Every year on January 1st the world divides into two groups of people: Those who set “New Years Resolutions” and those who don’t. Some may argue if you don’t set resolutions (goals), you’re less likely to have a successful year. Others state they’d rather just set goals year-round (I was one of these people). And still others see New Years Day as just another trip around the sun… no big deal.
In October my husband Tony and I started talking about doing a weight loss program in the new year. Why wait until then? Because it’s an easy goal to set… along with most of the world that wants to get healthy. But more than that… quite frankly, it gave us permission to procrastinate until after the holidays, since “dieting” is nearly impossible with feasts and treats demanding to be eaten.
But there was one issue with waiting… his health and my chronic fatigue were both getting out of control. We realized by waiting until we were past the horrible-for-you-but-yummy food season to make any changes, we’d be that much worse off. So we decided to start the program in October, just two months before Thanksgiving.
By Thanksgiving I’d lost just over 20 lbs. By Christmas week I’d lost 31 lbs. Thanksgiving week I didn’t lose anything (but I didn’t gain either). Christmas week I loaded up on popcorn, chocolate and cookies my mom baked for our annual Holiday Open House… and I gained one pound. One.
So instead of going into a new year ready to make the most common resolution in the world—to lose weight—I started my new year already 30 lbs lighter, ready to keep going.
It’s easy to use a “date” or special event as an incentive to start a new habit. It’s easy to say, “I’ll make this change starting [date]” and then wait until that time to get started. It’s easy to think we need to wait in order to “mentally prepare” for the change, whatever the hell that means.
But I’d like to point out the obvious that most goal-setters seem to miss. Setting a goal with a start date is just a sneaky way of giving yourself permission to procrastinate. All you’re doing is putting off what you should be starting now. And if you really think about it, this is a form of self-sabotage: Giving yourself an out to not take action when you know you need to.
The Brutal Honesty of the Past Year
I’ll be completely honest with you. I’ve been struggling with my business this year. It’s been incredibly rough. And I mean tear-soaked pillows, wanting-to-punch-holes-in-walls, screaming at the top of my lungs at the air in my car rough. Some days I’ve not known which end is up. Some days I dreaded getting out of bed. I felt the familiar dark tendrils of depression sneak around my consciousness, attempting to get a grip on my soul. Anxiety became frequent. Triggers pushed me to the edge… and often I fell off that edge. And I’m ashamed to say it, but I started the first few minutes of this new year in a full-blown panic attack, screaming in anger and frustration at something I felt was beyond my control. It wasn’t pretty. It never is.
Somehow I hoped the countdown to a new year would make a difference. That maybe a fresh start would be obvious. But it wasn’t. If we’re honest with ourselves, it never is. It’s simply another day.
And that’s the secret! Every day is another day. Every minute is a chance to start. A chance to stop putting off whatever it is you’ve been wanting to do. This realization that setting goals of “I’ll start on [date]” (including resolutions) was a fancy way of procrastinating and psyching myself into feeling good about that procrastination hit me when I was telling a friend that I was going to start taking over an e-comm store project Tony had started… “in two weeks.” I set a start date to psych myself into feeling good about procrastinating. There was no reason I had to wait two weeks. I had sold my online author training brand two months before I said that. I’d finished setting up our toy store at the Market over a month before I said it. The only reason I put a start date on this new project was because I was scared. I was uncomfortable starting something new and unfamiliar, so I felt I needed permission to procrastinate.
In fact, I had originally stated I would be starting this project in January. Then I decided November would be a better start date. And in October? About the same time we finally figured out that we were only procrastinating on waiting to do the weight loss plan, I also realized I was procrastinating on my next big thing. It was a slap in the face of my reality that if I wanted anything to come to fruition, I needed to act sooner rather than later. Instead of setting a goal with a start date, I sat down at my computer and—GULP—STARTED. (What a concept!)
If I’d waited until January to start the project, I wouldn’t have the back-end already built out, optimized and ready to focus on product creation this month. Instead I’d still be another two or three months out from launch. I wouldn’t be as clear on the direction the project needed to go. If I’d waited, I would have given myself permission to piss all my time away under the guise of “it’s the holidays, it’s crazy right now” which is simply an excuse. Newsflash: There will always be an excuse!
And that’s just it. Goals are great, and necessary. And New Years Resolutions make it easy to set big goals and psych yourself into starting them. But overall, goals without fast, decisive action are excuses waiting to be pushed aside as something more “important” demands your attention… yet again.
As it always will.
It’s time for you to quit setting resolutions and goals with start dates. Instead, how about when you decide you’re going to do something, you actually do it? Instead of waiting until Monday, do something—anything—to start NOW. It doesn’t matter how small the task, as long as it pushes you toward your goal it’s something.
And something is always better than nothing every time.
What is your something going to be right now?