‘New year, new me!’ Is it a resolution worth keeping?

Some people set a goal every year while others do not. See what some of the Saints community did. Click on an image to see it larger. (graphics by Laura Gillespie)

To become a better person or not to? That is basically the question behind New Year’s Resolutions. Every year people all around the world make goals to try to become the best versions of themselves. In theory, it’s a great concept but not every great concept becomes a reality. 

I know for countless years I have told myself “On the first of the year I’m going to workout more and eat healthier.” 

I think my record for that resolution was a week. I tell myself I’m going to eat less sugar or only eat whole foods but then I see the leftover Christmas cookies and eat my body weight in gingerbread men. 

Another great resolution is to workout more. It doesn’t matter your age or fitness level, everyone could use some good exercise. Some people make this resolution to lose weight, to tone up or to work on a specific skill for athletics. 

Brianna Rich

Once again, this resolution is great in theory until it starts to snow and the couch is practically begging you to curl up in a blanket and watch a movie. Why is it that movies just seem so much more entertaining when I know I’m supposed to be working out instead? 

So what started this trend of self improvement? Why did we as people one day wake up and say I’m going to make goals for myself and see how long I can stick to them? Most importantly, why do we always seem to fail at things that are meant to make us better?

New Year’s resolutions are not just an American tradition and actually have a long history. It is believed that the original New Year’s resolutions were made 4,000 years ago by the Babylonians. 

The resolutions were actually promises made to the gods in hopes they would earn good favor in the new year. They would make promises to pay their debts or return borrowed objects. If they kept those promises, the gods would bestow favor on them for the upcoming year. For the Babylonians, New Years was actually celebrated in March instead of January because that’s when crops were planted. 

Rome also had a similar practice to New Year’s resolutions. Julius Caesar made January 1 the beginning of the new year in 46 B.C. and named it January after Janus, a two-faced god that would inhibit doorways and arches. 

The Romans believed that Janus symbolically looked backwards to the previous year and also ahead into the future year. The Romans version of resolutions would be sacrifices to the deity as well as promises for good conduct.  

Early Christians made the first day of the year a traditional occasion to think about their past mistakes and make resolutions to do better in the future. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism created Covenant Renewal Service in 1740. 

Brianna Rich

These night watch services were typically held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and consisted of scripture readings and the singing of hymns. To this day, some evangelical Protestant churches still watch night services on New Year’s Eve and pray while making resolutions for the new year. 

Nowadays, most people don’t make promises to the gods but more so to themselves. Current New Year’s resolutions are focused on self improvement and require a lot of self discipline. Because these resolutions are mainly self focused, they often do not last long. 

Like I mentioned before, one of the most common, if not the most common New Year’s resolutions is to exercise more or improve overall fitness. Only about half of those who make resolutions will stick to them while only 35% of people actually succeeded in keeping all resolutions. 

Psychotherapists have studied the countless failures of New Year’s resolutions and have found three common denominators. Reason one for not keeping a resolution is that people don’t make them specific enough. If you have a specific goal and a way to mark progress, then you are more likely to stay motivated and keep your resolution. 

The second reason for resolution failures would be that you aren’t making your resolution positive enough. Most people write out their resolutions using negative language. Words like “stop” or “don’t” make our resolutions fail because we end up spending more time thinking about what we are trying to avoid rather than what we are actually trying to accomplish. 

The third reason for not keeping a resolution is that it’s not actually about you and what you truly desire. People often let friends, family, strangers and societal expectations influence their resolutions. Having a goal that is not specifically tailored to you makes it very difficult to follow because you aren’t passionate about the process. 

Did you make it past the dreaded first week with your resolution? If so, you hit my record and I wish you good luck with becoming part of the 35% that succeed.  

Laura Gillespie designed the infographics