Resolving Resolutions

Breaking the Cycle of Failed New Year’s Ambitions.

The term “New Year resolutions” was only coined in 1813, but the origins of the tradition trace back to the ancient Babylonians, who made vows to plant successful crops and pay off their debts. In the 1900’s, resolutions tended to lean towards spirituality and religion. Since then, they’ve evolved to center around more tangible lifestyle changes.

Today, only 9% of New Year’s resolutions are followed through to the end of the year. Despite this discouraging success rate, a steady 40% of Americans set resolutions every December for the upcoming year. Why do people continue to set these annual goals that rarely come to fruition?

When the calendar year turns, it presents a blank slate. This provides a boost of motivation and confidence that isn’t normally felt during any other time of the year. It’s seen as a resetting point, bringing a sense of hope and giving people the push to harness this potential.

The unintentional consequence that comes from the high spirits of New Year’s though, is unrealistically ambitious expectations. The problem isn’t the goals themselves, but rather the mindset that comes with tackling them. When setting a resolution, it’s easy to think too far ahead. Exercising more and picking up a new skill are two of the most common goals, and like most other resolutions, they carry very broad intentions. They also appear very daunting, making them easy to give up on.

There are ways to combat this mental challenge. First things first: keep your goal in mind, but don’t neglect the process that’s needed to get there. Instead of fixating on the outcome, consider directing your attention to the small incentives that will get you there. Change doesn’t arrive overnight; consistency is key.

Second, take the time to reflect on why you are setting a resolution in the first place. Making the necessary changes in life can be intimidating, but it can come easier if you remind yourself of the purpose behind what you’re doing. By adding a bit of meaningfulness to your actions, they can feel less like burdening chores. Not only that, but this thinking process can also help you recognize whether you’re making a resolution because you genuinely want to, or because of outside pressure.

With the arrival of a new calendar year, take a step back and think thoroughly through the whys and hows of your resolutions. The excitement and optimism that comes with a fresh start can set the path for improvement, but it can also cloud the judgment of what’s truly needed. Most importantly, remember that any day is as good as New Year’s to embark on a new goal.