Everyone loves a fresh start. Each year, millions of Americans ring in the new year with aspirations through the ritual of New Year’s resolutions. Depressingly, resolutions are rarely kept; nearly 50 percent of Americans set goals this time of year, but only eight percent actually follow through. It probably comes as no shock that approximately 80 percent of January gym joiners abandon their membership by the second week of February.
The origins of resolutions, interestingly, are religious. The ancient Babylonians receive credit for creating both the tradition of setting resolutions as well as celebrating the new year about 4,000 years ago. During an extensive 12-day festival, they made vows to the gods to pay their debts and return anything borrowed … with the added incentive that if they kept their word, they would bask in the gods’ favor that year. If not, they faced divine displeasure.
Roughly 2,000 years later in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar established January as the beginning of the new year, which had previously been in March. The month’s namesake, Janus, was the two-faced god of doorways and arches, symbolically looking backwards into the past and also ahead into the coming year. The Romans offered sacrifices to him at the start of the new year, promising good conduct.
Today, Americans’ top 10 resolutions include: 1) Improve health through losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, or drinking less. 2) Curb a bad habit, like smoking or nail biting. 3) Boost mental well-being — laugh more, think more positively, be less grumpy, reduce stress. 4) Reform finances by saving more or paying off debt. 5) Advance education by finishing a degree, earning a new one, or just taking a Great Courses class for fun. 6) Pick up a new hobby or spend more time improving an old one. 7) Engage in general self-improvement — be more organized, read more, or spend less time on social media. 8) Volunteer and donate more to charities. 9) Spend more quality time with family members. 10) Make new friends.
Most people have trouble sticking to their resolutions (including yours truly) primarily because they do not implement the needed strategies for success. Some helpful suggestions for meeting goals include: don’t set unrealistic goals that are ultimately unachievable. Instead, strive for small, manageable changes and then grow from there. Be specific and create an action plan, then strive to complete those steps as your daily or weekly goal. Write down your goal and look at it every day. Track your progress … it is a lot easier to resist eating the chocolate chip cookie or skipping a day of exercise if you know you are going to write the failure down in a log. Have an accountability partner to encourage you to stay on track. Set a reward for yourself when you meet your goal.
Whatever your hopes, wishes, and goals for 2018, the very best of luck, and happy New Year from CMM!