There’s a virus that goes around this time of year. I call it the “New Year’s Neurosis.”
It shows itself primarily through one bold and audacious symptom: resolutions.
I’ve been susceptible to the virus in the past. I caught the bug. I started to see signs of it as I opened my last Christmas present, it was a hollow feeling that I needed something more to fill the void in my life. It seemed to flare up during those moments of quiet, calm, and stillness. I noticed it gnawing in the back of my mind – a little voice that kept whispering about how I needed to make a change, how I needed to create a new habit, or how I needed to get healthy.
The most telltale sign that this sickness had taken over is closely tied to its name: I believed everything could and would be different on January 1, New Year’s Day.
Each year, the neurosis brought about these illustrious, grand schemes about how much different my life would be as I implemented these sweeping changes. I would go to bed on December 31 with all of my plans in place and then I would wake up a different person on January 1 – a clean slate, a disciplined mindset, and highly motivated…for about two weeks.
For whatever reason (and there are too many to list here), New Year’s Neurosis begins to dissipate right around Martin Luther King, Jr Day (free at last, free at last). At this point, all of the changes, habits, and glorious plans fade away into the routine of “the way things were” before the sickness took hold.
Have you caught the bug? Many people have.
But there’s hope. I have found a cure. It’s a simple remedy…
I don’t make resolutions based on a date on the calendar.
Here’s what I do:
1. If I need to make a change, I work to make it for the right reasons. January 1 is not a good enough reason to sustain meaningful change.
2. Once I make a change, I find a way to incorporate it into my daily routine. If it’s not applied daily, it won’t last.
3. I measure the change. Whether it’s time, resources, or results, I find a way to recognize tangible measurements to gauge progress or failure. This may sound like it goes against what I’m saying because I might use time (days in a row) as a measurement. But let me be clear, time is a measurement, not a motivation.
4. I try to be realistic. Most New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re so drastic or unsustainable. The best change happens in small, incremental steps. We call this growth.
5. I think the best time to do what needs to be done is today. If it’s really important to you, why wait? If it really needs to happen, don’t procrastinate. There’s nothing magical about January 1. I remember people asking me if I felt older on my birthday. My response was typically “no…no older than I felt yesterday.” Most of the changes you think you need to make aren’t dependent on a calendar, they’re dependent on your willingness to commit to the process of change on a daily basis.
Why not start that process today?