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Avoiding the Danger of New

By Tiffany Monhollon

So, in case you haven’t noticed yet, it’s the new year. I rang it in with a box of tissues and some zinc and vitamin c, fighting whatever illness I’ve somehow caught. So, at home the past two days, I’ve had some time to reflect between groggy pill swallowing and half-awake watching of the “Monk” marathon.

After a few hours of the Today show this morning, I realized that the thing I find most intriguing about the whole start of the year affair is how interested people are in the same old stuff, every New Year’s. We eat up anything about organization, can’t get enough of the helpful tummy flab exercise guy who’s promoting his new book, and we watch with renewed awe the summary of the fall of the careers of various celebrities as though we’ve never seen anything like it before. A week later, the same stuff is still there, without the spin of the New Year, but somehow, it’s lost its appeal.

This leads me to conclude that there must be something truly powerful in the mere concept of new. Something new in and of itself can make the ordinary seem so interesting, sparkling, shiny, desirable (even if it’s not.) Why is newness such a powerful thing?

1. It sounds good. Do you ever wonder why marketers emblazon the phrase “new and improved” – on a product even when nothing discernable has actually changed and it’s still the same essential thing you’ve been using all along? Why do bath and cosmetics stores add new fragrances and colors to their lines as quickly as they discontinue them? Because humans are enamored of the concept of new. We tire of the norm, we want the glamour of change. But here’s the kicker: nine times out of ten, we don’t want radical change. Just a new color, shade or ingredient to the normal thing that we love.

This is why the New Year holiday is so important to us. It gives us a moment in our lives when things can sound really good. For once, we can share our lists of resolutions with others without the shame of the reality behind them. For example: “This year, I resolve to lose 15 pounds, get rid of 50% of the clutter in my house, get a promotion at work or find a new job, and find that special someone!” Man, that sounds so much better than “I’m a lonely, overweight, slacker packrat with no motivation.” Doesn’t it? And that’s a powerful thing, because for most of the year, it’s really hard not to frame ourselves in that type of negative light. That’s why we are thankful, celebratory, and inspired when each year, we realize that there’s a time set aside to focus on the good things that we’ve done or hope to do.

2. It helps us feel good about change. The thing that’s most surprising about the New Year to me is that people treat it with so much mystery when it’s as predictable as the sunrise. It’s going to happen, the same day each year. But that doesn’t stop us from feeling some inexplicable joy when a new year arrives. I think this is a really interesting part of human makeup, and that it illustrates that we’re built this way so that we can accept the inevitable changes that occur in life. Change is going to happen, no matter what. And we don’t always deal with it well. But when we reframe change from the vocabulary of fear and risk and rephrase it in the vernacular of new, somehow, it becomes a more palatable thing.

3. It gives us hope. For whatever reason, the concept of new is a hopeful one in our culture. A new baby symbolizes the promise of life; a new relationship is full of the promise of happiness and satisfaction. Regardless of what will really be. That’s why we make resolutions each new year, even if they are the same ones as the year before. Because simply since it’s a new year, we are full of hope for ourselves and the world around us.

This is the danger of new: We believe in the power of new so strongly, we love the way it sounds so much, we can’t get enough of how it feels, we hope in it so mightily, that we often neglect to realize that newness alone will not bring about change in our lives, our careers, our businesses, our families, and beyond.

A new year does not mean better habits. A new job does not mean more satisfaction. A new marriage or relationship does not mean increased happiness. A new product does not mean success. Just like planting a seed does not mean a harvest. Unless you do the work.

Action, discipline and daily effort are required in order to capitalize on the power of new. That’s why as early as a month into the new year, many of us have already failed to meet our resolutions or given up trying to meet them. We simply don’t do the work.

So this year, are you willing to what it takes to reclaim the powers of new instead of letting them defeat you? Do you have the courage to take the first steps and stay on the path to whatever goal this New Year’s inspired you to create?

Approach new a new way. Do the work, and make new work for you.

By Tiffany Monhollon | January 2, 2008

Topics: Business, Goals, Life, Personal PR, Relationships, Success, Work |

8 Responses to “Avoiding the Danger of New”

  1. Conrad Hees Says:
    January 3rd, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Hey Tiffany!

    Really interesting post…I like the ‘new’ twist that you put on new. You are right, people do place alot of blind faith in something that is new. New things have a certain charisma about them. This is something that I may touch on on as a marketing principle on my blog in the future.

    Great writing style! I enjoyed the post very much!

  2. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    January 3rd, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks, Conrad. I think that we all need to face the reality that change requires work and not just constantly seek something new. That doesn’t mean new things are inherently bad, but they’re not inherently the answer, either. But it’s built in us to admire the new so much, it’s sort of a complex issue, because in many ways, new things do make us feel better about ourselves and the world.

    Well, thanks for dropping by the site!

  3. Rebecca Thorman Says:
    January 4th, 2008 at 9:14 am

    So right, so great! I’ve been thinking a lot about this too… thanks for more fully forming my thoughts :)

  4. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    January 4th, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Glad it resonated, Rebecca. :)

  5. Todd Rhoad Says:
    January 9th, 2008 at 4:11 am

    The allure of NEW can certainly be captivating and your concerns in avoiding its pull are definitely drawn from reality. I’ve often wondered why so many people engage in it, especially in the business world. Could it be that we don’t see how our current methods will make us successful? Maybe change normally occurs too slowly and our hopes of NEW may force it into warp speed? My hope is that we recognize that our situations are constantly changing and therefore require a constant change of strategy. After all, who would have thought years ago that we would be Blogging to make ourselves more visible and widely known (i.e. successful). The real challenge is understanding what NEW should be adopted. My recommendation is that it should not be chosen lightly nor alone. Multiple perspectives are always useful in deciding where one puts their energy and time. After all, these are limited resources and we can’t afford to waste them.

    Todd Rhoad
    Author, Blitz the Ladder

  6. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    January 9th, 2008 at 5:33 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree that change is most times an evolutionary process, rather than an all-at-once thing. That doesn’t mean change doesn’t come, or that it’s a bad thing when it does. But more that to be effective, we have to interject ourselves and our effort into the process, rather than simply relying on the fact that something is new. Or else, everything is merely novelty.

    Good point as welll that our time, effort and attention are important resources that we must invest wisely. This reminds me of a recent comment I saw on or regarding a ProBlogger post in which a reader commented that they wished they hadn’t stopped blogging just to get into Twitter and other New! And! Exciting! social media things. Not to say all those things are bad, but just to be careful that you’re putting your time into things that are investments which will pay off. The reader saw blogging as a more worthwhile endeavor (of course, after the new of the other whatever wore off), and I think that’s because to be successful at blogging, you have to commit and invest the effort into it. Just as we’re saying in this very conversation!

  7. Shawn Says:
    January 18th, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Your post is spot on. A wise PR professor once told me that people are drawn to things that are new, exciting, and different. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a lot of pressure. I mean, to come up with something that’s all three?

    But that doesn’t mean we should avoid “the new.” To put our stamp on our jobs, careers, and lives, we’ve got to go after it each and every day.

  8. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    January 18th, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks, Shawn. When we make the effort to use it, new is important and powerful every day, but it takes more than simply thinking that new will make a difference without personal action. New without action is just novelty!