Lose weight, stop smoking, spend more time with family, eat healthier. What is your New Year’s resolution for 2022? By definition, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. Without fail on New Year’s Eve, thousands of Americans make promises to change something in their life with which they are unhappy. The start of a year is an excellent time for an out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new attitude. For better fortune, we look ahead to the future rather than dwell on the past. Resolving to improve personally is a way to keep moving forward, even if the intended result is unsuccessful.
In the words of Henry Ward Beecher, a 19th-century minister: “Every man should be born again on the first of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle, if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but, on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take interest in the things that are and are to be, and not in the things that were and are past.”
How Resolutions Got Their Start
Similar to decorated trees on Christmas and four-leaf clovers on St. Patrick’s Day, resolutions got their start many years ago. Babylonians were the first to honor the new year more than 4,000 years ago. Part of their resolution-making was to reconfirm their devotion to the king. In addition, the Babylonians believed they would receive good fortune in the coming year if they promised the gods to repay their debts and return any items they borrowed.
In Rome 46 B.C., Julius Caesar fiddled around with the calendar and named Jan. 1 the start of a fresh year. Janus, the god that represents January, was a spirit that lived in doorways and arches; the apparition had two faces, one that looked to the past and one that looked to the future. Romans showed respect to the deity by offering sacrifices and resolving to conduct themselves appropriately for the next 12 months.
Though making a New Year’s resolution was established eons ago, we still partake in some variation today. In modern America, there is less focus on the spiritual aspect of how these traditions began. So, while we may not all be making sacrifices to gods, many of us will participate in a New Year’s resolution or two.
What Are the Odds?
Over the years, many have tried, and nearly as many have failed, to complete their newly set goals. In 2016, 41% of Americans established a resolution, and only 9% felt successful by the end of the year. Why is the failure rate so high? There are several ways to sabotage the success of the desired objective. One sure way to fail is to set an unrealistic goal. However, once completed, easily achievable targets will function as confidence boosters and increase the likelihood of continued prosperities. Among the other ways to sink the ship of resolutions is not to track progress, make too many resolutions, or forget about your goals over time.
Is it possible our ancestors got it wrong when they opted for Jan. 1 to be the day to start anew? Here is a thought-provoking statement from the hit film Bridget Jones’ Diary:
“But then I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you? Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year’s Day isn’t a good idea as you can’t eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.”
Regardless of the presumption of failure, people continue to attempt New Year’s resolutions annually. Even for those who have repeatedly failed, the first day of the year dawns with a fresh chance for self-improvement.
~ Read more from Kirsten Brooker.
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