Year after year, millions of people across the continents make a list of resolutions as a yearly convention. It is basically a list of goals or challenges an individual wants to meet or overcome respectively in the new year. Conventionally, the list is drawn on the last day of the previous year or in the first week of the new year. Most times, it is a promise to turn a new leaf or become a better person in specific areas of life. Regrettably, statistics over the years have shown that most people fail consistently to keep most or even all the promises made. Embarrassingly, sometimes everything can crash in the first month of the year.
The practice of writing New Year’s resolution dates back over 4,000 years ago in the Babylonian empire and it always begins with a 12-day New Year celebration, the ‘Atiku’ festival. The present-day New Year’s resolution can be traced to the ancient Rome when January 1st was declared the first day of a new year with the introduction of a new calendar in 46 B.C. by Emperor Julius Caesar.
The Babylonians and the Romans were known to making promises to their gods at this time. Keeping the promises meant more blessings for the coming year and vice versa. However, the modern-day practice of the New Year resolution seem to have more to do with breaking promises than keeping them. Most people write down a long list of the promises for the New Year. For the Christians, they take it along to the ‘watch-night’ service on 31 December for prayers. While many vow to keep their New Year’s resolutions all through the year, only a very small percentage end up following their resolution. For the majority, it will turn out as empty promises easier said than done.
In the last week of December, many people resolve to make promises to become better persons, to never offend others again, or cheat on their spouse. Those passionate to tackle negative habits or improve their health make resolutions to quit smoking or stop alcohol consumption, as well as exercise daily to lose weight, and so on. The month of December becomes a time for sober reflection. But just a week into January the first few resolutions are voided.
An 1813 article in the Boston newspaper revealed that ‘there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receiving injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behaviour, and with full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults’.
Just as in 1813, the new year’s resolution of most people have continued to be more talk, less action. According to research conducted by Richard Wiseman involving 3000 people, it was revealed that 88% of people are said to have failed to keep the New Year’s resolution. The failure to fulfil the promise made can be seen in a 2014 report that recorded that 35% of people had unrealistic goals, 33% lost track of progress, 23% couldn’t even remember their resolutions.
Also, the failure is linked by some commentators to the fact that people now make resolutions to themselves and not to a god like the Roman and Babylonians. With no fears of any divine penalty or compliance nose-dived. Another reason for failure is that people make too many resolutions.
In light of this, resolutions should be kept simple, practical and specific with a means to achieving success. Instead of making resolutions like to quit smoking which may not be practical for an addicted smoker, make a promise to reduce the number of cigarette taken each day and set a time limit to completely stop the habit. Another instance is a resolution on weight loss. Many people make new year’s resolution to lose weight, but never set measures to fulfil it. So instead of just saying – I need to lose 30kg in 2021- put down how that can be achieved like doing 200 minutes exercise weekly at home. If the gym cannot be accessed, turn to eating less and balanced diets and a time limit for food.
While setting a timeframe to achieve resolutions is key, it could also be a means to failure when an unrealistic time limit is set and frustration set in. This is due to the fact that bad habits are not easy to stop and ‘if you’re building a habit, you’re planning for the next decade, not the next months’ says Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit’, cited in the New York Times.
Besides, the resolutions should also matter to you and not to the society. Setting resolutions to please the society instead of oneself is bound to fail as interest will be lost in the long run.
Making your new year’s resolution is not for spiritual purposes alone as most people feel. It could be for an increase in your finances or self-development such as getting a job in the new year, learning a new skill etc. One can also be motivated to achieve the resolutions when rewards will be made for a promise kept. The resolutions are best kept to one’s self as telling it out to the wrong people can lead to discouragement and negative comments.
The year 2021 is just a few hours from now and most people have been reflecting on the year, counting their losses and gains. We all wish for a better 2021 but can that be accomplished when the goals that are set are either forgotten or left unattended to? Let us ponder on this as we look out for another chance in 2021 to get it right.
Happy New Year!!!
Faith Omo Ohioze