New Year's Resolutions: How They Came About And How To Keep Them

Date December 1, 2017

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, according to various polls. It’s hard to know exactly how many of us pledge to be our better selves in the coming year; The Guardian cites a YouGov survey conducted in December 2015, according to which about 63% of people make New Year’s resolutions.

LiveScience references a CBS News poll conducted in 2013, and it showed that 68% of Americans don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Anyway, the winter holiday season is the time when we reflect on our achievements in the past year and make plans for the new one.

The history of New Year’s resolutions started thousands of years ago. Ancient Babylonians vowed to give back borrowed objects and pay off debts at the start of the year. Ancient Romans started the new year by making sacrifices to Janus, a god of home and hearth, and vowing to remain conscientious.

New Year’s resolutions as we know them now date back to the 19th century. And even then it was clear that not many people managed to stick to them.

Merriam-Webster cites a satirical article from Walker’s Hibernian Magazine from 1802 which states that “the following personages have begun the year with a strong of resolutions, which they all solemnly pledged to keep” and continues with a list of unrealistic resolutions, "Statesmen have resolved to have no other object in view than the good of their country…the physicians have determined to follow nature in her operations, and to prescribe no more than is necessary, and to be very moderate in their fees."

Less than 10% of those who do make resolutions fail to keep them for longer than a few months, according to The Independent. But there are some methods that can help you fulfill the promises you’ve made to yourself at the start of the year.

Set realistic, achievable goals.

If your goal is to, say, lose 20 pounds, keep in mind that it won’t happen overnight. Take gradual steps; if you haven’t exercised much before, start with small sessions of light exercise and then move on to more intense workouts once exercising becomes a habit. Be patient; it’s the end result that matters, not the amount of time it takes you to achieve it.

Write out concrete steps you need to take to reach your goal.

For example, if your resolution is a trip to a county you’ve always wanted to visit, calculate how much transportation and lodging are going to cost, make a map of places you want to see and decide how much you need to set aside from every paycheck to be able to travel to the destination on your next vacation.

Tackle one resolution at a time.

If you’ve made several resolutions, don’t try to get everything done at once. A more reasonable approach is to start with the easiest one, and then fulfill them one by one.

Share your resolution with someone.

Tell your friends or family about your resolution. They will keep the status of your resolution in check and encourage you to follow through on it. Or maybe some of them have made the same resolution, it would be fun to work on it together!

If you’re losing motivation, remind yourself why you made the resolution.

There may be setbacks on the path to your goal, but, as ancient Romans would’ve said, “nil desperandum”! If you’re starting to feel like giving up, think about what prompted you to make that resolution in the first place. There is a quote from “Scrubs” to keep in mind, "Nothing in this life worth having comes easy."

One more thing. You don’t have to wait until the New Year to make a change.

Source: The Guardian, The Independent, MyMoneyCoach, Merriam-Webster, LiveScience

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The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Some of the suggestions presented in this article may be harmful to health or may be dangerous. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm or other consequences that may be caused by using the information provided in the article.