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Happy New Year (and all that jazz)!
Do you feel what I feel?
It’s a new year!
Do you feel the energy? It’s all in the air isn’t it? That new year energy that (sadly) tends to fade with the newness of the year. What have you started or decided for 2020? Or have you like many simply given up on resolutions entirely to save yourself the trouble, or joined the systems-over-goals-gang?
I’ve tried them all by the way.
That said, I’m not cynical about the whole new year thing—at least not yet. And I’m not precisely for the reason I already gave: the energy is real. It may not last, but it’s there, and I really don’t see that there’s a lot of value in being needlessly cynical about something you might as well use to your advantage, because apparently feeling energised at the start of a new day, or week or year, is just how our minds work.
Might as well use it, no?
On Saturday I went out for my first run this year, and my first deliberate planned run since last September. I started running in December 2018, and I kept it right up until my new job started last June. Since then I’d floundered around a bit, trying to figure out how to fit running into my new life with this job, and it seemed my only option was to somehow find a way to fit it into my commute: home to starting station, destination station to work, and back. But that would require a lot more stress: I’d need a running bag to keep my work shoes in, and although the runs would be mainly short and I’d likely not break much of a sweat, I might need to consider running gear come summer.
It started to feel like a lot, and once stuff starts to feel like a lot, procrastination kicks in for me.
But thanks to new year energy, I went for a run on Saturday, started thinking seriously about getting a running bag on Sunday, and bought the bag Monday after work. I also am reading through the psalms and working through a bible reading plan. And longer term, I’ve started making moves to make more friends I feel more of a connection with (of which, more in another letter).
Whether I’ll be able to keep all this up is another story (and I’ll let you know how that goes), but all I’m saying is, there’s that new year energy in the air for a bit: use it while it lasts. Learn from what didn’t work for you in previous years. Resolutions certainly haven’t worked for me., but trying to build new habits have: and the best way I’ve built new habits is to use the triple-combo I wrote about in my article from last year on how I started running: I learned that a habit I want to sustain needs to be simple, satisfying and start soon.
If you’re interested to dig even deeper into the science and psychology of building habits, I highly recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s one of the absolute best reads on the subject. (You can get it at this link, which also includes all his articles on habits for free if you’re not sure you want to buy the book—which I still recommend, because it’s really just that good.)
I’ll round up with a few words from Clear himself.
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change. Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing evidence of a new identity. And if a change is meaningful, it actually is big. That’s the paradox of making small improvements. Putting this all together, you can see that habits are the path to changing your identity. The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
Each time you write a page, you are a writer.
Each time you practice the violin, you are a musician.
Each time you start a workout, you are an athlete.
Each time you encourage your employees, you are a leader.
Each habit not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself. You start to believe you can actually accomplish these things. When the votes mount up and the evidence begins to change, the story you tell yourself begins to change as well.
So how are you going to use that new year energy?
Here’s to a richly rewarding 2020.