In theory, we can begin whatever new thing we want to do whenever we choose. We can begin a diet or exercise routine on any given Wednesday night at 10:00 PM. Or we can start giving money to a charity at 5:42 AM on a random Saturday morning.
In practice, we mostly like to begin new things at the beginning of other things. Monday, the day most consider the beginning of the week, is our preferred day to start new habits.
The New Year’s Day is a classic time for change. Yes, I know, broken new year's resolutions are nearly as common as the resolutions themselves. Yet our lives are not defined by what we do not do. They are, however, defined by what we succeed at doing. Think about it, no one ever says or even thinks " Sure, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Muhammad Ali were great athletes, but those bums never cured Ebola."
Almost all successful doing involves tons of starts and stops. What some folks might call momentary failures. Thomas Edison said, "I never failed, I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work." I have found personal change is like that.
I grew up in a large family and am the youngest of nine children. When I think back on the level of attention paid to my moment-to-moment upbringing, I get the sense that my parents just did not have the manpower to cover all the bases. They stuck to the basics - bathe, brush your teeth, do your homework and look both ways before crossing the street. And that was about it.
Owing to this, at least in part, I did not begin flossing my teeth regularly until I was almost 30. I hasten to add that I have always brushed several times a day. In fact, flossing was a new year's resolution for 2003. I did not make it to January 5th before my resolution to floss every day was broken. That year, I probably flossed...1.4 times per week, on average. It felt like failure.
Today, 18 years later, I can see that my resolution was not broken at all and that a great change had begun. I now floss every day and have for over a decade. My initial efforts at change met with stiff resistance from status quo keeping, habit and what I call personal inertia. Put plainly, it is difficult to begin doing what we do not do and to stop doing what we do all the time. As an aside, my teeth are in good shape. I am glad I made the change I did.
If you are like me, you have been taught to believe that successful change is instant and permanent. If we waiver, even for a day, we have failed. I am here to tell you that is complete and total nonsense. In this regard, the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong.
On television, where there is conflict and resolution in 22 minutes minus commercials, change seems to be quick and lasting. In real life, change is almost always slower, far more incremental, and full of fits and starts.
According to recent data, 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. I have read of several similar findings over the past few years. Assuming these data are accurate, something tells me the other 38% do not have a few million or more saved.
One of the great disincentives to saving more is the feeling that a small increase will not have a significant impact. This is correct in the short term and fantastically wrong over time.
Saving an additional $100, $1000, or $10,000 per month, depending on your income, might not move the needle much after one month, but with consistency it can mean a sea change over time, even when inflation ramps up.
No matter what we want to do, be it dieting, exercising, saving more money, donating to charity, cleaning the garage, whatever, we can use 2022 to start small. And though our first steps toward our goals might seem inconsequential, we will congratulate ourselves later for having begun the journey toward making our dreams come true and creating a better life for our loved ones and ourselves.
Happy New Year!
Scott R. McGimpsey December 30th, 2021
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