With the New Year and everyone making ‘Resolutions,’ there was also the requisite posts and articles about how resolutions suck and don’t work, and a few click bait ones that say “you don’t need to change on the New Year, you need to always be changing.”
As someone who is always striving to improve, although I agree with the latter sentiment I think that it is still harmful to the concept to say starting with the new year is stupid.
And as someone who uses every January as a “Fresh Start” herself, I’m here to defend the concept, and the month, from these people constantly trying to ridicule and knock it down – as well as encourage those who may be frightened off to still take the opportunity that lies within.
Admittedly, if you are the type of person that on Jan 1st says “I’m going to go to the gym for 2 hours every day this year” than I agree with all of those articles, and this post in itself is probably not for you (unless you are looking to change). You are probably going to fail, and you are not truly participating in what can be a very positive tradition.
But otherwise, there is nothing wrong with January being a new start. The thing about always learning and always growing is that you need some time to review. Self reflection is very important for anyone who seriously wants to wants to continually improve… because here’s a tasty little tidbit: in your ever continuing improvement, you are going to notice that your personal growth strategies are also going to need improvement.
In my own path I have found that self reflection does not come naturally nor does it come quickly. It takes years to master accepting ones mistakes without self-deprecation at any level, and that you should decide on changes with a couple days time or else you will be more likely to make MORE mistakes.
I use January as a kick off point because of December. December is my time for reflection. In December, those in school have holidays or see a semester come to an end, and chunk of careers see a slow down. I work in healthcare IT, and we have a “freeze” in December (meaning no one is allowed to order major changes) and the office almost becomes dead from everyone on vacation. I, personally, have less to do, less stress, etc.
In December, I am mellow. The winter-time weather dampens my energy, but the lights of my favourite holiday season keep me happy, and I love to curl up with a mug of cocoa and do nothing but think.
Therefore, I look back at the year. How did everything go this year? What did I do wrong? What frustrated me? And what can I do to fix it?
I also look forward. What’s coming up? What would I like to see happen this year? Any past experiences that I should consider when creating these strategies?
Therefore, after December reflection, January becomes a kick start – and quite frankly, a “crash and burn” test. I work together with Ed to outline what we would like to see the next year (and outline what we may be heading towards in future years) for a few days to really think it out; yes, a full plan, no one goal statement, this is one major step to being successful (think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-related).
Then January is sort of a test. At this point, some things may already start to look less achievable, so I can go back and reconfigure the goals before getting too deep into the year.
The thing for us is, we do more than SMART goals, we do goals in steps. For us, if we were to do 2 hours a day at the gym, we’d do it more like: first quarter 30 mins every other day, second quarter 30 mins every day, third quarter 1 hour ever day, last quarter 2 hours every day. So although January is a fresh start, we do mini-reviews every three months to see if what we had decided on is actually realistic – is it coming along as expected? How can we adjust it to still make it happen?
Another thing to admit is that December is when a lot of goals dip for a while; financial goals are hard with all the gifts, exercise goals are hard with all the parties, diet goals are hard with all the sugary delights. But I find this good in the fact that you are analyzing your situation at the toughest time to keep the resolutions you had made. You can take what makes it tough in those situations and make goals for January that can survive that, and therefore can survive the rest of the year.
But the essential part of my rant is: YES you should be constantly trying to grow and improve, but January is still a fine time for a kick off. New Years Resolutions can be wonderful and so helpful if done right and if you take the time to self-reflect and adjust your trajectory.
If January isn’t the right time for you, than choose another time and go for the same type of deal, you will still see the results you wish if you are SMART about it (hehe, see what I did there?).
But if January is the right month for you, shrug off all those haters and make resolutions and/or goals. Do it right, do it SMART, do it in stages, do it while reflecting… and in the end you can look back at the haters as you roll on by.