About a decade ago, I made up my mind about New Year’s resolutions. I still make them, but mine take action on February 1st.
I used to think the first day of a new year had some sort of behavior-change “magic” to it. I pictured every January 1st rolling out like a red carpet for me to stroll down with freshly made resolutions: eating more vegetables, running up steep hills, aggressively feeding my IRA and doing everything with a smile. In most cases, that carpet was pulled out from under me before January came to a close. It left me feeling guilty and disappointed in my lack of self-control.
In this earlier time, I approached the new year as a sprinter does the starting line. I thought that, if I simply lined up and looked forward with confidence, that the sheer power of my determination would last the entire length of the year, or maybe for the rest of my life. Making significant changes does not work that way, at least not for me.
Early January is messy and jumbled. Mine involves loads of football bowl games, festive foods aplenty, unmeasured time, houseguests and a nagging sense that I should have done more constructive things the year before. It’s a tricky time for me to be making resolutions of any kind.
After many years, I recognized what was so tough about the whole New Year’s resolution thing. It doesn’t acknowledge the early steps of thinking about change, prior to making a commitment. Major change begins with me contemplating what I can and wish to do. It’s a necessary part of the process, and a good place for me to be on January 1st.
For example, in 2015, I’ve decided I’d like to read one worthy book each week. But instead of diving in tomorrow, I’m embracing my contemplative state, and still figuring out the pros and cons of this decision. What will I give up to invest this time in reading? Perhaps a TV show or two? My early bedtime? And how do I want to define a book as being “worthy”? Do I really want to focus on challenging tomes, or am I a James Patterson/Stephen King/Tom Clancy kind of guy?
Sometime this January, I may move from contemplation to preparation. I’ll position my favorite chair. I’ll buy a new lamp. I’ll get my reading glasses checked. I’ll make my first list of books and, yes, I will be purchasing printed editions that I can write in and smell and touch and put on my favorite bookshelf.
If I follow these early steps I’ll be ready for action by February. My first book: Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough. My second book: Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. I can hardly wait.
Next year about this time, I’ll be close to 50 books richer and wiser. And my favorite shelf will be all booked up for the holidays.