I’ve truly never thought it was a smart idea to make New Years Resolutions in January. Not for North Americans who celebrate end of school year and routine in June through the summer and start back up into routine in September. In terms of being successful, September makes a lot more sense to me and for me as a ‘beginning of year/fresh start’, time to make new goals. Here’s why:
1. It’s already a built in dusty habit.
We trained that way for a minimum of 12 years during our formative (aka habit formation) years. You were in a new grade which was already an ‘advancement in goal’ in itself. Placebo or not, fresh year, fresh start.
2. Thoughtful reflection takes time.
Summer provides an opportunity for two months to celebrate/morn a year of goals and reflection opposed to a 1 week celebration over Christmas where emotions are heavier than any other time of year and it is hard to emotionally regulate enough to make thoughtful, sustainable new goals.
3. The season is more welcoming of change – weather-wise and culturally.
The chances of being able to stay committed to a goal in nicer weather when everyone is going back into routine at the same time seems to be a more successful approach than that of the beginning of the coldest, more isolated season of the year following the most stressful time of year.
4. Less likely to self-sabatoge by leaving the longer break for a time when habits are more strongly established.
Christmas makes a better ‘4 month check in’ on goals than a start. Summer makes a bigger, better long term celebration to look forward to. It is easier to pick goals back up after Christmas break (from habits and goals) than set them, and knowing there is summer to celebrate success and take a break at the end of the ‘journey’ is a powerful motivator.
Let’s use physical activity as an example of a New Years Resolution category that could be more successful in September than January. Say, you wanted to be more physically active in 2020. So you break that goal down to “walking 3k a week (work) day”. You know you want to start running, but know it isn’t a sustainable goal right off the hop to set as you haven’t run in a couple years. If you start this in January as someone usually would. Unless for some reason you love the outdoors and braving the elements, you are starting on a treadmill. You likely don’t own it already, and shouldn’t go out and buy one when you don’t even know if you will like moving at home. So you join a gym. That you have to scrape the snow off of your car and debate difficult driving conditions to get to. Your brain is already going to want to resist the idea of forming a new habit that doesn’t have to do with being lazy, and now you are adding in thoughts about stress and safety about leaving your nice hibernating lair to meet your newly established and resisted goal.
If you decided September was a good time to begin, children have gone back to school, summer holidays and festivities are over, everyone is already in the process of getting back into there routines, the weather is popping, and if you don’t feel like driving, you can just grab your shoes and head out your front door to enjoy some fresh air. Getting up and deciding to do it every day will still be a fight as you begin to adopt the habit of moving on the daily, but you wont have the extra fight of losing your comforts of warmth and safety.
This concept has always made more sense to me, so I make September Resolutions. What do I want to accomplish this year? What improvements do I want to make? What experiences do I want to have? What are the specific goals I can make or the habits I can try to acquire to get there? For me, another year in the class of life begins in September.
How about you? Did summer give you some time to reflect on where you’d like to be next year after another sun-drenched summer? When you look back at your summer was it full of the love you wanted at this stage of your life? Did you have a good relationship with yourself most days? What could you do, try, or change now to possibly enhance the way you feel about your life one summer from now? What are your September Resolutions?