Why you need to give January a break!
Want to improve your life? Then don’t make any New Year’s resolutions in January – use this month instead to plan what you want to do or change in 2014 and make the changes next month instead, says Louise Roberts
If your plan for 2014 is to change anything about your life and how you live it, we can let you in on the secret to success: February is the new January. For most, January 1 signals a sudden and often doomed transformation as we jump head first into a new diet, exercise, work or relationship routine. But every year – under pressure to announce our New Year resolutions to friends and family – we try to take on new habits, dump the old and expect to succeed.
On top of this, we expect to do it without any real preparation or reflection on the year that has just whizzed by, which is why most resolutions will have failed by the time you’re reading this, three days into 2014.
Don’t despair though. Psychology and motivation experts agree that February is the month for authentic resolutions, which will mean making proper and sustainable changes to your life. They recommend using January to clarify and plan so you have enough energy in February to execute these changes.
And they have good reason. New Year’s Day signals the end of the most stressful and busiest months of the year. And if you are planning to bring about changes in your lifestyle, it makes better sense to do so when you are a tad more relaxed and have worked it all out clearly.
It’s unconventional thinking but makes sense to personal development expert Dr Madisen Harper, co-author of self-help book Wake Up …Live the Life You Love – Living in the Now (available at www.amazon.com). She says, “When you are stressed, your resources to do things and carry them through are, of course, stretched.
“People are often at breaking point over the Christmas period: they can’t afford the presents they’re buying, there’s trouble with in-laws, they’re indulging in poor eating habits and
If you are planning to bring about changes in your lifestyle it makes sense to do so when you’re more relaxed
are often being forced to take their holiday time.”
And the January 1 deadline adds to the problem. “It’s just habit and a tradition yet every year people declare: this year is going to be different – I will lose weight, make more cash and take that course in social media/interior design/yoga.”
Dr Harper adds, “Because we have this habit every December of thinking up resolutions, in a way that precludes them working because it is just a habit. And a deadline is just that – it is dead so many people give the ‘resolution’ a day or a week and think, ‘Oh well, at least I’ve tried’.
“The subconscious mind says: ‘Oh I’ve done this before, probably many times before and failed. How did that work for you trying to the same thing every year and it not working?’
“There’s also that level of mass consciousness with all messages feeding the pressure that you have to do something and you are not like the rest of us if you don’t make these resolutions.” So why do we often end up feeling a failure come January 3 or soon after?
Professor of psychology at Australia’s Canberra University Debra Rickwood argues that it is useful to make resolutions but we need to readjust our start date. She says, “They’re habits so we are not setting ourselves up for success to begin with.
“We create resolutions because we recognise a new start, a fresh year and a logical break in our lives. We start off thinking, ‘a better year, a better me’, and it is great to think about your health and your goals.
“But people rush into it, saying, ‘I’m going to lose weight, I’ve got to start it on January 1 no matter what’ and then they fail because they have done no preparation other than to say ‘I am going to lose weight from January 1’. I would advise your New Year’s resolution should be to get prepared and embark on the real journey of change in February.”
So how’s it done? After consulting Prof Rickwood and Dr Harper, we bring you Friday’s top-five guide to a life changing new year over the page.
1 Be really clear on what you want
Most people think they want this new car, job, body or house but that does not equal fulfilment; it is the state they are craving. So, for example, if someone wants to lose weight, they actually want to feel healthy and attractive. If they want to save Dh30,000, they actually want safety, security and freedom. It’s the old shampoo commercial adage where the marketers aren’t selling shampoo, they’re selling lovely, shiny hair – everything is created through that feeling, that emotion.
Resolutions expert Dr Harper says, “It is the state that satiates you and this is the catch-22 because the stuff comes to you once you are vibrationally aligned to it.
“Once you have done that, you have not only gained clarity but you start to feel good and you have already built a solid foundation to launch yourself in February and set yourself up for success – not failure. Success attracts success.”
2 Don’t delay gratification
If looking and feeling healthier is your resolution, put yourself in that mindset now with additional personal grooming, some new clothes and accessories. Forget telling yourself ‘I’ll be happy when…’, but reassure yourself by saying, ‘I’ll be happy now’. Constantly delaying your joy is not a state in which you want to function, says Dr Harper.
3 Assemble your tools
You can hit the ground running in February by buying discounted paper planners, etc., in January. It’s also the time to buy that new domain for the website you’re going to start. And get your family and friends on board – they are important for motivation.
4 Now plan
Professor Rickwood suggests really thinking about the benefits of taking January to put yourself in a position to succeed by polishing up your plans for the year ahead. She says, “By taking the first month of the calendar year to focus on the future through reflection and planning without the baggage of a worn-out body and mind, I would think, you would have a much greater chance of success.”
Prof Rickwood advises a strategic plan with three elements: ACTION: Set your goals – you don’t achieve major behaviour change in one fell swoop so break it up into manageable chunks, for example, a morning walk three days a week, sourcing new reading material for your new study course.
But don’t get stuck in planning; that’s called procrastination. COPING: Realise behaviour change is going to be hard and that you may fall off the wagon. Identify the barriers that might cause setbacks and list how you are going to deal with them before you actually need to. RECOVERY: Often changes cannot be achieved in a short time – when it doesn’t work, it is tempting to slide into a bit of all-or-nothing thinking, which will make you feel worse. Accept you are likely to encounter a bit of early failure and build that into your planning.
5 Recharge and reflect
Cultivate an attitude of gratification. Every day for a week, write three things you are grateful for each hour you are awake. You’ll be amazed. Also celebrate each goal along the way. Avoid a flatline life focused on getting to that goal and then to the next. Both experts agree that sometimes being too attached to an outcome gets in the way of your success and a narrow path can blind you to opportunities.