With Thanksgiving past, holiday shopping in full swing, Christmas around the corner, and Coronavirus hullabaloo almost distracting enough to eclipse it all, the last thing most of us are thinking about right now is New Year’s Eve. One holiday at a time, right? But I can guarantee that roughly three weeks from now we’ll all be staring down another year, which for many of us is synonymous with scrambling to pick a new New Year’s resolution.
The difficulty with resolutions beginning on January 1st is that they are, in many ways, designed for failure. Nobody ever felt “extra motivated” after a night of partying. The real power of a New Year’s resolution, rather, is the symbolic importance of a clean slate. Human behavior researcher Daniel Pink discusses this phenomenon in his latest book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. The SparkNotes version is this: humans are creatures of structure. Therefore, we are most successful in changing our behaviors when that change occurs within the fabric of a predetermined framework–for example, deciding to quit something at the end of one year and the beginning of another.
Which brings me back to New Year’s morning, when resolutions often feel a whole lot less exciting than they did the day before. In fact, most resolutions don’t even make it past the second week. The key? Don’t wait to start over.
There are 30 days left in 2020, which is more than the amount of time most of us will take to fail our resolutions. If we can do something for the last 30 days of this year, we are far more likely to keep that promise to ourselves for the next 365. Spoiler alert: you will still be the same person on January 1st, 2021 that you are today. The only significance of New Year’s Day is that it is a new day on the calendar. You have that same opportunity today, without the hangover. So take it! Even if it means only changing one small thing in the direction of your ultimate goal.