With mere days left in 2016, it’s easy to get caught up in the new year’s resolution game. For many of us, 2016 has been horrible in countless ways. And the prospect of 2017 as a blank page of hope…well let’s just say it’s got an undeniable allure even if it’s based in fanciful thinking.
We’ve blogged lots about new year’s resolutions. I for one recognize the temptation and, at the same time, acknowledge the probability of the slow disintegration of that January 1st optimism. Resolutions to do everything differently, that this will be the year, and so forth, are (for me) a glorified version of the Monday morning weight loss plan, exercise plan, running program…Usually doomed to fail and make feel badly about myself.
Look, I’m not trying to be negative (well, maybe just a little). I’m a realist. In fact, I think that every day is a good day to start something afresh. And every day holds promise for solidifying the commitment from the day before.
You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it: it takes 21 days to form a habit. But the science says that’s a myth. If 21-30 days were enough, we’d all be home free if we could stick it out until January 31st. But the average is more like 66. This Huffington Post article says:
On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. 
In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life — not 21 days.
What’s more, messing up now and again isn’t a deal-breaker. I like that the study reports this:
the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.
“All or nothing” is a major obstacle to getting on the right track. My own experience has shown that my commitment comes in fits and starts. And minor changes in routine — work deadlines, travel, a night or two of poor sleep, even the weather — can throw me off. But I can get right back on track again if I practice some self-forgiveness.
Right now I’m training for the Key West Half Marathon on January 15th. So I’ve got a head start on anything that could look remotely like a “resolution.” I’m in the thick of it. If I abandon the careful training plan Anita and I put together it’ll be at my own peril. So I’m not making any big resolutions. I just plan to keep doing what I’m doing (though I might ramp down the consumption of holiday chocolate back to every day chocolate levels–not a resolution but just recognition that for me, too much of a good thing makes me appreciate it less, not more, and I do not want to appreciate chocolate less).
Here’s a collection of our resolution posts over the past few years. Mostly, I’m in the “against” camp, thinking that resolutions usually set me up to feel bad about myself. But there’s a range of views here, and I hope you find something that resonates:
A one-month check-in with January 2016 resolutions, Catherine W
What about you? Are you a new year’s resolution person? If you are, what makes you want to do that? And if not, what makes you not want to have resolutions?
Regardless, may your 2017 be filled with joy!