The Timing Of Resolutions
+++ title = “12” date = 2018 +++
In college, I remember making a New Years resolution to work out more at the gym. On Jan 2nd, I went to my university’s gym to find that not a single machine was vacant.
“Resolutions,” the front desk attendant muttered. “They’ll all be gone by February. Just watch.”
They were. So was I.
When I was a young professional, I joined a gym in mid-January again, remembering my previous experience. I made a commitment to staying through until at least March.
“Better to make a resolution in the summer,” my trainer told me. “That way, you don’t have as much of the pressure that seems to come with New Years resolution, and the gym will be quieter.”
I found his logic sound and soon started resolving to make resolutions in the summer time only. Nothing really stuck.
Later on, I’d read Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habits only to realize that making a resolution in general was meaningless; it was how one planned to change the habit loop that mattered. I could either change my cue/trigger, my routine, or my reward. Doing so would destroy my current loop and the habit would change naturally.
So, June or January, it didn’t matter much when I decided to change a habit or make a resolution.
There’s a key part to this that I breezed by a second ago, though: you have to make the change. You have to be able to do the work necessary to change a routine/reward/cue. And that takes patience. It takes a well-rested mind. And in June, most of us are busy with summer activities.
At this time of year, with most shops and restaurants closed until after New Years Day, the air outside is still and the neighborhood streets are silent. Most people are sleeping more than they usually do because most of society uses these two weeks as a built-in reprieve. Even if you work during this time, chances are it’s a bit slower than usual (unless you work in retail).
So while habits can be changed anytime, they are much easier to change when time is slow. When you can spend time on adjustment. When details are visible.
If you want to create a gym habit, start with when you have nothing else going on. Make putting on your gym shoes your cue, and then the simple act of putting on gym shoes will lead to a full blown workout, which will lead to multiple workouts in a week, and eventually a habit that will result in weight loss.
This is much harder to do when you’re in the middle of a busy work cycle.
These last two weeks, the ones that close out the year, are in fact the best time for resolutions, but more importantly, they are the best time to start acting on resolutions.
If you see a window, jump through.