It’s time to throw out your resolutions

In the startup industry, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first week of January or the middle of summer, you’ll always find at least one person you know trying out a new approach to making their life happier, healthier or more productive. That’s why we felt safe leaving it a while before jumping on the New Years Resolutions bandwagon. It’s not that we didn’t use the occasion for a little kick of motivation, we just wanted to give you all time to settle into your new patterns before stopping to reflect.

Fifties psychology started a rumour that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That’s today, for all you Resolutioners.

It’s been questioned, contested and refuted yetin defiance of all evidence against the magic numbersomehow held its place as an aspirational reminder that change is not out of reach. More recent affirmations put it at 66 days, while realistic sources assure us it varies. We humans are reliably inconsistent.

Despite it being an arbitrary number, there’s value in the idea of the milestone. It’s a reminder that we’re not making a life-long commitment. Call it wisdom, life-hacking or grass-is-always-greener syndrome, the advantage (curse?) of being curious, innovative souls is that we’re always experimenting in an attempt to optimise our existence.

Part of making that work is accepting when something isn’t serving us in the way we’d hoped it would, and letting it go.

In the same way you’d scrap your favourite strapline if A/B tests proved it resonated with no one but you, it’s OK to look back on the past three weeks of solid New Years Resolutions action and realise that actually this whole ‘no carbs after dark’ tactic isn’t boosting your energy levels at all. And so perhaps you drop that rule and try 6am workouts instead.

This is the art of detachmentloosening your fixation on your hypothesis so you’re free to pivot to a different solution that does a better job of solving the same problem. Or, in the well-quoted words of Uri Levine:

Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

All we’re really doing with our resolutions is testing an assumption. It might take 21 days to reach a conclusion, it might take 200. Either way, make the process experimental, iterate on your solutions, and let go of approaches that aren’t working for you to make room for ones that do.

Which of your 2016 Resolutions are sticking?

Extra reading

This is a beautiful explanation of how that ’21 days’ rumour got out of hand.

Our members from Rebel Book Club are reading The Power of Habit. Here’s a great summary from one of the gang on how decisions become habits.