It’s January 3 already. How this year is flying by! Have you broken your resolutions yet? It’s okay. According to Drive Research, 80% of resolvers will have forgotten their resolutions by February and only 9% of those who make resolutions will keep them all year. They also note that only 38% of adults make resolutions to start with. Why do we have such a hard time with them? It all makes us wonder, why all the excitement about New Year Resolutions?
Part of that excitement may be in the phrase itself – New Year Resolutions. New year, new you as the saying goes. Even we suggested just a week ago it might be a good time to look back at the year past and refine your approach to things attempted in the year now present. And it has history. We know that New Year resolutions go back to ancient Babylonians. That makes a four thousand year history of people resolving to do better, to be better, to live better, ever since the Babylonians began their annual promise to return borrowed tools and pay their debts at the start of the year.
The Babylonians had an edge when it comes to making resolutions. In the second millennium BCE, the year began with the Vernal Equinox. Spring, when the days are getting warmer and flowers are starting to bloom, is when nature is making its resolutions to begin a new productive year. It was natural for man to follow suit.
Research would seem to indicate January is a terrible time to start a new year. There is no astronomical occurrence that coincides with it. There is no historical or pre-historical event that occurs with it. And we can be pretty tired emotionally and physically having just wrapped up 9 weeks of over the top holiday revelry stretching back to Halloween. But for over 2,500 years, January is when most of the world begins each year. The ideal time for New Year’s Day and its accompanying resolutions just may be at the Vernal Equinox. Spring is springing, the long depressing nights are over, days are brighter and more comfortable. We are already thinking good thoughts about what the rest of the year may hold. Under those conditions our resolutions can be naturally positive and goal oriented. But since we are in the here and now with years that begin in January, even if it is not the most ideal time to do it, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let last week’s look back and plans for refinement go to waste.
You can be encouraged by the newness of the year to want to make changes, but you can’t fall into the trap of thinking you have the whole year to realize what it is that you want to accomplish with just that one thought and bold declaration of what you resolve. Without checking in with yourself for periodic updates and adjustments as the year rolls along, your resolutions have little chance of making it very far through the year.
A look at some of the things people resolve to do suggest they are easily attainable with routine check-ins for progress and adjustments, while others of the “one and done” variety are simply wishes in disguise. There are even several that tell us why so many give up on their resolutions just by the way they are phrased.
According to the results of a Forbes Health/OnePoll survey, improved fitness came out as the top 2024 resolution at 48%. Rounding out the top five are improved finances at 38%, improved mental health at 36%, weight loss at 34%, and an improved diet at 32%. The resolutions that made the bottom of the list and are desired by less than 10% of those polled include learn a new skill at 9%, make more time for hobbies at 7%, also at 7% improve work/life balance, then travel more at 6%, meditate regularly at 5%, and at 3% each drink less alcohol and perform better at work.
Those resolutions at the bottom of the list are likelier to be restated as goals with a better chance of being worked on throughout the year. It is interesting to put together Drive’s conclusion that only 9% of those making resolutions keep them all year, and that the resolutions noted by the Forbes survey with what we consider the best chance of being sustained are considered by only 9% or less of those surveyed. Although they could be more structured, these more potentially sustainable resolutions address more specific desires than the immeasurable and general better health and fitness. When we check out the top of the list and consider that almost half of those surveyed start with such vaguely worded resolutions, it explains why so many fail to follow through with them. Unlike specific goals, the most popular resolutions are not much more than wishes, and wishing is not a strategy for improving oneself.
Personal improvement is not a one-and-done type of activity. It takes a desire, a plan, an expected outcome, and a lot of work, review, adjustment, and more work. Leave the wishes for more exercise, less junk food, and more money to our daydreaming moments, but it’s never a wrong time of the year to make a conscious effort to improve one’s outlook, one’s mental health, or one’s connections with friends and family, nor a wrong time to start planning for them.
Anytime can be a great time to embrace improvement. No new year needed.