By Michelle Reynolds, Staff Writer
It is almost New Year’s, which means new stresses, new opportunities, and most likely creating a New Year’s resolution. Many people set goals, but few actually complete them. So how did this tradition of creating resolutions at New Year’s begin?
The very beginning
Around 4,000 years ago, Babylonians rang in the New Year with a festival, though many sources cannot agree on how long the festival lasted. Sources say it could range anywhere from 11, 12, or 15 days. This celebration happened mid-March when the crops were planted. According to History.com, during this religious festival known as Akitu, “the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed…They reportedly made promises to the gods in hopes they’d earn good favor in the coming year.” These promises could be seen as the very first New Year’s resolutions.
In 46 B.C., Roman emperor Julius Caesar moved the first day of the year to January 1 in honor of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. According to History.com, “January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.” However, the idea of switching the New Year took some time to catch on. It was Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 that brought the January 1 New Year into style with the Gregorian calendar.
History.com states that “for early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future.” This tradition was started by English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, in 1740. Wesley created the Covenant Renewal Service, also known as watch night services. Mostly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, this night included reading Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the boisterous celebrations normally held.
Most common resolutions
According to a ComRes poll, the top five most common New Year’s resolutions are
- Exercise more (38 percent)
- Lose weight (33 percent)
- Eat healthier (32 percent)
- Take a more active approach to health (15 percent)
- Learn new skill or hobby (15 percent)
Do you go through with your resolutions?
A poll published by Bupa found that half of the people who set New Year’s resolutions were not confident they would stick to it. According to psychologytoday.com, 22 percent will fail after one week, 40 percent will fail after one month, and 50 percent after three months. However some studies have bleaker results and show that only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals.
Psychologytoday.com also states that the top three reasons people fail at completing their resolutions are due to unclear goals, not measuring progress, and lack of self-control when faced with a challenge.
How to finish what you start
The statistics are not on your side when it comes to completing your resolution, but do not be discouraged. Here are some tips to help.
- Do not make your goal a secret
“When you keep resolutions a secret, no one is going to check up on you,” said Joe Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. So for all the Social media lovers out there, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat offer great ways to let others know of your goals. According to telegraph.co.uk, men (26 percent) and women (21 percent) say technology is the key to helping keep their goals on track.
- Limit yourself to how many goals you set
With multiple goals, people cannot commit 100 percent to each of them but setting one goal allows us to focus all our attention on that goal.
- Set a specific/realistic goal
Saying you want to save money for a vacation is fine, but how much money do you really need? Being specific can make all the difference.
Bupa found that around one in five people admitted to setting overly ambitious goals. However 52 percent said setting small, more achievable goals would help them stick to their resolution.
While being specific is important, so is being realistic in what you are trying to accomplish and the time frame you give yourself.
- Have steps towards completion
Experts say you will be more successful with goals that have easily identifiable steps. According to Philip Clarke, psychology lecturer at the University of Derby Online Learning, “the biggest mistake is that many people identify what they want to achieve but do not think about how to do it.” Humans work better when they have a clear goal in mind.
Telegraph.co.uk says that planning steps is important because our main goal may be 6-8 months away but by setting short term goals you will always have an upcoming goal to work towards. Setting steps allows us to measure and see our progress as time passes. Seeing how far we have come can also help keep people motivated.
Knowing how to achieve your goal is as important as knowing what the goal is. So the first step after you come up with the goal is to write it down. Experts say if you write down your goal, it is 42 percent more likely to happen. When recording a goal you are making a conscious commitment that this is what you want to achieve. So write it down and stick it somewhere you can easily see.
Over the years, people have gone from making promises to the gods to making resolutions for themselves, focusing primarily on self-improvement. With New Year’s around the corner, many will follow tradition and create a New Year’s resolution. However, if you want an easy resolution this New Year’s, make it about finding out how the origins of the New Year’s resolutions came to be. If you do and you read this article, you have already completed your resolution!
Happy New Year’s everyone.