It’s that time of year again, time to start the New Year’s resolutions we made in a holiday spirit of confidence and determination and begin that diet or write that book.
Last week’s Sun newspapers reported extensively on towns, school boards and other municipal agencies that both anticipated and promised to accomplish certain tasks like full-time preschool, school building upgrades and road repairs. New mayors, school board members and other appointees took oaths for 2024 and vowed to get right to work.
But before we get to how we can realistically keep resolutions, we should go back in history to when they began and why. According to Sarah Pruitt’s post on www.history.com, the ancient Babylonians were the first to make resolutions in the new year about 4,000 years ago to satisfy the Gods. Our modern-day resolutions made us answerable only to ourselves.
According to Forbes, resolutions are a common practice. The magazine published the results of a 2022 U.S. poll by the survey company YouGov that shows 37% of Americans had a goal or resolution they wanted to achieve in 2023, with 87% saying they were very or somewhat likely to keep it through the year.
Among the most common resolutions, according to a survey cited in USA Today, are to exercise more, lose weight, save money and – in a nod to our techie world – spend less time on social media. But the reasons we fail may have more to do with what the goals are and why we make them in the first place.
“I think we still make resolutions because of hope, optimism, and excitement for a fresh start in the new year, new opportunities, the natural human desire to want our lives to be better and societal pressure as well …,” doctor and life coach Dr. Tong Liu told the website verywellmind.com.
“It’s easy to get caught up in this wave of emotions until the new year settles in and loses its luster, which is usually around mid-February.”
One reason why we can’t keep some resolutions may be that we set unreasonable goals for ourselves by thinking we need help and can do better. Other reasons – according to author Katharine Chan – include making resolutions without planning if or how they will be accomplished, unreasonable expectations, a human resistance to change and prioritizing instant gratification over long-term benefits.
Failing at New Year’s resolutions is so common, there is even a national observance: Jan. 17 is Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day. But you can make your resolutions stick by simply making them not too hard and not too grand, writes Melissa Kirsch in the New York Times, adding that the new year is not the only time to better ourselves.
“You don’t need a specific day of the year to start to change your life,” she observes. “You can resolve to do something differently – spend less money, be nicer, drink more water – anytime. And you can decide to do these things for an hour, a day, a week. Then see if you want to continue.
“Vowing to overhaul your life on Jan. 1 and trying to stick with the changes forever is a tall order.”