You’ve probably been there, it’s New Year’s Day and you’re suddenly faced with a brand new year so you make some half-hearted New Year’s resolutions and then go back to nursing your hangover. The problem is those half-hearted New Year’s resolutions probably relate to something really important in your life. As a professional coach you might be surprised to hear this but come January 1st I’ll be boycotting New Year’s resolutions for myself and my clients and that’s because I know that making a real commitment to change requires determination and hard work.
There’s a trite futility to making it through the orgy of consumerism and over-indulgence that is December and THEN deciding to commit to improve your health, make that important life change you haven’t quite got round to making yet or just to start being nice to people. It’s ridiculous! The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that no-one really takes them seriously. When did you last hear someone say something like, “I started my successful business as a result of a New Year’s resolution?” or “Who knew my resolution to learn something new would lead to my PhD in astrophysics!” Life changes simply do not happen this way. Serious resolutions or goals usually require some change in unhelpful behaviour; this takes a load of effort and it’s best done with help from a professional who can identify unhelpful thought patterns and keep you accountable to new behaviours over a period of time.
According to a study carried out at Southampton University only 8% of people in the UK who make a resolution achieve them. That means a whopping 92% fail and of that 92% when asked about their resolution in November of the same year, 31% can’t even remember what their resolution was! New Year’s resolutions fail because however well intentioned they are often just wishful thinking.
At this time of year we’re putting off thinking about changes until the new year, but making big life changes is too important to leave to the frivolity of New Years resolutions. Most of the people who resolve to lose weight or get that six pack at the start of the new year are consciously procrastinating before they even start, which is hardly a precursor to massive success.
If you can identify a problem, why wait to fix it? If your toilet is blocked, your natural reaction is unlikely to be “I need to find a plunger to unblock it. There’s no point looking for a plunger now, tomorrow is the next daily milestone so I’ll start tomorrow.” No, you fix the problem immediately.
Breaking habits involves retraining the brain, and this takes a great deal of effort and determination. Big changes take time, patience and commitment. Relying on a calendar change to give you a boost of commitment and determination is not the smartest strategy. If you’re serious about change you need to find the drive to change deep within yourself. Your problems are yours and yours alone, as are your dreams and the motivation to change yourself. Don’t wait to take action, you’re way too valuable to delay making a commitment to your well-being and success at a later date. As Gandhi wisely advised, “The future depends on what you do today.”
Take your future self seriously and ask “what can I start doing differently right now?” A new year provides new opportunities, sure, but so does a new day. Start today. Start now.
(Look out for my blog in December in which I’ll share what I WILL encourage you to do at the beginning of the year to make the big change you really want in 2015.)
This blog originally appeared on The Huffington Post