Are you going to give it a try?
They’re baaaack! It’s time again to make your New Year’s resolutions, or not.
Ah, New Year’s resolutions. We can’t seem to live with them or without them. Tens of millions of people each year, with determined looks on their faces and sincerity in their hearts, promise to lose weight, eat healthier, spend more time with their children, give up smoking or any of a dozen resolution favorites, despite studies showing that most are unsuccessful and soon give up.
And there is so much talk about the subject, you would think everyone made them. On the Internet, special websites on New Year’s resolutions abound, from general explanations of the practice to top 10 lists for resolutions on health and finance, recommendations for teens, mothers, fathers and families as a whole, and stories on resolutions by celebrities and politicians. There are even sites full of cartoons making fun of the vows and those citing pithy quotes about them by humorists and philosophers.
So what is an imperfect person to do when the new year rolls around and past failures are staring them in the face? Simple. Try, try again.
Resolutions can be about anything – personal goals or professional ones, those involving other people or just yourself. Their basis can be religious in nature or
secular. But regardless of the sociology, resolutions are a way for people to strive to better themselves and live fuller, happier lives. So, if at first you don’t succeed …
What’s your resolution for 2014?
The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions goes back to the ancient Babylonians, who promised the gods to repay debts and return borrowed goods. At that time, people used a lunar calendar, and New Year’s took place on March 23, the beginning of the spring planting.
It became firmly entrenched as a custom with the Romans, who stopped using a lunar calendar in favor of a solar one. They named the first month, January,
after the mythical Roman king Janus, a figure with two faces who looked back on past events and forward to the future. He became the symbol of New Year’s
resolutions, because he could see the weaknesses and bad acts of the previous 12 months and the possibility of correcting them in the coming year.
Medieval knights similarly took vows – apparently while touching a peacock, which early Christians considered a symbol of immortality – at the end of Christmas
week and the beginning of the new year, and even wore a peacock feather in their helmets to remind them of their oaths. They later roasted the peacocks –
and presumably ate them – not the first time others had paid the price for someone making a resolution.
At watchnight services on New Year’s Eve, Christians often review the past year, confess their sins, and then make resolutions to prepare for the coming year.
Other religions have also adopted rituals of self-improvement. Jews, for example, reflect upon their sins of the past year and ask forgiveness from God during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which follows soon after the new year.
In all of these cases, resolutions are made to exorcise bad habits, sins, and weaknesses, in order to enter the new year with a clean slate and achieve a better life.
Resolutions in the U.S. have changed over the years. Our Puritan forefathers encouraged their children to reflect on the past year and think about the coming one, rather than celebrate New Year’s with frivolity. It was hoped that these resolutions would encourage them to avoid sin, treat their neighbors with more kindness and better utilize their talents.
At the end of the 19th century, New Year’s resolutions tended to focus on doing good deeds and becoming less selfish, more helpful to others, and better human beings.
One hundred or so years later, resolutions have become more self-centered, with health, diet, beauty, and personal finance seeming to dominate the list of popular vows.
New Year’s Day : Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
– Mark Twain
Never tell your resolution beforehand, or it’s twice as onerous a duty.
– John Selden
For eleven months and maybe about twenty days each year, we concentrate upon the shortcomings of others, but for a few days at the turn of new year we look at our own. It is a good habit.
–Arthur H. Sulzberger
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.
–Edith Lovejoy Pierce
A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.
– Author Unknown
Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
– Oscar Wilde
Many people look for ward to the new year for a new start on old habits.
Experts seem to suggest that you have the best chance to keep your resolutions by doing the following:
– Make only one resolution at a time. Don’t try to change too many parts of your life at once.
– Make a written plan with clear and definite goals. Vague aims generally produce vague results and give you an excuse not to do your best
– Learn from past experience. Remember the obstacles that prevented you from succeeding and find a way to overcome them.
But first think long and carefully about how to accomplish your goals. If you want to get fitter, for example, try to find exercise activities that are enjoyable so you will want to continue doing them. And find someone you like to exercise with. Makes sense, right?
Want to spend more time with your kids, schedule an activity you like to do together, or plan a family meal. Everyone has to eat, don’t they?
Regardless, once you have a resolution, be positive about it. Use it to motivate yourself. See yourself at the end of that finish line – whether that means being skinnier, fitter, tobacco free, more relaxed, closer to your family, or just plain happy that you have succeeded.