“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
A quick search on New Year’s Resolutions reveals roughly half of Americans bother to make them annually, some do it once in a while, and less than half of those resolutions are kept past the sixth month mark. Clearly even people who don’t make yearly resolutions at least think about them, and many write about them. So what is it that compels all the hoopla every year at this time?
Starting the New Year with some fresh habits that better support our life goals or our health is reasonable on the surface. But I suppose many years of living in places where January is cold, dark, snowy or wet, and not a time when I feel particularly bursting with excess energy has jaded my view of this practice. I also balk at the idea of forcing a change at this arbitrary point in the year, especially when the more natural time for making changes for me is springtime.
I think winter is a great time to contemplate change and perhaps to make sure I get back to any changes I made last year that may have reverted to old ways during the holidays amidst stress and all kinds of distractions. Habits I already worked to change but just weren’t quite my go-to during the busy holiday season are much easier to tackle in January than a completely new thing. For me, the long, dark evenings (and early mornings) are perfect for introspection and planning. As it turns out, planning is also pretty important for sustainable changes.
For me Spring is a natural season for changes, full of renewal and rebirth in the natural world, snow and ice melt here in the valley, buds appear on the trees, baby Bison wander the northern meadows. More hours of daylight and warmer temperatures lighten my mood and I feel more energized. By springtime I have also given thought to meaningful changes and perhaps even taken a few preliminary steps to get the ball rolling.
You may prefer summer or autumn to make changes – maybe you need lots of sunshine or impending winter to nudge you toward change. And sometimes we don’t get to choose when to change. A medical diagnosis or life event may motivate or necessitate change with no luxury of waiting until the time is just right.
As the New Year approaches if you do decide to make a change, here are some key basics to set yourself up for success – and to me that means a change that is sustainable.
- Understand your motivation to change. Is the change something you want to do or what someone else wants you to do (a spouse, doctor, friend, etc.). Are you clear about the benefits involved and will the change be a reward by itself? If not you may want to set up rewards along the path to change to keep you going.
- Consider all possible barriers to change. Know what you are up against then you can plan accordingly. We are all part of different groups – families, friends, co-workers, church, community, etc. and any changes in our everyday habits can be supported or sabotaged by those around us.
- Make a plan and be specific about how you will move forward. Vague statements like “eat more vegetables” are difficult to plan for, implement and measure – all ways we determine our success or failure. Planning will help you assess any skills, tools, knowledge, and support that will help you be successful.
- Seek or at least allow support from others for your change. The idea of being a solo badass is alluring to many of us. “Just Do It.” We subconsciously or outwardly buy into the myth that asking for any kind of help means we are weak. The reality is that we all need help sometimes and asking for it is hard. Really hard sometimes. People who care about you want to support you, so let them and increase the chance of successful change.