Here it is. Day one. The day everything is supposed to change in your life. How’s it going? Can you feel the metamorphosis? (Cricket…cricket)
Ok, well it doesn’t have to start today, right? I mean, you might be a little tired/hung over to start today. Plus it’s a holiday! Everything is closed. You’ll start tomorrow. The year is long! Well maybe not tomorrow. I mean it’s already Thursday. And who wants to start on a Friday? Why not wait until the weekend?
And so Day 1 covertly turns into Day 4 and 5 without your knowing. One-sixth of the month gone, and the pressure to change something in your life mounts.
Don’t do that to yourself.
Don’t let this pressure of MUST CHANGE NOW hang from your neck like an anchor.
Because that’s not how change works. You are not a cyborg. You can’t just change focus when you want. If you could, New Year’s Resolutions wouldn’t be a verbal graveyard a few weeks from now.
What we so often forget is that manufactured New Year’s momentum quickly evaporates under the blinding rays of what you’ve always done. The archaic, colossal habits effortlessly suffocate the chirps of want, should, and supposed. The only way to combat this reality on a random, cold Wednesday in February is with an arsenal of daily habits that you have been ingraining and feeding for weeks on end, out of site of the old you.
Here’s the thing about change: for it to begin to take hold, you won’t even know or feel like it has.
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There is a reason you can’t start driving a car in fifth gear. You haven’t earned the right to enjoy what the car can do at high speeds yet.
Because research shows that it takes sixty-six days for a habit to truly form. (That’s March 13 for everyone starting today.)
This is the son-of-a-bitch about the whole thing. We don’t like these two realities: change we can’t feel, happening over periods of time longer than we prepared for (see: why people still fight evolution).
But knowing this fact is power to you. Don’t ignore it.
In the beginning, do less than you’re capable of.
Usually, to prove to ourselves how great we are at the time of change or at the onset of a new project, we’ll do exactly what we’re capable of. But, if we do that, our over-zealous benchmark will quickly be the thing we can’t reach again.
Everyone who has tried to run four miles the first time out after having run a total of zero miles the previous six months knows what I’m talking about waking up on Day 2: hamstrings more taut than bridge cables and dealing with a back as supportive as a house made of Twizzlers.
So when you’re trying to incorporate a new habit in the beginning, don’t try to do as much as you think you could. Your brain has delusions of grandeur. Run ONE mile the first three times out.
Some people try to write 500 words a day, but when they can’t after three days, they quit writing altogether. If they tried to write 250 words a day, it increases the chance of the new task (writing everyday) becoming a habit. Let roots take hold before you try to build your tree.
So take a deep breath and don’t be so hard on yourself for not being able to immediately start doing the thing you haven’t been able to do any day before.
No one can. No one has.
January 1 is just another day. There is nothing in the water, in the planets, in the astrological signs that say anything has to change right now (you should have started your change on the equinox to get all that foofy alignment stuff in order).
Change happens at one indecipherable step at a time on whatever day you choose. So whenever you do start, start slowly and stick with it, even when you don’t feel change.
Bassam Tarazi is the creator of a motivational framework (Colipera), the author of The Accountability Effect, and the co-founder of the international workshop and adventure for side hustlers called The Ignition Lab. Bassam conducts goal setting classes, corporate workshops, and one-on-one coaching. You can follow him on twitter @bassamtarazi.