New Year’s Resolutions!
We love ’em, and we hate ’em, we make ’em we break ’em.
News Years is just around the corner – the perfect time for a moment of self-reflection, goal setting, and renewed commitments. If you are one of those folks who value taking a moment to look at your successes and accomplishments over the last year, and imagine ways to expand and improve – this blog is for you.
I admit, the idea of New Year’s resolutions that will shape an entire year can seem a bit daunting.
As a kid, I thought resolutions were a diabolical ritual created by my parents or maybe my third-grade teacher. This was all part of their endless effort to turn me into a more responsible young adult. Every year they were hoping I would get better at doing my homework on time or keeping my room clean.
But the truth is New Year’s resolutions all started over 4,000 years ago in Babylonia. Yep, that is correct, and we can blame the Babylonians. History tells us that during their New Year’s celebration, the folks in Babylon would plant crops and promise the gods to pay their debts and return any borrowed items in hopes of reaping the blessings of a good harvest. Breaking a promise would mean falling out of favor with their gods and suffering the consequences. The Romans kept up the tradition. They created the two-headed god, Janus. Romans would make their version of New Year’s resolutions listing good behaviors for the year ahead. Janus, who could look in multiple directions, would watch over things and keep score.
Variations crept up in the Middle Ages when knights would “renew their vow of chivalry by placing their hands on a live or roasted peacock.” Fast forward a few thousand years, and now we have apps. Yes, that is correct. You can find dozens of Apps for tracking New Year’s resolutions. There are apps to help you track progress in specific areas like – health, fitness, eating, learning more, being more productive, reading more, finding a new job, or breaking a bad habit. We can literally carry the god Janus in our pocket with these handy apps, accurately tracking and calculating our success without the help of a peacock. But if we break our commitment, we still suffer the same consequences as our Babylonian or Roman ancestors – personal failure.
The Whole Truth: Let’s Look at the Numbers
It seems that New Year’s resolutions are declining in popularity. According to a 2021 survey, only 27% of survey participants made any resolutions for 2020. Overall, the most popular resolutions for 2020 were to exercise more (50%), save money (49%), and eat healthier (43%). Most participants (64%) kept some of the same resolutions from 2019 and also made some new ones. According to the time management firm Franklin Covey, one-third of resolutioners don’t make it past the end of January.
But here is the good news. For those who make resolutions and keep them, there are measurable positive results.
“…after 6 months, 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it. In comparison, of those people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution, only 4% are still successful after 6 months.”
No surprise, the process of setting and writing down resolutions seems to be a more successful strategy than just creating a list of goals.
You become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently discovered that those who wrote down their goals and dreams on a regular basis achieved those desires at a significantly higher level than those who did not. In fact, she found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Re-imagining New Years Resolutions
“Resolutions are NOT an invitation to start a diet or a workout plan but a beautiful reminder that a new year can bring new life to our passions.”
The idea that the end of a year is a great time to access our past year and create dreams and intentions for the New Year is powerful.
While the old tradition of New Year’s resolutions may be losing popularity, the notion of year-end completion, setting intentions, and clarifying visions for the future are catching fire with self-help and transformational leaders, business coaches, and efficiency and productivity seminars.
Christine Aylo reminds us that “Out of completion of the past year comes the inspiration for the New Year. Resolutions become more than just a checklist of things you wished you would or wouldn’t do. They create a time of reflection on who we want to be in life. A time to rekindle our passions and sharpen our purpose. A time to reflect and connect.” Influencer Mik Zazon says: “… resolutions are NOT an invitation to start a diet or a workout plan but a beautiful reminder that a new year can bring new life to our passions.”
Getting It Right
Still, the idea of resolutions can be daunting. It’s easy to assume we will fall short. I, for one, am not eager to jump into an activity where the odds are I will join the Babylonians, Romans, and chivalrous knights and be humiliated and a failure. But hey, maybe it is not us, perhaps it is how we make resolutions.
According to the experts, many resolutions fail because they’re not the “right” resolutions. Here are four main reasons:
It’s a resolution created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change.
It’s too vague.
It’s an unrealistic goal, and you don’t have a realistic plan for accomplishing your resolution.
It’s the same thing you have been trying to do for years.
How to Make New Years Resolutions that Work for You
There is something exciting and empowering about New Year’s eve. We are standing at the end of one year and looking into the blank future of the next. We have a fresh start, another chance to build on our successes, become masters at healthy habits, and expand our capacity for joy and kindness. We have a fresh start, another chance to build on our successes, become masters at healthy habits, and expand our capacity for joy and kindness.
Find Your Style
There are so many ways to make rituals and resolutions work for you. Start by finding your style and making it fun.
- If you love tech, download an app to help you clarify and track your commitment
- If you love social support – join a Facebook or Mastermind group
- If you love journaling – get a journal, join a writing group
- If you are a visual person, make a vision board and keep it where you can see it.
- If you are a creative type – create a custom calendar. Use crayons to decorate it and fill it with heart or star stickers for every day you stay on track.
- If you love rituals – create a special time and place to create your New Year. Burn the list of past failures and regrets and start anew. Revisit the ritual during the year.
- If rewards motivate you, build in rewards, treats, and prizes for your accomplishments.
- Know your “why.” Make sure your resolution is something you want to change or explore, not something you think you must improve. Make sure it’s meaningful to you. Passion can be more effective than willpower.
- A year is a ridiculously long time. Break long-term goals into monthly smaller goals if your New Year resolves to get fit. Walk a few blocks in January, a half-mile in February.
- Instead of a list of actions to take or things to do, consider adding ways of being like: “be kinder,” “be happier, laugh more,” “be at peace and enjoy more sunsets.”
- Reward and celebrate the successes no matter how small.
- Consider making SMART resolutions. SMART is an acronym coined in the journal Management Review in 1981 for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Treat life like a business and debrief your year. Ask yourself, “what did I do well, what worked, what did not work, how would I like to do things differently in the future?”
- Remember, you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Reward and celebrate successes no matter how small.
Think Outside the Box
- If you want to be more physically active, but you have never been successful at going to the gym, do not sign up for a gym membership. Find a friend or an older person who needs to have someone walk their dog in the afternoon or try your hand at pickleball.
- If you get bored in Yoga, go on walking photography tours around your city or take a Latin dance class.
- If you dream of giving up sugar but crave sweets, learn to make cookies and desserts with honey and dates. Invite friends over for cookie-making parties.
Make it Fun!
Above all, have fun.
Consider creating a tagline or motto, or find a favorite quote for the upcoming year. Pick an animal mascot that has qualities you admire to keep you inspired. Be your own cheerleader.
And last but not least, look at the past and the possibility of the future with gratitude. Reflect on the past year and make a gratitude list that will inspire and set the tone for the year to come.
Oprah reminds us,” ‘Focusing on one thing that you are grateful for increases the energy of gratitude and rises the joy inside yourself. ‘
Appreciate that human beings for thousands of years have been asking, “how can I do better?”
And maybe, just maybe, you will want to add a gratitude resolution to your list. And make a commitment to celebrate yourself more, be kinder to yourself, and tell others in your life how grateful you are for their friendship and love.
Wishing you great joy, success, and wonder for the year ahead,
The guudguuds team 💖
Some Guud reading
- The Power of Writing It Down, Allison Fallon
- The Five Minute Journal
- Oprah’s Life You Want Planner
- Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin
- Are You Fully Charged, Tom Rath
- Becoming, Michelle Obama
- Atomic Habits, James Clear
- Kick Off the New Year Right with Resolution Ideas from Parade
- 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude from Psychology Today
- Top 3 Reasons Resolutions Fail from Forbes