January 13 was Friday the 13th but it’s also known as Quitter’s Day. The second Friday in January is the most likely day for people to give up on their New Year’s resolutions. Funny. Sad. True. That’s because we should not be setting goals in the middle of winter. And, you’re probably setting the wrong types of goals which is why they don’t stick. So, when is the best time to set goals, and what types of goals work?
What Can Nature Show Us?
If we throw away the standard calendar and reconnect with the natural cycles that actually impact our biological rhythms and moods, spring is the perfect time to set new goals for the year. In winter (mid-December to mid-March) the days are short and the nights are longer, encouraging us to slow down, rest and restore. While we don’t hibernate, it is a time to go inward, reflect, meditate and dream. It is in this quiet, dark time that we can dream and see what may be ready to sprout in the Spring.
March Used to Be the Start of the New Year
Have you ever wondered why the months September, October, November, and December don’t align with the 7th, 8th, 9th, or 10th months like their names suggest? (After all, Sept is the Latin prefix for 7, Oct for 8, Nov for 9, and Dec for 10.) Well, they used to. Ancient Roman calendars started in March because that is when the government and military became active again after two “dead” months of winter.
- March – 1
- April – 2 (Latin for aperier, meaning top open, like the flowers of spring)
- May – 3
- June – 4
- July – 5
- August -6
- September – 7
- October – 8
- November – 9
- December – 10
Julius Caesar reformed the calendar to be based on Earth’s revolutions around the sun and named the two dead months and moved January and February to the beginning of the calendar. So, if the calendar is man-made and arbitrary anyway, take the time in December, January, and February to rest, restore and recover from the year you just had and prepare for the next one.
Or, if you really want to be audacious when it comes to goal setting, don’t use the calendar at all. If you are ready to start something new, just do it! Don’t wait until the first of the month or even Monday. Pick up that new hobby, go for a walk, or start a gratitude list when inspiration strikes.
This is true for us and it extends to our kids, too. The second half of the school year is starting and there will be a lot of talk about goals and plans for Semester 2. It may be helpful to remember that our kids are still feeling the impact of Winter the same way we are, and they may not be open to setting goals at school or at home. When we all keep the perspective that we can start at any time, no time is lost at all.
Goals or Habits for Success?
So how do we create new goals? Many of us are taught to create SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Unfortunately, this format rarely produces results because most of us will already achieve realistic goals, and if we’re not meeting our goals, this framework doesn’t help us develop the skills or habits to get there. If you are going to set goals, set BHAGS. Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals. BHAGs often inspire us to take risks, learn new skills, and find joy in leaving our comfort zones. So, dream big and set an Audacious Goal!
Conversely, people, like James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”, claim that setting goals, in general, is a waste of time. Clear argues that results have very little to do with the goals being set, but everything to do with the habits we create. So, if we want to achieve something or change our life, then we need to shift our habits because it is the repeating of the habit that ultimately creates the change.
Let’s say you set a BHAG to run a marathon and you don’t even own a pair of running shoes. What are the habits that you will need to adopt to be a marathon runner? Buying a pair of sneakers or plotting out a route to run are not habits, but putting your running clothes and shoes next to your bed each night to make it easier to get up in the morning and go are. So what habits do you need to adopt to reach your Big Hairy Audacious Goal?
We’d love to hear from you. Are you a New Year’s Resolution setter or a Spring Bloomer? Are you a goal-setter or habit maker? Leave your thoughts and comments below!