New year. New you. For many people, it seems like a great time to start fresh. We can finally start to eat healthier, start an exercise regime, maybe set some money aside in a separate bank account every week (which I actually tried last year, and made it an entire 7 weeks).
Not because I failed at last year’s resolution to save money (but I totally did), there are a NUMBER of reasons I will not be making any new year’s resolutions moving forward in my life.
#1. Many people make new years resolutions simply because they think they SHOULD. That automatically makes it an expectation, and expectations produce feelings of shame and failure when they are not achieved. I SHOULD be healthier, I SHOULD quit smoking, I SHOULD start saving money for retirement. We are led to feel that January 1, the beginning of a new year, is the best time to start fresh with a new chapter. But the reality is…..
#2. It’s not a great time of year to effectively initiate change. The next 3 months are actually the most difficult to make drastic lifestyle changes. I am not saying impossible, but just more difficult. The first reason is people are usually economically drained in the few months after the holidays. This can lead to stress and maybe feelings of remorse for the previous month’s spending. Many of the serious changes people want to make in their lives have a financial component to them that they just can’t afford right after the holidays.
Secondly, the cold weather and shorter days (here in Canada anyway) does affect people’s moods – it is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People are moodier with one another, workplaces are more hostile, and being stuck inside can create isolation, loneliness and “cabin fever”. When doing something as exciting and possibly drastic as making a lifestyle change, being in the best frame of mind can make all the difference. The dead of winter is NOT the time when most people are in their best frame of mind.
#3. People can only change when they really want to. Paired with the first point, if you think January 1 is a good time to make a change but you aren’t READY to make the change, change doesn’t happen. I see this a lot, and not just on January 1. There is a difference between thinking about (or wanting) change and being READY for change. Although deadlines can help jump start many people, for the rest of us deadlines are more often a source of stress.
If someone has figured it’s a good time to make a change in their life, has set a deadline to do it, yet they aren’t truly ready, their success rate drops. Then they feel shame, failure, defeat and judge themselves accordingly when they don’t achieve the goal.
But aren’t having goals and making positive changes GOOD? Why am I being so pessimistic about the whole thing?
Goals and change ARE GOOD, they are GREAT and ABSOLUTELY necessary for growth. I just don’t make them for January 1.
Give yourself some time to recuperate from the holidays if you are financially stressed. Spend the winter months caring for yourself emotionally and mentally, because you now know that this is the time of year that things may be difficult. Have compassion for what you are experiencing, and realize that those around you are also suffering from financial and emotional “winter blues”. Many people spend money they didn’t have, make resolutions they will never keep, and judge themselves horribly for it all, during a time of year that is known to affect people’s moods negatively.
Accepting that you don’t have to start the next chapter of your life on January 1 is very liberating. You can start a new chapter to your life and make positive changes ANY TIME, and it doesn’t even necessarily need to be planned if deadlines stress you out.
Most importantly, if you DO make a resolution to change, and for whatever reason it doesn’t work out exactly how you had imagined it, rather than feeling shame and failure – just realize that it wasn’t the right time and you weren’t completely ready. Change only happens when people are ready for it.