As an avid gym goer, I’ve become acutely aware of when people tend to go to the gym. It’s no secret that gym attendance spikes in January due to the influx of New Year’s Resolution-ers. Public gyms everywhere start rolling out promotions with insanely cheap (or no) fees to join in an attempt to capitalize on our human tendency to believe that, for some reason, because it’s January, good habits will be established and maintained for the duration of the year.
So why does attendance spike in January without fail, and then suddenly taper off to pre-New Year’s levels in February? One reason is due to a phenomenon called “pre-commitment”. Usually, people hate being locked into long-term contracts. Gym memberships are different because locking into a contract is a mechanism for people to help envision an improved version of themselves (a version that goes to the gym every day).
What’s the issue? The issue is the sudden nature of the change. The fact that it’s a new year is insufficient motivation for actual, sustainable, long-term change. Maybe for the first couple of days. But inevitably, most non-gym goers stop going after a few weeks. What’s more, this pattern of behavior is not unique to going to the gym. Any type of positive behavior that is commonly thrown around as New Year’s Resolutions commonly ends up the same. Losing a few pounds, waking up earlier, budgeting better – whatever it is, there needs to be a deep-rooted “why?” behind the behavior you are trying to implement.
Where does that leave us for 2018?
Whatever habit you are trying to establish, you need to have a sufficient reason for doing so. Going back to the gym example, the “behavior” would be going to the gym regularly. But if you only go for the sake of going, your gym-going habit will inevitably diminish. If your reason for attending the gym is to improve your health, gain energy, change the way you feel, or improve your physical appearance (or any other myriad of reasons you might want to go to the gym – this is just an example), the habit has a much higher possibility of sticking because the reasons are more compelling than a calendar change.
Regardless of the new habit you’re trying to build, you need a “why” driving your behavior, not a change in the last digit of the calendar year. The implication? No need to wait until the New Year to establish a positive habit. You can start today, right now, and make the changes you need to become who you want to be.
Resolve for no more resolutions – resolve for your “why” instead, and you’ll find that successful implementation of long-term habits will follow close behind.