New Year’s Resolutions – Do They Actually Work?

What’s the point in committing to something that you’ll quit in a few weeks?

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Creating Resolutions (Illustrated by Evelyn L)

In just a few weeks, it will be 2022! With every new year comes a tradition that has been happening for 4000 years, tracing all the way back to the Babylonian Empire: creating New Year Resolutions! Resolutions have become a popular tradition with the upcoming years, and creating them have become very common. From things like “Exercise more often” or “Get Better Grades”, these type of resolutions have been seen almost everywhere on the 1st of January. The thing is, something else you always see is people quitting their resolutions just weeks, maybe even days after making them. These half-hearted goals often fail, and not uncommonly. Though the fact that creating resolutions is a fairly simple idea, it’s sticking to that goal that makes it difficult to follow. Why’s that? Resolutions are usually things that you think you should do, not things that you know you’ll do. These 4 words, think and should, versus know and do, are very different things. It’s the source of failure in resolutions, and it’s why so many of them get dropped so soon. But why, and how can we create resolutions that actually work?

What’s the History behind it?

According to History.com, ancient Babylonians began making resolutions about 4000 years ago. They were also the first to start celebrating the beginning of a new year, even though their year started in March rather than January like us. There was a 12 day religious festival called Akitu when they crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the current king. Along with that, they promised to the gods to pay their debts and return any borrowed objects. Historians consider these traditions to be connected as the start of New Year’s resolutions.

The beginning of the year became January when Julius Caesar later in Ancient Rome established January 1 as the beginning of the new year in 46 BC. He named it for a god named Janus who lived in doorways and arches. This month became significant because the Romans believed that Janus looked backwards into the previous year, and ahead in the future. They offered sacrifices to the god and made promises that they would be good for the new year. Nowadays, people mostly focus on creating resolutions for themselves for self-improvement, and to also have a fresh start for the new year.

What do the Stats Say?

In February, you would have likely abandoned your resolution by 80%. If you don’t, you’ll probably have a 46% chance of keeping it for 6 months. If we push forward even more, less than 10% of people will keep their resolution for the entire year. But by that point, most of us would probably be thinking of more resolutions to create. In other words, thinking of more pointless words to write on a piece of paper that you’ll never get done. These numbers are really low, and they could make you question: Why bother with resolutions? Can you make them work rather than fail? (Source of info: forbes.com, wavelength.asana.com)

As stated earlier, the main reason people quit their resolutions is because they think of things they should do, not write about things they know they’ll do. If you create resolutions half-heartedly, you won’t feel as committed as you thought you would’ve. To not feel motivated will leave you quitting your resolution before you make any headway. This is what leads to those low statistics.

How Can You Make Resolutions That Work?

Resolutions can often fail without preparation or motivation. (Illustrated by Evelyn L)

It’s always a good thing to set goals for yourself, but they only become beneficial when your mindset is up for the challenge. It would be pointless to try achieving something and not create any effort. On a YouTube channel called CGP Grey, his video titled “Your Theme” discusses how trying to create resolutions and failing is like going to a rodeo, riding on a bull that throws you off, and slouching away, only to come back a year later to the same rodeo, probably riding on the same bull, and expecting a different result. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Whether Albert Einstein really quoted that or not, you have to admit that it doesn’t make sense to expect different result from the same actions. So what can we do?

First of all, start by choosing a realistic and specific goal. Rather than the common resolutions often made like, “Eat less junk food”, “Exercise more,” or “Less screen time”, try creating a goal that is specific enough for you to do on either a daily or weekly basis. An example would be “Walk around outside for 15 minutes.” This is a pretty good alternative to both the “exercise more” and “less screen time” resolution. One important thing to note is that you should have limited resolutions. If you have too many things to juggle at once, it would be difficult to really focus on one thing.

Remember how in P.E. that everyone started out by running a small lap in the field around just 1 backstop? The first few weeks of that felt pretty tiring considering that most of us hadn’t actually done any real exercise over the pandemic. Then after that, we were moved to doing one full lap of the field. The first time doing that must of been exhausting, but after doing it for a couple months, even though you still end up tired at the end, it would probably feel easier than the first time. If you tried running the small lap again around 1 backstop, you’d think, piece of cake. That’s improvement!

It’s the same deal with resolutions. Take one step at a time. Don’t try jumping up all the way to the next floor, only superheroes can do that. We’re not superheroes, we’re ordinary people. When we go up the stairs, we usually go up one step at a time. Sometimes even two. The point is, going up the stairs is like trying to achieve a goal. If you come in too strong and try to jump up 10 steps at a time, that would be nearly impossible. But if you go easy on yourself and step up slowly, one by one, reaching the top will be easier. Then when you do it again, you could go faster, go two steps at a time, and so on. So, the next time you make a resolution to celebrate the start of 2022, be sure to go easy on yourself first, and then go up the hill as you progress.