We’re finally at the end of January, often viewed as a tough month to get through! For some of us, it might have seemed like more than just 31 days. For others, it has flown by. Could February be the fresh start we all need?
The end of January can be a useful time to check in on progress towards our important goals for the year. I know I’m not the only person who has previously watched in horror as my plans evaporated in the face of the cold, harsh reality of January. I also know that it’s never too late to make a change.
Can we just start over?
We humans love a fresh start.
Fresh starts increase your motivation to change because they give you either a real clean slate or the impression of one.
Katy Milkman, ‘How to change’.
While we’re all familiar with the fresh start of a New Year, it’s a fact that literally any day of the year can serve as a welcome fresh start for our behaviour, our goals and our attitudes. You absolutely don’t need to wait for New Year’s Day 2024 before committing to new goals.
Deciding that the first day of February represents a fresh start when it comes to your 2023 goals can be helpful. But it’s also useful to consider the following factors, to maximise your chance of success.
A fresh start, plus…
- Self-compassion: first of all, beating yourself up about how you didn’t stick to your plans isn’t going to help you one bit. Speak to yourself as a friend would and acknowledge that making change is hard.
- Reflection: be honest with yourself and reflect on what actually happened in January to make it difficult to make progress towards your goals. What practical things got in the way? What aspect of your thinking or emotions slowed you down? Learn from this experience and bring your learning to bear on your fresh start.
- Clarify what matters: think about how your goal or habit reflects the kind of person you want to be. How does working towards this milestone align with your values? In other words, how will you be putting your values into action as you move towards the goal.
- Think small: You may well have over-estimated your capacity for change, or picked a goal that’s just too demanding. Even the toughest journeys begin with a single step, so think small. Identify the tiny habit(s) that could represent a start and focus on them.
- Plan for success: As you’ve probably realised from your experience of January, goals don’t just reach themselves. Block out time to work on your goal each week. It matters less how long you set aside, and more on the fact that you’re giving yourself a slice of time to work on this on a regular basis.
- Keep score: Schedule regular reviews of your progress. This way, you can take advantage of small course adjustments along the way. This is better than waiting another six months to see how it’s working out. A weekly review is the perfect opportunity to see what you’ve done to work towards your goals. You can start with this simple checklist and take it from there.
However January worked out for you, remember that tomorrow is the start of another month. And a fresh opportunity to make progress towards what really matters to you.
We’ll have a follow-up session towards the end of March, where we can explore progress, address challenges and provide each other with some helpful accountability and support.