New Year, New Planning: Why Not Start Today?

The idea of a new year is exciting: we can turn a page, wash the craziness of the past year off of us and start fresh. After weeks of the stress of the holidays, family and year-end business goals, many of us are looking for a chance to catch our breath and get back to “our best self.” And that’s when we make our resolutions.

Now, I would never tell anyone that they should or should not make a resolution. However, I do love to play a bit of devil’s advocate, and have a few questions you should answer before you go ahead on that arduous task of changing behavior.

Question 1: Why Wait Until the First of the Year?

If this resolution is so important to improving your well-being, then why not start today? We really enjoy talking about all that we can do, but doing it is a bit more difficult. True behavioral change has to start sometime – and there is no better time than the present.

In his book “ Triggers ,” Marshall Goldsmith speaks about how we are “superior planners and inferior doers.” There is a psychological shift between the two. We are always able to say what needs to be done, however when it comes to doing it, our motivation just isn’t there. Think about the gym. We say we are going to lose weight by going to the gym, and we find at 5AM on Monday we are hitting the snooze button.

Question 2: What are you actually trying to change?

This takes reflection. Our resolutions are often focused on some negative aspect of ourselves. We often look at some surface issue that we are unhappy with and find a solution that might fix it. And then we fail.

Often times, what we are really trying to improve is deeper than just losing 10 pounds or being more patient at work. It’s why we are so miserable in trying to make these resolutions work: we aren’t actually improving or changing what we need. Maybe losing 10 pounds is really about self-image and being happy with who you are as a person. Going to the gym may not help that. Maybe being more patient at work is about finding a higher level of purpose within your organization. This is specific to you, and you alone.

Once you really identify the motivation behind what you are trying to change, that’s when you can prepare for a lifestyle change.

Question 3: Are you prepared for a lifestyle change?

A true resolution shouldn’t be temporary. Temporary changes, by definition, are not going to last. True behavioral change takes a full commitment and a lifestyle change. You need to take the time to identify the person that you want to be, and properly prepare yourself to become that person. No matter whether the resolution is related to work, health, fitness or family – there is a vision in your head of who you want to be. It’s why you are making the resolution. Take the time to articulate that persona and become it.

To do this, it helps to have someone hold you accountable. Find a partner – whether it be a close friend, confidant, coach or mentor. Behavioral change sounds so good, but is damn near impossible to do on our own. It’s why we fail. You need someone you trust to hold you accountable and push you to do what you want to do and accomplish.

We shouldn’t just give up on making resolutions because 95% of people fail at them. However we need to reframe and identify what exactly it is that we are looking to improve and move forward from there. And that doesn’t need to start on January one – it should start today.