Why you shouldn’t make New Year Resolutions in January

Winter is here ushering in the end of the year, in fact the end of the decade, and perhaps this realisation brings with it a sense of urgency, that next year needs to be different, that next year you need to get the balance right.  But this is not the time to make New Year Resolutions.

Perhaps you’ve come up with a list of things you want to change in the year ahead, starting on January 1st.  You’ve probably done this before, only to find that by March most of them have gone by the wayside.  Feelings of frustration and failure that yet again you didn’t make the changes you wanted (and needed) to can surface, making you doubt yourself.  I’m not sure anyone would include working more, being away from loved ones more, being more stressed, having less time for themselves, on their list of New Year Resolutions….yet these are often what win through.

Surely if you really wanted to change things you would.  Other people do.  So why can’t you? 

Next year can be different

Let me explain.  Despite what we’ve been told, January is not the time for new beginnings. January is merely the start of the calendar year and is not the time for New Year Resolutions. It’s winter, and winter will remain here until March.

Winter is the time when, if we pay attention, we can see the structure of our lives, we can see clearly where new growth will come from, and where there is dead wood to be removed.

Winter is the time when the air outside is cold making us draw inwards towards warmth.  Winter is the time when the earth lies quiet and dormant.  Winter is the time when the days are short and the darkness lasts longer, encouraging the world to be still and rest.

And so what do we do?  In the ten days or so from the Solstice to New Year’s Day, we spend our days and nights being busy.  Often running ourselves ragged trying to see all our friends and relatives, shopping, cooking, drinking, travelling.  We binge watch TV, just like we binge on pretty much anything.  We try to cram everything we haven’t done in the past twelve months into the last few days of the year, and then commit ourselves to making changes, often quite a number of them, on January 1st.

It’s shouldn’t really be a surprise when we fail.

It’s time to respect nature’s rhythm

Since moving to a rural village in Somerset one of the things I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for is the rhythm of the natural world, of life.

We have no street lights here, so when it’s dark it’s dark.  Birds stop singing, there’s less traffic, the whole world goes quiet.  Walking the dog in the early morning, or in the evening, brings a sense of peace, and an awareness of time – the beginning or ending of a day.

We are surrounded by farmland.  Since spring the land has been worked, crops and hedgerows have grown, sheep and cattle have had their young and spent the warmer months out in the fields. As time has moved on crops have been harvested, sometimes stored for winter, hedgerows cut back, animals taken back into farm sheds in preparation for winter.

Winter has a vital part to play in this natural cycle, which I believe we have forgotten about.

We know that for perennial plants (those that live for several years), shorter days and continued low temperatures encourage a cycle of dormancy, a deep sleep.  Growth is temporarily halted. This is the time when plants’ energy is held in reserve, building up for new growth, and farmers and gardeners can prune and transplant without fear of sprouting.  For example without sufficient ‘chilling time’, a fruit tree will generate fewer, weaker buds, limiting fruit production from day one.

What has this got to do with your New Year Resolutions?

You are part of nature, you too will hopefully live for many years. Simply put, you need ‘chilling time’ in order to build up the energy you will need to make the changes you want to in the year ahead.  All change requires effort.  You can’t simply make yourself go to the gym more, without investing extra energy into doing so. If you could, you would have done it already.

You also need to invest time and energy into getting a really clear idea of what you want to change, and most importantly why.  If you simply decide, after eating and drinking too much over Christmas, you need to look after your health more, you’ve not given yourself enough time or reason to truly commit to making the changes you need to. And change needs commitment.

Winter is the time nature gives you to withdraw from the world so you can reflect and reassess,  understand what’s truly important, notice what has, and what has not, given you a sense of purpose or fulfilment in the last twelve months, heal, count your blessings, and ultimately get clear on what you want/need the next twelve months to bring.

This year will be different

This year why not make the most of your winter, and wait until Spring to make any changes?

Over the next few months take time to withdraw, reflect, journal, meditate, walk in nature, be grateful, be honest.

Give yourself time to heal, to gain strength, to build energy.

Give yourself time to understand and reconnect to what matters most to you.

Give yourself time to understand just what you need to do to make the changes you want to in your life and ask yourself:- 

  • How much time will it take, and where will I get that time from?
  • What resources will I need, and what do I already have?
  • Whose help/support might I need?
  • What are the possible repercussions – all change creates ripples in the world – and how will I respond to them?
  • If I’ve tried this before and not succeeded, what have I learned and how can I use this information?
  • How will making this change help me live my fullest life?
  • What Value does this change relate to?

These last two questions are vital for finding the strength you will need to maintain your commitment when things get tough, as they inevitably will.  Remember, if change was easy, we’d all just get on with it.

Finally, aim to make just one big change, or no more than three smaller changes.  Change requires focus. If you invest your time wisely at the beginning, you’ll be able to achieve far more, in less time, than you imagine.

Your life is wonderfully unique and special.  This Christmas, give yourself the gift of winter, give yourself the gift of time.

And if you’re really serious about making changes, maybe now’s the time to invest in some coaching. Working with a coach can help you find your direction, understand your strengths, keep you focused on what’s important, save you time, increase your confidence and motivation, and hold you accountable, increasing your chances of success.

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