We are in full swing of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Every year at this time I contemplate the past year and think about the upcoming year. The idea of a New Year’s resolution always crosses my mind and it causes a wave of emotions: excitement, hopefulness, defeat, being overwhelmed, pressure to succeed and the list could go on and on… The idea of a resolution also causes a flurry of questions: upcoming goals, past successes, past failures, what’s next, what to change, is this worth it? This year I decided to look more into the history of New Year’s resolutions and actual outcomes of these set intentions.
Where New Year’s Resolutions Began
The Babylonians are the first civilization on record to celebrate the New Year 4000 years ago. Their celebration was based on the new moon following the vernal equinox. This generally fell in late March and was the day where there was an equal amount of sunlight and darkness. It is believed the Babylonians began making resolutions to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment; these resolutions were to gain favor with the gods and start the year off right. Over time we have transitioned to the Gregorian calendar we use today and celebrate the new year on January 1st. New Year’s resolutions have now become personal goals. Time Magazine listed the 10 most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions in 2012. After reviewing several sources, it appears this list is pretty consistent for commonly set and broken resolutions today:
- Lose Weight and Get Fit
- Quit Smoking
- Learn Something New
- Eat Healthier and Diet
- Get Out of Debt and Save Money
- Spend More Time with Family
- Travel to New Places
- Be Less Stressed
- Drink Less
Many estimates say around 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. The University of Scranton researched success rates of New Year’s resolutions, and found that only 8% of people reach their goal/s. More statistics on New Year’s resolutions can be found here.
Change is always possible, not just once a year.
In my personal life, and as a professional social worker, I believe in setting goals and intentions that will improve the quality of our lives. I’m not sure I buy into the idea of a New Year’s resolution and the pressure that comes with it. I don’t think we need to wait for the new year to look at making changes in our lives, change is possible anytime of the year. Failure is a part of success. Rather than feeling discouraged, this becomes an opportunity to try again with a different approach. It’s important to set realistic goals and break them down into manageable pieces where we can see and feel success. Loa Tzu (the inventor of Daoism) said, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with your first step.” The first step is identifying what we want to change. The second step is assembling our army of supporters to create change. This army could include family, friends, professionals: people who can be cheerleaders, who can provide education, hold us accountable, challenge us, lift us up when we struggle and celebrate our successes along the way. The third step is laying out a plan for success, and the fourth step is taking action. As much as the holiday season brings about thoughts of change, know change is possible anytime. The key to success is taking it one step at a time.