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Why January 1st Is the Worst Day to Make Resolutions

Looking for a simple trick to make your New Year's commitment more sticky? Here's an easy adjustment endorsed by psychologists.
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If you’re looking for excuses not to bother with a New Year’s Resolution this year, the internet has you covered. A quick google search will give you post after post after post explaining why most resolutions are doomed from the start due to various quirks of human nature. Depending on which study you reference, nearly nine-out-of-ten resolutions end up quickly falling by the wayside, according to this pessimistic pile up of articles.

But what if this year you’re determined to beat those odds and make permanent positive changes to your life or business? Tips abound, but some like going into psychoanalysis, make the medicine seem worse than the condition, while others, like choosing happy resolutions, defeat the purpose if your true desire is to break a bad habit.

Are there no simple, actionable tricks you can use to make your commitment more sticky? Yup, one is easy as pie and recommended by the experts. What is it? Wisebread recently explained:

Instead of starting resolutions on January 1st -- after a hectic month when most people have been knocked off of their usual routines because of the holidays -- start on February 1st, and shoot for a date every month to check progress, [clinical psychologist Ramani] Durvasula says.

"I think January 1st is the worst possible day to make New Year's resolutions because everybody is doing it and out of their routine," she adds.

Trying to add something to your daily routine, such as exercising, can be difficult on January 1st because for the previous two weeks or so, most people are out of their normal routine anyway, and adding something else to it can lead to quick failure, Durvasula notes.

OK, we admit this technique may defeat the purpose if you’re trying to beat procrastination in 2014, but for everyone else moving the start date of your new habit forward a month could be worth a try. Most of us let ourselves go a bit in December, so trying to get strict with ourselves immediately afterwards can cause a backlash, other psychologists agree.

“Because we place so few demands on ourselves to be disciplined during December, there is no immediate threat of deprivation,” explains Pauline W. Wallin, Ph.D. “When New Year's Day arrives, we tend to expect that self-discipline will magically take over, and it does, sometimes for several days; but then, more often than not, we are soon overcome by a feeling of being deprived. We begin to resent the rules we imposed upon ourselves, and start to rebel in small ways. Pretty soon, the rationalization takes over completely.”

"January 1 is not necessarily the best time to commit to lifestyle changes," she concludes.

 

IMAGE: Alyson Hurt/Flickr
Last updated: Dec 30, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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