take it. It would be a waste to sleep off your hangover, wake up on the 2nd and realise you’ll be stuck in this rut for another 364 days! 365, even, if it’s a leap year.
Timing Is Everything
What in the world possesses the vast majority of Western society – and well beyond; it’s contagious – to choose the slowest time of year for drastic changes? Why would you even want to?
Let me explain:
Digging a new rut and pushing your cart from its old track into this new one takes effort. Great effort. Which in turn takes energy. Think of it this way: change is movement, and movement requires energy to come about. If you want to cross the room, you need to move your body’s muscles. Muscles needs energy (meaning, those calories you want to burn) to accomplish that.
Pretty self-evident, right? It gets better. I’m willing to bet that most, if not all, of your Resolutions concern changing your behaviour. Do this, don’t do that, you know the drill. Such things require a change of mind set, and that is a whole other beast entirely.
Now while switching a mental track is an invisible process, the energetic drain it causes is enormous. Your brain consumes 20% of your daily energy requirements, so go figure. That means changing your behaviour requires huge amounts of energy.
So, when is the best time to set such changes in motion? That has to be the exact same time when nature is in the middle of its annual shutdown, right? Right…
For most of us, New Year’s Day is in the middle of freaking winter! There is little light, nothing grows, and by all rights the lot of us should be in hibernation. But, no. Let’s commit to a goal that requires an inordinate amount of energy to succeed, at a time that this energy simply isn’t available. And of course we should bash ourselves if we fail to bring this already-doomed endeavour to a successful end.
Truly any time of the year is better to make Resolutions with a capital R! If you must insist on initiating your big change on a set date, why not pick March 21st? The start of spring brings light, growth and more energy than you will know what to do with. It is a far more natural moment to make the kind of changes you are aiming at. That alone will do wonders for your success rate.
Truly any time of the year is better to make Resolutions with a capital R than New Year’s Day!
When I said “for most of us”, I meant that the Northern hemisphere is more densely populated than the southern half of the globe, where January is the height of summer. Come to think of it, do people Down Under have less difficulty keeping their New Year’s Resolutions? Interesting. If you know, tell me in the comments.
Upending The Board Doesn’t Win The Game
Humanity is fickle because the human mind is fickle. While upsetting our world is a fertile breeding ground for desired changes, too much upheaval will cause the brain to cling desperately to old habits.
Yes, those exact habits you Resolved to change. Oops.
The greater the change, the stronger the resistance. Since many people stack their radical NY Resolutions ten storeys tall, it’s no wonder that all of them have perished before the third week of January.
Changing habits is a bit like chess: move one piece at a time and don’t rush.
Changing habits is a bit like chess: move one piece at a time and don’t rush. The game is won through a series of consecutive steps, not by galloping at anything that remotely resembles what you think is “The Enemy”.
Those consecutive steps form a habit. How many steps it takes to fully form a habit varies per person and per habit (tip: this guy can help you form yours). Rule of thumb: take a step, and then another. Rinse and repeat indefinitely and stepping becomes second nature.
Sounds familiar? It should. It’s how you learned to walk as a toddler.
A toddler that has spent all its life sitting down – and they invariably have – can’t simply get up and run when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. Well, it can try, but no one will be surprised when that ends in a face-plant and parents trying not to laugh.
You – yes, you! – didn’t learn to walk one day to the next. You did it one step at a time, and your tiny brains quickly figured out that attempting to run before you could walk was painful. This logic made sense then, and it still makes sense now. Only you forgot it does.
Consider this a reminder.
So ignore the calendar, get off your arse, and start walking. If a baby can do it, so can you!
P.S. Like me, Chris lives on caffeine. Do the humane thing and click the button below: