Why do we make New Year’s resolutions? And what can we do to be successful at keeping them?
The tradition of making new year’s resolutions dates back to 153 b.c., when the Romans named each month of the year. January was named after Janus, the early Roman god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. Janus encouraged a look back on the previous year that included forgiving grudges and atoning for the sins of the year by presenting offerings and making promises, which we now call resolutions (something we resolve to do) in the new year. It was believed these promises and offerings would provoke Janus to forgive the past and bless the future. And the tradition was born.
Resolutions can be short or long term goals and can be about anything, though the most common are about physical health, saving money and enjoying life to the fullest. After the holidays, which can be particularly stressful and full of over indulgences, it’s common for people to choose health and fitness related goals. “Next year I’ll be fitter and healthier” is the number one new year resolution people make. Some studies find only 8% of people keep their new year resolutions, yet people who make a firm promise with a plan can be 10 times more likely to follow through in the new year. Having a plan and resolving to keep it puts one at an advantage over those who don’t.
But how does one be sure to keep their resolutions instead of feeling like a failure as soon as the new year starts? Here are some tips for making – and keeping – successful resolutions.
How do you know what resolutions to make? If you’re not sure where to begin, take some time to write on questions that will illuminate the struggles and triumphs of the last year and show you where you want to be moving toward, such as:
1. What was the biggest lesson you learned last year? What prompted the lesson and what did you learn from it?
2. What was your biggest challenge last year? Where did you struggle or suffer, in relationships, health, career, etc.?
3. When did you feel most alive?
4. What are you ready to let go of and leave behind?
5. What do you wish you could change? If you could go into the new year with one thing different, what would it be?
Write it out
Writing out your answers to the above questions and then your resolution(s) for the new year is like signing a contract with yourself. Writing it down makes it a bit more real and may cause you to be 10 times more likely to be successful. Once your resolution has been recorded, keep it in a place you’ll see it everyday, like taped to the front of your bedroom door or on the wall in your kitchen. Act as if you’re already living out your goal.
Strength in numbers
Choose an accountability partner(s) whom you can check in with on a regular basis. Someone who has a similar goal to yours is great, but if it’s a person you trust and feel can keep you motivated they will do fine. Explain to them why you’ve chosen your gaol and its importance to you, which will renew your dedication and give them insight into how to be the best accountability partner.
Setting specific dates ahead of time to check in on your progress and regroup will keep you from the risk of procrastination that leads to a drop off of working on your goals altogether. This is where short and long term goals (again with specific dates) can be especially helpful. For example, saying “I resolve to lose 20 lbs” is too vague and less likely to be kept than saying, “I resolve to work out 3 times a week with check ins at week 2, 4, 6 and 8 with my accountability partner.” Mark your calendar with your check in dates and you’re more likely to keep them.
Making a resolution part of your new year with scheduled check ins, accountability partners and a clear plan will help you succeed in hitting your new year goals. And it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself just as you would your accountability partner. If you skip a workout or don’t hit a goal in time don’t be tempted to stop completely; every day is a chance to start again, even if it’s not the start of a new year.
To your good health,