Word count: 1,107
Read Time: 6-8 mins (but well worth the read)
“A good plan violently executed now is better
than a perfect plan executed next week.”
I recently met with a client about a project he wanted to do and towards the end of the conversation he said, “This sounds good, but I think I’m going to wait until New Year’s to start this … I think at the beginning of the year we’ll be fresh and ready to go….”
I sat there for moment, leaned up, looked him right in the eyes and said,
“Losers wait until New Year’s…screw New Year’s…let’s get started NOW!”
Even as I type this, I’m not really sure why I said it (aloud). I’ve definitely thought it multiple times in the past, but it was a little surprising that the words just slipped right out of my mouth.
He was obviously frazzled by my comment and turned red in the face.
I started explaining to him that New Year’s is just as arbitrary as August 24th…or September 19th.
There’s nothing really “special” about New Year’s other than the fact that it gives people an excuse to procrastinate.
I get that there are a few “legitimate” reasons to wait until the new year to do certain things…like if your fiscal year doesn’t allow the budgeting or something similar. But, more times than not, it’s BS.
With the holidays underway, it’s only a matter of time before the buzz of New Year’s resolutions begins in the office and on your social media feed: lose weight, stop smoking, start practicing yoga, build your own business. These are goals that you probably hear year in and year out.
Setting a New Year’s Resolution is a traditional American custom, but does setting a goal on an arbitrary date based on tradition really help you achieve success?
Forbes magazine doesn’t think so. According to an article published in 2013:
More than 50% of Americans make resolutions, but only 8% stick to them.
That’s an estimated 156 million individuals not reaching their goals every year.
Compare that to a surveyed group who say they “never set New Year’s Resolutions and get started immediately on goals”.
This group reports a whopping 80% success rate.
Think about that.
Those who don’t set New Year’s Resolutions report almost 5 times higher success rates than those who do.
The gym is a perfect example of failed resolutions in action.
Come each January, every exercise machine and weight bench is full, and you find yourself waiting in line for your favorite elliptical machine on a Tuesday night. The enthusiasm is palpable as everyone gets off on the right foot.
Fast forward just a few weeks later, to mid-February, and the crowds have thinned out considerably. In fact, according to the Fitness Industry Association, 22% of people who buy a gym membership in January will have quit completely within 4 weeks (with another 20% following them in the next few weeks).
And get this, 15% will show up for a workout less than once a week. Not exactly the kind of behavior that changes lives.
So what can you do to increase your odds of success?
Why? Because it’s costing you dearly not to.
What Is Procrastinating Costing You?
I’ve coined a concept called “Permanent Opportunity Loss”
Here’s what this means:
Imagine having set a goal to start a business. You estimate this business can earn you $10,000 per month. If you take the $10,000 per month and divide it by 30 days, that breaks down to roughly $333 per day.
So, in theory, for every day you procrastinate on starting this business, it’s costing you IN REAL DOLLARS (of permanent opportunity loss) $333 per day.
This is the very reason why hotel discounting sites exist.
If a hotel goes without being 100% booked, it’s permanent revenue loss that they can never, ever make up on those un-booked rooms. So they would rather make 25 to 50% on a room rather than leave it empty…causing them to lose revenue for that day — forever.
So think about the implications of waiting a month…6 months…a year (or more) on doing the thing you want to do.
Not to mention the psychological damage.
The emotional low that comes from not living up to your own expectations can be really tough to deal with. The feeling of failure can even continue to hinder your ability to get started, creating behavior that puts you further away from your goals than ever.
Now, instead of losing weight, you put on five pounds. Instead of starting your business, you lose your job…the list goes on.
Psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman call this emotional roller coaster “the False-Hope Syndrome”: unrealistic expectations about our ability to change followed closely by the dashing of our initially high aspirations.
How do you overcome this? Simple:
Immediate, consistent mico-actions (ICMA)
Start IMMEDIATELY and do small, consistent follow up actions until you create momentum.
While it can be difficult to focus on self-improvement during the holidays, taking small steps toward your larger goal today will help build your confidence while avoiding the disappointment that comes from having unrealistic expectations about your ability to change overnight. Instead of putting that goal “somewhere out there in the future”, focus on changing daily habits that will help you move closer to your goal.
A study from Stanford University on willpower shows that keeping a New Year’s resolution is hard work. Professor Baba Shiv, who conducted the study, states that it’s the equivalent of lifting a 300-pound barbell with your brain. The amount of willpower it requires takes too much energy for the average pre-frontal cortex (the area of your brain that governs willpower) to succeed.
Want to lose weight? Start keeping a journal of your eating habits TODAY.
Looking to kick cigarettes once and for all? Smoke one less cigarette TODAY.
Always wanted to own your own business? Draw up that business plan NOW.
When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, you will not magically transform into a new person, ready to take on everything you have been putting off the year before. Why not ring in the New Year with a feeling of accomplishment? Even if only for small steps, already in place?
Every day you have the opportunity to start, and the most successful people always start before they feel ready.