Laurie sets a goal to run a half marathon in the spring. She starts out well, but then life happens, and by early February she's off track, literally.
We are drawn to fresh starts and second chances - weight loss, personal development, quitting bad habits, starting new good ones. What is behind the stereotypical failed New Year’s resolutions?
Its not what you may think. Its not that you don't have willpower or discipline.
It is poor timing, pure and simple. We are pushing against our natural rhythm.
Our metabolism naturally slows in winter, our internal clocks are affected by light, the shorter days tell us to sleep more. There are also studies which shows the brain is less efficient in winter. We can feel this intuitively.
For those of in the Northern Hemisphere, late December - early January is the dead of winter. Most mammals, if not hibernating, are at least in low energy mode for several more weeks to survive the rest of the cold season.
Against this natural backdrop, humans have a culturally imposed holiday calendar of socializing and a New Year's tradition of fresh projects and goals in January.
December is usually an emotional whirlwind during which time our supportive routines fall by the wayside. We skip workouts, meditation, yoga class. For women in midlife, this may affect us more deeply than in times past.
Some of us have kids coming home for winter break from college, or not coming home at all for the first time because of new jobs. We may be recently divorced, in new relationships, entertaining a houseful of guests when we secretly are craving some time alone, or even grappling with facing the holidays mostly alone.
The holiday season interrupts our routines with bouts of socializing, drinking, eating, and emotional (good and bad) interactions with family and friends.
Enter January - our good intentions for change and achievement collide with the time of year we are probably least equipped to follow through on our resolutions. We choose the exact time when our animal side is wanting to curl up and sleep in front of the fire to challenge ourselves with bold resolutions.
The failed resolution syndrome is what I call prime opprotunity for a momentum leak. What does that mean?
Consider Laurie once again, who has a goal to run a half marathon in the late spring. She starts out great in January, life gets busy, her motivation fades, and she falls off of her plan.
She doesn’t let go completely, though - she is still thinking about it and feeling lame for having quit, so now it is also a background source of stress.
In March, her natural rhythm begins to kicks in. The weather starts to change, days get a bit longer. She's waking up inside and motivated to go for it again. Pretty soon she picks up her goal , feeling behind, but at least back to training.
If she could have continued her training, even at a lower pace, rather than losing those few weeks in February and early March, she would be much further along by late March.
She’s experienced a major momentum leak.
Multiply that scenario by a few years in a row and you can see how New Years resolutions start to feel like a defeating, exhausting cycle, tempting us to give up on January goals altogether.
I say go for it - what do you want to have in your life in 6 months that is not there now?
Here are 2 techniques for keeping our January promises:
First, Instead of starting January 1, make the first new moon of January your start date for a new resolution - it takes the pressure off Jan. 1, gives you a bit of time to recover from December’s parties and emotional ups and downs. This year the new moon is Jan. 17.
Secondly - bridge the late winter gap with some support.
Studies and our own experience tell us that the #1 key to achieving longer term goals is accountability. But not just any kind of accountability.
You need a supportive group of women at the same stage of momentum as you are at - medium to high. What does medium to high momentum look like? We know the feeling - showing up, prioritizing time spent on the goal, refusing distractions, staying positive, feeling energized by the challenge rather than daunted, fewer setbacks than in low momentum stage.
Sometimes we hesitate because we don't want to add one more committment to our calendar. This is backwards - accountability to others actually can save us time. It helps us prioritize more clearly. For myself, an update meeting means I have a deadline for completion, I'm much less likely to over-work the task or spend more time than is necessary.
There is nothing wrong with being in a no or low momentum phase, but that doesn’t mix with the energy of those wanting to move faster. It's frustrating for everyone if the phases aren’t matched.
Don't fall into Laurie's trap. We are forming 6 month women's accountability circles now, to help each other keep up our momentum, and much more than that. Please email me for more information.
reference: Huffington Post, How Different Seasons Affect the Way Your Brain Works.