‘Tis the season for promises to yourself, New Years, when many confuse idle wishing with self-improvement. New Year’s Resolutions have been being made (and likely broken) for over 4,000 years. It is said the ancient Babylonians at the beginning of each year promised the gods to be better during the upcoming year. The Romans similarly promised good behavior to the god Janus at the beginning of the year. John Wesley, the eighteenth-century cleric who founded Methodism, established the Covenant Renewal Service held on New Year’s Eve as an occasion to thinking about one’s mistakes and resolving to do better in the future. And in the twenty-first century, according to a 2018 survey by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 45% of Americans promise to improve themselves in the upcoming year. The same survey established that 8% of those are successful.
How do you use the new year as an opportunity to work on a new you? Consider what a resolution is. In the sense of what we what to accomplish at New Year’s, a resolution is the firm decision to behave in a certain manner, a promise to oneself to improve a situation, or the decision to adhere to a certain course of action. Something is missing from these “definitions.” Although they use words like “firm” and “certain,” they don’t specify how, or when. Many resolutions don’t even include the what. Consider what might be the most resolved New Year’s decision, to lose weight. How much? An absolute number or a percent? At what rate? By when? Using what method – diet, exercise, fasting, moderation, all the above? It may be that only 8% of those wishing for improvement actual improve because they are the ones who have a plan versus the 92% of those who are only wishing. How can we be part of the 8%?
We had been alluding to New Year’s and New Year’s Resolutions in our two previous blog posts. In “Epilogue” (Dec. 1, 2021), we encouraged you to use the early days of December to reflect on how good the year had gone, what you had your accomplished, what was left to do, and how to use the last few days of the year most effectively. Those leftover unmet goals then might be revised for the new year. Then in “That one thing” (Dec. 15, 2021), we challenged you to find one thing from 2021 that was so positive for you, you could resolve to repeat it in 2022. Today, while there are still a few days before we tack the newest calendar on the wall, it’s time to put into words what you will put into action next week.
Start with the positive, your “one thing,” as the resolution you are guaranteed to keep. Choose wisely from among the good things that happened in 2021 that you want to highlight in 2022, the one thing you could count on to bring a smile your face at the end of each day. And then select one other from the “leftover” unmet goals of 2021. Visit it critically. Begin with the knowledge that just by thinking of it among all that you could do, it must be important. Then ask, why was it unmet? Not enough resources, not the right resources on hand, not enough time, lack of knowledge, too many steps to do yourself, not physically capable, or not physically possible because of circumstances beyond your control? If you know it is important and you know how to overcome the obstacles, you know how to word your resolution not as a resolution, but as a goal!
Recall from our post on goals, “The relentless pursuit of perfection?” (Aug. 25, 2021), we encouraged the use of SMARTER goal setting. SMART goals are those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. Two components to pay close attention to regarding resolutions are how specific the goal is written and that it is attainable. We said at that time, “when you write your goals, reach for the ceiling, not the stars” and that is most true at the beginning if the year for an initial lift! In that earlier post we then added -ER to make our goals even smartER, Evaluate and Re-do or Re-adjust. Re-do the successful one (that one thing) and re-adjust those not so completely satisfied (those leftover unmet goals then might be revised for the new year).
There are always going to be those non-resolution resolutions. Eat less, exercise more, stay off the couch, don’t nag, don’t drink, lose weight, don’t insult the boss in public. These are the resolutions that often are forgotten by January 2. But life changing challenges deserve more than wishing to encourage improvement. Be positive, resolve to do something, not avoid something. And treat your resolutions as your goals because goals are SMARTER than resolutions.
It’s a new year, and you deserve a new you to celebrate! Celebrate the new you this new year with us. How will you use the new year as an opportunity to work on a new you? Tell us your resolutions in the comments and come back and visit them throughout the year. Resolve to be a new you, to refresh your enthusiasm and add more passion to your purpose. Resolve to do good things.