The first 66 days

A blinding headache, searing nausea and fits of vertigo is how I face the first day of every year; in other words, pathetically hungover. It is a sorry state that leaves me unsettled and despondent as I vow to make real changes in the year to come. For starters, I resolve to never touch alcohol again, and while I'm at it, I'm going to drink more water and less coffee, floss every day and begin in earnest on writing the great American novel. Many people are promising themselves these very same things on the same day for the very same reasons.

According to statistics published at, 45 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions—and 41 percent of those people make them because they are not happy. Of these resolvers, 49 percent have infrequent success in meeting their goals, and fully one in four people have failed to succeed with any New Year's resolution they have ever made. It makes sense. Breaking our resolutions three months in is practically a part of the tradition, and although we seem serious when we declare our intent to go from couch potato to marathon runner in 12 months, deep down we know our jogging career won't even see late spring.

Perhaps the majority of our collective failure is due to setting ourselves unrealistic goals. I would like to jog more, but am I a failure because I can't run every day for a year? Such a daunting task makes me want to give up from day one. But what if I start smaller with, say, a first-quarter-of-the-year resolution with an opportunity for renewal in the quarters to come?

Psychologists throw a lot of magic numbers out there for the amount of time it takes to create new habits. Twenty-one days of straight repetition is the shortest according to online articles, and 66 days seems to be the longest.

Even so, 66 days is a lot more realistic than 365, and perhaps with an initial success we will be motivated to repeat the challenge for another 66 days. And why stop there? If we make it 66, we may see ourselves through 132 or 264 or 330 days, simply by giving ourselves an opportunity to succeed over periods of time more easily tackled day by day.

It seems that over the course of two months, almost anything is possible, and depending on the immediacy of our results, our new habits may have real staying power.

This is all well and good when it comes to self-improvement, but imagine what could be accomplished if we took 66 days to volunteer in our communities. Or how about 66 days to live more consciously and sustainably? To commute by bike despite the weather or eat locally despite the price. Given that, 66 days may be enough to make a noticeable impact, not just in our community, but in our relationship and how we choose to interact with it all year long.

But maybe I am falling into the trap of unrealistic long-term goals. Let's do our best one day at a time and evaluate it all come early March. Tomorrow, though, I'm really going for that run.