If you scan the web, the University of Scranton is quoted frequently for their research, monitoring subjects who make New Year’s resolutions and keeping statistics on their success rates. Unfortunately, the bottom line is not an encouraging one. The percentage of people who are successful in keeping their resolution is only 8%. How’s that for your daily dose of optimism? .. but seriously, don’t let that discourage you. Let’s face it, changing a habit is not easy, otherwise New Year’s Resolutions wouldn’t get as much press as the Kardashians, year after year.
On the brighter side, the University of Scranton offers more encouraging news in that 46% of those who make a resolution are likely to keep it at least six months. This is definitely better than what I hear from my friends who regularly work out at gyms, that are usually packed for about three weeks of January, then the crowds progressively thin out and then a return to the “regulars” shortly thereafter. Perhaps folks are too ambitious, perhaps they expect instant results, perhaps their goals are not entirely realistic, perhaps they don’t cut themselves enough slack to get back on the treadmill should they stray from their goals (rather than give up entirely). At the end of the day, my question is this: why does 45% of the population (with another 17% who make them, infrequently) pressure itself into waiting until January 1st to make a resolution?
If you ask me, it seems like January is definitely not the best month to be making resolutions. If folks are still working on the holiday leftovers in the freezer, the 38% who make weight related resolutions are not necessarily looking at a recipe for success. The 34% making money related resolutions might still be working through the sticker shock of their December credit card bill! The 31% making relationship-related resolutions might find their resolutions challenging to implement when stuck inside due to bad winter weather.
I have frequently thought that a summer day, like July 1st might be a better day to start a resolution -especially for fitness goals – but that idea has often been shot down by friends: You cannot start a weight resolution at the beginning of outdoor barbecue season; a work-related resolution is impossible to start during peak summer holiday season when no one is around; and fitness goals are hard to implement when the weather is so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk.
Would September 1st be a better date for resolutions? Unfortunately, my informal poll says no there too as “back to school” is the worst possible time with the kids’ schedules rejuggling to accommodate new extracurricular activities, the expenses required to get the kids fully equipped for the new school year and cooler weather signaling a return to heartier meals.
Perhaps the motivation behind New Year’s resolutions is a little flawed from the beginning. Does it seem rational to imagine drastic lifestyle changes at the stroke of midnight January 1st? Even though, in a romantic and idealistic sense, the new year seems like a good time to think of a fresh start, perhaps January 1st isn’t the best day for everyone, for any number of reasons, like the ones above. Isn’t it more realistic to think that we all have unique schedules and commitments, and that we should just start on the day that makes most sense to us, whether that be April 30th, June 20th or September 19th?
While I am certainly no expert on resolutions, I have never really saved them exclusively for January 1st. What seems to work for me is to stack the deck in my favour by picking a date when I am mentally prepared (not dealing with a new year hangover), when the time is right (I’m not curled up in front of the fire, in winter hibernation mode) and when my commitment and discipline seems the strongest for them to succeed (that don’t involve sixteen layers of clothing). In all seriousness, they generally start with a list of baby steps to gradually lead up to the resolution, incorporating new actions slowly but consistently on my own schedule, and increasing bit by bit. Successfully completing the baby steps becomes a huge motivator and a driver for tackling the bigger steps ahead.
Then I cut myself some slack if real life gets in the way and I am not able to meet a target: I just need to forgive myself for the setback, remember the initial motivation that got me to make the change in the first place, and get back into it, without regret. I cannot say my success rate is perfect, but incorporating change gradually and consistently has worked better for me, rather than starting the process with the January 1st fanfare.
Make your “new year” and your new resolutions start whenever you think the time is right and with a little discipline and consistent action, hopefully you will have even more cause to celebrate when you look back on your successes of 2014! Good luck!
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