Goals are great—but waiting until January to start them might not be the best idea.
When it comes to setting goals you want to crush—whether it's losing weight, eating healthy, or getting more sleep—the new year always feels like the perfect opportunity to set a resolution and finally make it happen.
But January 1 isn't necessarily the fresh-start, key to goal-crushing success that we've built it up to be. It's simple: When you make a decision to pursue a goal and take action based on a date rather than on your readiness, you may be setting yourself up for failure. And while there are countless studies about goal-setting, none suggest that waiting until January 1 is actually beneficial.
Research conducted by Statistic Brain Research Institute found that in 2017, only 9.2 percent of people felt that they were successful in achieving their resolution. Even more disappointing? The 42.2 percent of people who say they fail in achieving their resolution every single year.
What's the point in waiting? Here are the reasons you should start your resolution today.
1. You won't make more work for yourself.
The Statistic Brain Research Institute also found that 21.4 percent of people cite losing weight or eating healthier as their New Year's resolution. With that in mind, waiting until January 1 can actually set you back, making it harder to achieve your goal. Why?
"Many people gain 5 to 7 pounds during the holidays because of poor food choices and more alcohol intake," says Dianah Lake, M.D., emergency medicine physician and the creator of Dr. Di Fit Life. It's no secret that the holidays are a challenging time when it comes to eating healthy, and waiting until the start of the new year can result in giving yourself a free pass that you just don't need. (Read: feeling more inclined to eat that cheesecake now, since you know you won't have it in January.)
If you start building healthy habits now, you'll have strategies in place to avoid or minimize unhealthy food choices during the holidays, explains Dr. Lake. By doing so, you can stop bad habits from pushing you farther away from your goals—and continuing to make healthy choices will be that much easier come January, when holiday temptations are no more.
2. You know you're just procrastinating.
Procrastination is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to achieving any kind of goals—yet we all insist on waiting until January to completely reinvent ourselves. Waiting until the start of the new year to tackle a resolution is the very definition of procrastination and it puts you on a sure path to failure: People who procrastinate have a higher level of stress and a lower level of well-being, according to the Association for Psychological Science. People often hold off on a task because they don't feel equipped to handle it and believe they'll be more emotionally equipped in the future—but that isn't true. Waiting until January 1 only delays working through any challenges you need to face. By starting today, you can put an end to procrastination and the stress that comes with it.
3. The season can steal your motivation.
If being fit is your resolution, waiting until after the holiday hustle can make it even tougher to start. About 6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), while another 14 percent suffer from a lesser mood disorder often referred to as the "winter blues," according to a 2008 study published in Psychiatry. (Think you're suffering? Here's how to prevent and treat SAD.) The Mayo Clinic characterizes SAD as a depressive disorder that begins in fall or early winter, mainly in the weeks leading up to the new year.
Wait until after January 1—when the excitement of the holidays has died down—and your mood might take a dip too. It can certainly feel harder to create positive change in your life while battling "bleh" feelings. But if you implement new fitness habits before the onset of those "winter blues," you'll be more likely to stick to your plans and may even fight off those depressive feelings. In a study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills, researchers found that depression mood scores were significantly reduced after exercise sessions, and other researchers even found that exercise coupled with meditation can significantly decrease depression (and quickly!). Start your new workout routine now to get a head start on those feel-good chemicals, and establish a new fitness habit before winter really begins and has the chance to de-rail your resolution.
4. Who doesn't like a head start?
"In order to create new patterns of behavior, you must be mentally committed and consistent for at least 21 days," says Chere Goode, LPN/CHPN, aka the Recharge Strategist. "By making changes now, you will create new habits before the new year begins." So instead of struggling to reinvent your entire life—sleeping habits, diet, fitness routine, etc.—all on January 1, pick one habit that's the most important to you and start it now. (Ex: If your resolution is to adopt a healthy eating plan, maybe you start with drinking enough water each day for the next 21 days.) Stick with it, and by January, you'll have one habit locked in, feel hella productive, and be that much more prepared to tackle whatever else is on your resolution list.
5. Starting now keeps it all about you.
Although accountability can be key to sticking with a goal, you're much more likely to achieve one if it reflects your personal values and interests, rather than one built around social pressures and expectations, says Richard Koestner, Ph.D., a psychology professor and goal-setting researcher at McGill University in Canada. When you set goals for the new year, are those goals in alignment with your personal values, or are you setting them because of societal expectations? Do you want to start running because you enjoy it, or because your friends want you to run with them? How about going vegan? Trying CrossFit? (Must read: Why You Should Stop Doing Things You Hate Once and for All)
Deciding to start now instead of waiting until January 1 is another way to make sure your resolution is all about you. Starting now screams "this matters to me" versus "I'm doing this right now just like everyone else in the world because that's what you're supposed to do."
"Ultimately, there's nothing magical that happens on January 1 at 12:01 a.m.," says psychiatrist and life coach Bergina Isbell, M.D. "You could wake up today and say, 'Enough is enough: I don't want to live like I lived yesterday." If you can get in touch with those personal needs and make a decision based on them, you'll be ready to shift your mindset and finally crush your goals.
The tools and inspo you need to crush *your* goals (whatever they are!) all year long. Join our Personal Best Facebook Group for 24/7 squad support and share your wins—big and small—on social using #mypersonalbest.