The queues at gym doors around the country may be dwindling a little bit as we get towards the end of January but the numbers will remain up for a couple more months at least. Similarly, the weight-loss group meetings will be squeezing into village halls across the UK for a little while longer, trailing off after the obligatory six months or so…
Why do we do these things? Why do we decide that 1st January is the perfect time to reshape our lives, change our approach completely, lose weight, take up that course we promised ourselves or – if you are in business – make a real effort to do things better, manage our time more effectively, motivate others and grow the company?
I guess we do these things because we are encouraged to. We see countless “new year, new you” messages – stand in the supermarket queue at the till and take a look at the front covers of the January issue of the various women’s magazines and you’ll see what I mean. On the TV we are encouraged to improve ourselves from day one of the new year because… well, because that’s what you should do isn’t it? No matter how many times people break their New Year’s resolutions they still make more the following year. Odd, isn’t it?
Me, I believe in continuous improvement, looking all the time to do things better, to motivate myself, to make sure that customers get the best possible service. Is there room for improvement? Always. But you don’t have to wait until the beginning of a designated month to make positive changes.
Do I think people who try to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves on 1 January are daft? No. But I do wonder why we need to have that extra push and why we can’t make the changes we need to make on 1 April or 1 November – or even on the 14th or 23rd or 6th of a month.
Just like hospitals gear up for the increased footfall in the winter months and stores take on extra staff in the run up to Christmas, so the people who run gyms and weight-loss groups expect their memberships to swell considerably in January. There must be charts somewhere showing rapid growth and then gradual decline until it all begins again the following year.
If it works for you then, hey, who can knock it? But just maybe there’s an argument for people to step back and see what they are doing and how fruitless a sudden burst in positive activity can often turn out. Like weight-loss, improvement should be gradual and continuous and that way it sticks. Too many people who go to weight-loss groups end up several months later weighing more than they started. That should tell us something.
Embrace that motivation, put that idea into practice when it hits you and not when the calendar and a bunch of advertisements tell you to. There’s no point in feeling that you are now in control of your life when in reality you are simply being led by (and following) tradition and doing exactly what is expected of you. Where’s the empowerment in that?