New year, new me. That’s the mantra with every turn of the calendar to January 1. If you talk to enough people, you’ll understand my perspective here.
Just how new are you?
Every so often, I think back to the day I turned 4 years old. Yes, 4. I stood on the step stool in the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and said to myself, “I don’t look any different.” I’d reached a new level. Why wasn’t it obvious?
It has become common knowledge that it takes approximately 21 days to develop a new habit. That’s 21 days of consistently, diligently, mindfully, and intentionally doing that new thing that you’ve set yourself out to do. Three weeks to get you to autopilot.
But did you just start on January 1 or sometime soon after? Or did you prepare yourself mid-December?
The holidays bring out whatever is at the essence of you. If you are truly in a place of depression and despair, those feelings are heightened. If you are truly a ball of joy, those characteristics are heightened. Whatever is at your core comes to the surface. So, after the holidays, you easily go back to your baseline norm. It takes intentionality to go beyond that.
The interesting thing about this whole “21 days to a new habit” average is that around the third Monday in January is when people are typically the most depressed. It’s been dubbed “Blue Monday”. Pretty close to that 21-day mark, huh? My guess is that it’s around that time that people start to question their capabilities for whatever goal they’ve set for themselves.
A large part of the issue is that people expect to be overnight successes. That almost never happens. Success is intentional and requires preparation. Expecting anything less is largely a result of our socialization towards instant gratification. Arguably, it started with the microwave (*insert comedy drum beat*). But social media has drastically contributed to people expecting something from nothing.
Generations Y, Z, and so-forth…particularly those in the digital era…have been primed towards instant gratification. Having high expectations of short-term successes yields a skewed perspective of failure. Most people begin feeling inadequate and lacking in value in regards to their goals and anything attached to them. Not surprisingly, research shows that often times, individuals base their self-worth, in part, on things such as followers, ‘likes’ and comments on their social media profiles and posts . The more progressive we have become with technology, the more we rely on it, down to the very processes of self-worth. It’s become so easy to compare ourselves amongst ourselves, and to try to keep up with the Jones’. And when we can’t or don’t, our perceptions of self decline, whether we would admit it or not.
Shortened attention spans, guilty feelings for essentially not being able to save the entire world, the need to be in the know about literally everything from sports to pop culture to wars to economic climate to getting the best deals on whatever the latest trends are while being careful to not exploit anyone or harm animals or…you get the picture…people are pressured to be perfect. It’s no wonder people loathe their human selves. Facebook was on track with its initial college-aged target consumer base. Stepping outside of that has proven to be detrimental.
Recently, it has been reported that Seattle schools are placing the blame for mental health issues amongst children and adolescents on social media. To this end, a lawsuit was filed against several Big Tech companies . Mirroring one another, instant gratification and mental health concerns related to social media consumption are not problematic amongst only the youth of our society. Adults experience similar challenges with attention span and at times, with self-esteem and worth.
I have been around so many people in social settings who have succumbed to the convenience of the little computers in their pockets and purses. These individuals never miss a beat with Googling facts and sharing gossip. Simply put – they’re always on their phones. Being constantly distracted whether or not it’s intentional (because let’s be honest, many of us use our phones as an excuse to not engage with one another) contributes to our inability to fully commit to whatever resolutions we have set out for ourselves. So, people set barriers and create temporary solutions, one of which often comes at the top of the year.
Fasting at the beginning of the year is common. I’ve heard time and again people say that they’re fasting from Facebook. I’ve even done it. The need to fast from Facebook is problematic. Fasting is preserved for denying the flesh of worldly temptations. So, the admission here is that social media is so full of worldly temptations that we over-indulge in that we need to step away from it to be more disciplined and have more peace.
To be clear, I’m not against social media when used effectively and responsibly. However, over and over again, people have been known to implement boundaries with social media, and they gain more focus. It’s not uncommon to come across a career or life coach or trainer whose strategies for themselves and their clients include not getting on social media first thing in the morning. The idea is to not wake up to bad news and distractions. Naturally, this allows them to be more effective. So, of course, fasting from social media would have the same result. But the problem is – without social media, we are forced to engage face-to-face or on the phone, and we have stepped away from those interactions a lot (*insert awkward silence*).
Looking up has become a cultural shock. But you’ve gotta look up to get past day 21. Good luck.