Happy 2011! I hope you all had a nice, relaxing holiday season. Right now, we’re really enjoying the fact that our holiday decorations were limited to a little Christmas bear hanging on our wall clock, an evergreen bough on top of our kitchen cabinets, and a homemade reindeer ornament that our son’s cousin made for him. Not much to do in terms of taking it all down!
And that brings us to New Year’s resolutions. In keeping with our “doing things our own way” style, we don’t do resolutions. January 1 is a day, just like every other day. Sure, it’s the start of a new year, but there are plenty of other beginnings we can celebrate too. 12 times each year a new month begins. 52 times each year we get to start a new week, and 365 times each year we get to start a new day. Maybe it’s because my family doesn’t place a great deal of importance on any holidays (trying instead to make every day special), but January 1 isn’t any more significant to me than February 1.
Instead of resolving to make big changes at the start of each year, my approach is to make changes whenever I think of them, or whenever I’m feeling particularly motivated by something. And I tend to avoid making too many changes at once. Sometime in the fall of 2009, I decided to start making our bed every morning when we got up (something I had never done before). It takes less than a minute to make the bed, but for the rest of the day the room looks great. This was a simple change, and one that later helped motivate me to be more focused on neatness throughout the house. These days, I can’t imagine leaving the bedroom in the morning without making the bed.
Last year, sometime in April, I started to be intrigued by the idea of minimalism, purging clutter, and limiting shopping. I decided to stop going to my favorite thrift stores (except to donate stuff) and vowed to not buy any clothing for the rest of the year. I have no idea what the specific date was, but I was successful in making that change too. I very rarely go thrift store shopping anymore (if I do, it’s with a specific purpose, like new winter boots for our son), and I haven’t bought any clothes since April. Of course, I was able to drag my box of maternity clothes up from the basement a couple months ago, so it’s sort of like I got a whole new wardrobe anyway…
It was also sometime last spring when I decided to stop spending valuable time and mental energy reading the news. That was another very good change, and although the start of it didn’t coincide with any significant calendar date, I’ve been able to (mostly) stick with it. (I say mostly because I do still have to spend a chunk of time each day online for work, and sometimes I find myself clicking on links that end up being time/energy wasters. But I’m much more able to recognize those for what they are now, and get myself back on task relatively quickly).
There are lots of reasons why most New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure. Some people try to take on too many things at once. We all know someone who resolves to stop smoking, start exercising for an hour a day, give up soda, lose 20 pounds, and start meditating every morning… all on January 1. For a very small percentage of people, making multiple radical changes at one time works quite well. But for most people, it’s likely to be overwhelming. I think that another reason resolutions made on January 1 tend to fail is because the date really is just another day. There’s a lot of hype around the start of a new year, but it’s no easier to make major changes on January 1 than it is on March 23rd. There’s nothing magical about January first. Making changes in our lives requires just as much effort now as it would two months from now. Sometimes I think that people make resolutions on January 1 simply because everybody else is doing it, rather than out of a deep desire to change something. It might make more sense to make changes when the motivation strikes, regardless of the date on the calendar (January 3rd is just as good as January 1st!)
If you’re looking for a little inspiration in terms of making positive changes in your life, check out this article from Minimalist Mom. And don’t worry about what the calendar says. At any point in our lives we can make changes, both big and small, that will put us on a better, more rewarding path. Listening to ourselves and paying attention to what we really want out of life is more likely to motivate us than the dawning of a particular day on the calendar.