January 1st Is Just Another Day

The end of the year makes us think of what we did, what we could have done, and what we’ll try to do differently next year. But thinking about changing your life in this “yearly” way isn’t a good idea when you consider the implications below.

Your Opportunity To Change Is Always There
New Year’s Resolutions imply that your best opportunity to change comes on January 1st. When you do this every year, it will be further ingrained that the beginning of January is your big chance to change yourself.

Then, on a random day in November, when you have a great opportunity to change starting today, you might just delay change for your resolution in January.

The truth is that you can begin to change your behavior at any time of year, and life is too short to delay that opportunity for a non-substantive reason like one number tick up on the calendar. If you’ve been thinking in this “January 1st is special” mindset, I hope this article helps you avoid becoming a statistic (92% of people fail to reach their resolutions).

You Can’t Do More Just Because It’s January
It doesn’t matter how determined you are to change with the new year—you are the same person as you were on December 31st. There is nothing magical that happens on the night of New Year’s Eve. The mindset that “this year will be different” has a moderate motivating effect, but it won’t last you and you need to prepare for that scenario.

Self-efficacy is defined as your belief in your ability to change. For the new year, your self-efficacy can increase due to the psychological concepts and traditions of the new year. In other words, you might really believe that you have a better chance to change because the new year is a “clean slate.” As an aside, every day is a clean slate, and even every moment! Alas, this mindset explains why people do more about their goals in January than in December. But since only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions succeed, clearly this isn’t a lasting self-efficacy, or perhaps the self-efficacy isn’t the problem; maybe relying on motivation is the problem.

Motivation-based Strategies Won’t Last
January 1st must be the most motivationally-charged day of the year. Gym memberships take off, and people everywhere are the most motivated to change than they’ll be all year. It’s too bad, because we should know by now that motivation isn’t enough. When motivation is your strategy for change, it means that feeling “off,” being tired, or wanting to do something else is enough to throw you off your plan.

I tried “getting motivated” for a full decade, and it always seemed to last me about 2-4 weeks. Exercise (among other desired behaviors) never became a habit for me—just a constant struggle to get myself to do what I wanted to do. On December 28, 2012, that changed.

I wanted to change, but I also realized everything mentioned in this article, and I felt like I needed a new strategy. Long story short, I decided to work out on the spot, but couldn’t get motivated to do it. I figured that since I couldn’t do a full workout, I would do one push-up, as that was something. This little push-up turned into a few more, and soon enough, I had completed a 30 minute workout.

My mind lit up when I realized that this strategy could be the difference between long-term success and short term bursts that fade out every time. I was right. Over the course of 2013, I got into the best shape of my life, wrote several times more words than before, and read many more books than I had been.

I named this strategy “Mini Habits.” Mini habits are very small positive behaviors you force yourself to do every day. They’re too small to fail, and they have a far bigger impact than you’d expect. In the book, I detail the science of how the brain and willpower work, and the shortcomings of other strategies like “getting motivated,” New Year’s Resolutions, and brute force willpower. When you finish reading it, you’ll see exactly how Mini Habits can change your life.

Mini Habits (the book) is 50% off on Amazon until January 2nd. I expect you to be completely satisfied if you read it (and with the results that follow), but please contact me at Deep Existence if not and I’ll gladly refund your money. If you want to make 2014 great, you don’t need the motivational burst that comes with a fresh new year, you need a new strategy that actually works. Mini Habits is that new strategy (early reviews are positive!).

Written on 12/31/2013 by Stephen Guise. Besides writing for his own blogs Stephen is a featured writer here at Dumb Little Man. Be sure to stop by Stephen’s ‘featured writer page‘ right here on Dumb Little Man to find links to more of his articles.

Photo Credit: Chris Florence

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