Why do we put so much weight on January 1st? Turns out, we’re wired to do this. It’s been shown that new beginnings, fresh starts, drives us to make changes. The beginning of the year isn’t the only time we feel this way. To a lesser extent, the beginnings of weeks or months show this effect too. You know the typical Saturday night thought, diet starts Monday.
Gyms really know how bad we are at sticking to resolutions. Case in point: Gyms never waste money on new machines for new January sign-ups since they certainly won’t be needing them by February. Their business model literally relies on you choosing The Queen’s Gambit over them.
The January Effect
Even the market experiences a form of new beginning optimism and consistently performs better than average around this time of year. Recent evidence suggests that this is partially due to the fact that we view the future more optimistically and lean towards riskier stocks, which inevitably drop down to their real value. Maybe we’re not all that different from stocks.
On January 1st, we all share the illusion that our new kick of motivation will fuel a life-long exercise habit. Jason Riis, Harvard Business School professor, explains, “in the moment of exuberance, it’s easy to forget how much we won’t feel like exercising.” Psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman call this the false-hope syndrome: “unrealistic expectations about our ability to change, followed closely by the dashing of our initially high aspirations.”