A quick Google search reveals that no matter which list you look at, there are approximately 10 common New Year’s resolutions: exercise more, eat less/healthier/better, lose weight, quit smoking, drink less, get out of debt, spend more time with family, be less stressed, learn something new, and get a better job. Interestingly enough, these tend to show up on the most commonly broken resolutions as well.
I’ve come to believe that it’s not necessarily a good thing that our collective psyche has been conditioned to accept the changing of the calendar from one year to the next as the perfect time to make resolutions. Certainly it’s a natural occasion on which to reflect and take stock. At Iceberg, for instance, we spend early evening on December 31st at our favorite Japanese restaurant –– Yummyaki in Waterloo, Ontario –– reviewing the year that has passed and discussing the priorities for the next 12 months. It obviously isn’t our only planning or strategy session, but it’s a New Year’s Eve priority that aligns with the end of our fiscal year.
But this whole business of New Year’s resolutions, well, that seems more like setting many of us up for failure. None of the items on the common list above are easy, so trying to tackle them according to preordained timetable might not be the best approach. In my experience, we’re more likely to be successful if we make our resolutions at a time of our own choosing.
My best personal example dates back some 25 years. I decided, on my 29th birthday, to finally “get in shape”. For a variety of reasons –– some of which started with my knee issues when I was 14, some of which were tied to the fact that I was the skinny younger sister of two very athletic older brothers –– I never really believed I could do the kinds of ‘athletic’ things a lot of people did so well. I was skinny, but skinny doesn’t mean fit or strong. And I wanted to be both.
I started slowly in 1989, and indeed for the first number of years aimed for just 20 minutes a day for three days a week. 2014 will mark the 25th year in a row that exercise has been a regular part of my life. I worked out 331 days (or 90.68%) in 2013, and if you count the number of actual workouts (some days there were two or three) the total number was 371. (Blame Peter for the fact that I have an Excel chart that tracks the statistics – he set it up for me based on his own.)
Resolutions are generally good things. But I’ve learned over the years that we have to be ready to make them, and the annual calendar change, on its own, may not be a compelling enough reason. Best to do so for our own reasons, on our own terms, and in our own time.
If that happens to be January 1st, that’s great! But if not, well May 27th, September 12th or any other of the 365 available days can work just as well… or better.