I am making today, December 2, my new year. It's the last first Monday of the year (of the decade, too), and it feels like way less pressure than early January. January 1 is pretty crowded: Everyone is ready to start anew, aggressively pushing to be the best self ever. The regrets of the previous year are fresh. So are the insecurities.
If you want long-term changes, though, you should start early -- like now. Don't wait for an artificial starting point. Here's why.
Avoid turning it into a competition
Your success crystalizing a new habit is happening the exact same time as other people. The exact same day, even. It's like you've joined a race with 7 billion people. You're making it nearly impossible not to compare.
How's that weight loss coming? Did you start on that new book? When are you going to ask that person out? The questions may start coming by January 2, and they may be followed up by the progress other people seem to be making that you aren't.
You have a choice. Take yourself out of the race.
Focus on sustainability
Cold turkey is romantic. It is scientifically proven, though, that we don't operate like a light switch. It's why crash diets, study cramming sessions and other extreme sports have quick results and equally quick relapses.
By starting early, you have the opportunity to ramp up your ambitions. Want to save $50 a week? If you start early, you can begin saving $5 a week and slowly get used to the feel of saving.
Atomic Habits author James Clear explained it perfectly on Whitney Johnson's Disrupt Yourself podcast:
You have to master the art of showing up. A habit has to be established before it can be improved.
You can't suddenly start showing up. It is a slow habit that must be formed. Might as well get a start on it now.
Give room to pivot
Something else happens when we make loud pronouncements to ourselves or to others: We feel compelled to keep them. But what if you realize your resolution needs refinement? Or if you'd rather be more moderate? Or if you have another, stronger goal altogether?
We're often afraid to quit, not because we're afraid of the loss, but we're afraid of being a loser. That's the ego talking. The more time you spend coming up with a practical strategy for your new habit, the less ego becomes a factor.