As we welcome every upcoming year, we often hear the phrase “New year, new me”. We hear it from our peers, relatives, or maybe even strangers around us. With it, we start new beginnings, create new foundations, rekindle and strengthen bonds, and bring personal growth into our lives through resolutions.
Indeed, each year not only sparks fireworks along the way, but it also sparks of hope arising from different opportunities that we can grab. With that “hope” in mind, we take action – an action that we are planning even before the New Year starts.
We have a name for this recurrent ritual: resolutions. Everyone has different resolutions and aspirations. We all want different things, achieve different goals, and climb to different heights.
However, we all have something in common – and that’s to ignite something within us from the sparks of hope we wish to hold on to. Resolutions are more than plans we make day by day. Unlike plans, resolutions require dedication, determination, and clear resolve.
Short History of New Year Resolutions
The idea of New Year’s Resolutions dates back to 2000 BC, when the Babylonians practiced Akitu. Akitu was a 12-day festival starting on the vernal equinox, which marked the beginning of the farming season.
It also meant planting crops, crowning their monarch, and promising to pay the debts. Returning borrowed farm equipment was a typical “New Year” resolution.
The ancient Romans absorbed the Babylonian New Year, as well as the resolutions custom. However, The Julian calendar, established in 46 B.C., set January 1st as the start of the new year, which altered the date of the celebration.
As the first month of every year, January also has similar relation to the concept of new beginnings. The word January is derived from the name of the two-faced Roman God Janus.
His front face oversees new beginnings, while his backward-looking face denotes contemplation and resolution. Janus was also known as the guardian of gates and doors.
He presided over the temple of peace, which only opened its doors during times of conflict. This temple was a haven for making new beginnings and resolutions. For these blessings, the Romans honor Janus with sacrifices and pledges of good behavior for the coming year.
In the Middle Ages, people set New Year’s resolutions as well. By resting their hands on a peacock, medieval knights would renew their vow of chivalry. The yearly “Peacock Vow,” a resolution to uphold their knightly values, would occur at the year’s end.
By the 17th century, New Year’s resolutions had become so commonplace that the thought of making and breaking them became amusing. The first use of the phrase “New Year resolution” appeared in a Boston newspaper in 1813.
What are New Year’s Resolutions?
A New Year’s resolution can be made by anyone and everyone. From children wishing to grow up to teenagers looking for answers, adults hoping to elevate themselves by taking their chances at different opportunities, and to the elderly who simply wish to improve their lives some more.
It is a decision to do or not to do something. It’s often about finding a solution to a particular problem.
If the word “resolution” simply makes you feel bad based on past experience(s) of failed commitments, call it something else, for example, an “intention.”
Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?
And yes, there are plenty of failed resolutions. They line up behind us, abandoned by the wayside, year by year by mid-January. We are trying not to look at them.
Every year, it’s the same story. The resolution becomes “too difficult” or too “unrealistic” to pursue.
Once we convince ourselves that it is, in fact, out of reach, our will and resolve would dwindle.
But sometimes the problem is not the lack of willpower. Instead, it might be because our resolution was too vague and general.
For example, planning to become a better person is a great step, but it is also rather ambiguous. There are thousands of ways for us to be considered “better persons,” and if we want it to be doable, we should consider grounding our plans in specific, auditable steps.
You can say instead, “I want to become a better person by learning how to manage my time properly.” Without realistic, concrete and measurable plans, the resolution will be blurry and unrealistic.
On other occasions, people become over-ambitious or impatient, causing them to set more resolutions than they could handle. Unfortunately, the more resolutions we set, the more difficult it would be to focus on which resolution to pursue first.
Not only will it place a heavy burden on the person, but it can also damage their confidence in their abilities, should they fail.
Lastly, people who don’t take the resolutions seriously are less likely to follow through with their resolutions. They can always find creative excuses to slip past the promises they make to themselves. Excuses can be witty, but the inner dialogue will still grate.
Here are 10 Tips to Live By Your New Year’s Resolution
- Plan Ahead – You can’t simply “wing” a resolution. You need to be aware and well-informed about the change you want to make. You also need to plan ahead to have sufficient resources or prepare for them.
- Write It Down On Paper –Research shows that the process of writing things down by hand (your goals, focus, or resolutions) will make you more likely to achieve them. For example, a study by the Dominican University in California concluded that you are 42% more likely to achieve written down goals.
- Keep Your Eyes On The Prize – Know the value of the resolution you’re planning to execute. Also, keep in mind the benefits and how rewarding it must feel when obtaining the said resolution. By constantly reminding ourselves of the rewards and the benefits, we are more likely to stay motivated and are also more likely to stay on track.
- Create An Action Plan – Create a plan and schedule action items into your calendar to keep you on your toes and moving towards your goal.
- Anticipate Problems – Not everything will go according to the plan. There will be moments where different situations and setbacks would put your patience and your commitment to the test. However, once we keep this in mind, we will see these variables as obstacles to get through, not a tall wall that impedes us from moving forward.
- Prepare Yourself For Change – You have to be mentally ready to implement and absorb the change within yourself. We have to ensure that the change we go through is not temporary. Rather, a change shall become the new norm within us in our journey to undergo resolutions.
- Put An Accountability System In-Place – If you don’t trust yourself to supervise your own behavior and discipline, you can: work with a personal trainer, join a weight-loss program, hire a language tutor, a life coach, or any other guides necessary to aid you with your resolutions.
- Don’t obsess about the distance between where you are and the ultimate goal. Instead of checking how far ahead, the prize is, focus instead on how much terrain you have already covered. This ties up with the next point.
- Track Your Progress – There’s nothing more motivating than seeing how far you’ve come. If you want to give yourself extra reassurance that you are heading in the right direction, track your progress and give yourself something to look back to. Not only does it display the pros, but also the cons: if nothing seems to be changing, don’t let it discourage you. Instead, find alternatives on how you can progress. Same goal, different path.
- Plan Your Rewards – You can reward yourself in little ways once you’re confident that you’ve made some progress. In doing so, your motivation is sure to gain a boost, and it will also help you stay on track even in the hardest situations.
- Aim To Be Better Than You Were Yesterday – We welcome small steps when aiming for our resolution. One of these small steps is ensuring that our progress is moving forward, no matter how slow it might seem. Jigoro Kano – the founder of judo – once said: “You don’t have to be better than your opponent. But you have to be better than you were yesterday”.
New Years’s Resolution Ideas
In order to live a healthy life, we can roughly categorize various types of resolutions as falling into three fields: mind, body, and spirit:
- Learn something new for either education or leisure purposes
- Organize your finances
- Learn a new language
- Turn your hobby into a career
- Learn to play an instrument
- Lose weight
- Stay fit and healthy
- Quit smoking/drinking
- Eat healthier
- Learn new sports activity
- Spend more time with family
- Volunteer and help others
- Become kinder to others
- Meet New People
- Adopt a pet
- Spend more time in nature
Not Fond of New Year?
If you’re not fond of resolutions for the future, how about taking a piece of paper and listing a few regrets about the past year?
To help focus on the future, write down your regrets on a scrap of paper and toss them into the fire! Janus, the two-faced symbol of the New Year, would approve!
Or, instead of a resolution, simply pick one word, to be your Word of the Year, and use that as your guiding principle. For example, CALM. CONFIDENT, CONSISTENT, GROW, FOCUS, etc.
Start with one intention, and once you feel that you’ve got the hang of it, pick up another one. There’s no limit to how many positive changes you can make in life, but you have to start somewhere.
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