Photo of a piece of lined paper with "New Year's Resolutions" written at the top and a pen beside it.
Nowadays, many perceive the act of making New Year's resolutions as cheesy, but they can seriously improve your life if you go about them in the right way. (Photo by Tim Mossholder from Unsplash)
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Photo of a piece of lined paper with "New Year's Resolutions" written at the top and a pen beside it.

The tradition that originated millennia ago might be fading away as the new years come and go. Here are some ways you can preserve it.

The new year is almost upon us, and with it comes the age-old tradition of making our New Year’s resolutions. Do you still do them? It seems as if they are becoming less and less common as time goes on. Sure, we all made them years ago, but however good our intentions, they always seemed to be forgotten by February.

How Did the Tradition Begin?

The first New Year’s resolutions were made over 4000 years ago by the ancient Babylonians. Yes, this tradition that is slowly dying began that long ago. These people are also the first to be recorded holding celebrations to honor the incoming new year. However, their new year began in mid-March rather than January because that is when their crops were planted. During this 12-day celebration, they would pledge their loyalty to the king or crown a new king. At this time, the Babylonians promised to return borrowed items and pay back any debts they had accrued before the gods they worshipped. When their promises were kept, their pagan gods would look favorably upon them for the upcoming year. If they did not keep their promises, they would be looked upon with disfavor by their gods. This is something no one wanted.

Years later, the early Christians chose the first day of the brand new year as a time to think over their past mistakes and make a pact to do better the following year. In the year 1740, an English clergyman named John Wesley, who was also the founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, which was held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. This became the time when one reflected upon their actions in the previous year and made plans for how they wanted to do better for the following year.

Once upon a time, these traditions involved a church of some sort and included the acts of praying and pleading with the gods. Nowadays, however, a New Year’s resolution is usually a promise that you make only to yourself, close friends or family. Many of these resolutions are, in fact, for self-improvement.

Popular Ideas For Resolutions

Surprisingly, the most popular New Year’s resolution is to read more. Other common resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, eating better, getting more organized, learning a new skill or hobby, traveling to a bucket-list destination, saving more money, quitting smoking or drinking, living life to the fullest and spending more time with friends and family. Do any of these resolutions sound familiar? Is one or more of these on your list this year, if you have one? These are only some of the go-to New Year’s resolutions over the years.

How Many People Still Do Them?

Today, only about 45% of the world’s population make New Year’s resolutions — that means that less than half of the entire world makes lists of goals or commitments for the new year. And can you believe that only 46% of this already small percentage will still be pursuing their New Year’s resolutions in six months?

In the United States alone, the statistics show that about 55% of adults will make a New Year’s resolution, but only 8% will follow through with it and be successful. I know we all begin January feeling gung-ho about doing this, but as the days drag on, things happen and those New Year’s resolutions fall away. What is your dirty little secret for why you cannot keep your New Year’s resolution if you are one of those who falls off the wagon?

After about one week of pursuing a New Year’s resolution, 75% of people worldwide are still going strong. After week two, the number has already dropped to 71%. Still, that is not so bad. After four weeks, however, it slides to 64%. The number drops lower and lower as the months go on, and only 46% of those who began the year with a New Year’s resolution are still going strong at month six.

There was a study done in 2014 that showed that 35% of participants who ended up failing their New Year’s resolutions found that their goals were unrealistic. Another 33% of people abandoned their goals due to a failure to keep track of their progress. Geez, what a way to fail; I think that should fall under keep yourself more organized, too. Another 23% just plain forgot about their resolutions — I guess they weren’t that important to them. Maybe, they were made under duress, but who knows? Lastly, about one in 10 people who ended up unsuccessful stated that they made too many New Year’s resolutions. I guess having so many resolutions that you can’t keep track could also be a cause for failure.

Tips For Keeping At Your New Year’s Resolutions

Make sure you mentally prepare yourself for the change you want to make. In other words, get ready. Make sure you try to stay as positive as possible about this new change. Do not make your goals too big, and work toward them gradually. Also allow a bit of room for error on your end, which can keep you encouraged, especially in the beginning.

Set a goal that motivates you. If it’s not something you really want to do, you will probably fail because your heart is not in it. Align your New Year’s resolution to make your innermost thoughts, wishes, dreams and desires come true.

Limit your resolutions. There is no way you are going to be able to learn 10 new languages or eliminate several unhealthy habits all at once. Pick and choose your battles, and do not overwhelm yourself.

Be as specific as you can. Do not just say “I want to lose weight,” but put a number on it instead. For example, say that you want to lose 10 pounds and make sure you create a timetable to follow. Instead of saying, “I want to be healthy,” define that by saying you want to cut back on carbohydrates, eat less sugar or you want to stop smoking altogether. Keep it short but defined so there is no room for misunderstanding.

Write your New Year’s resolutions down. Write. Them. Down. Make it visible and vibrant, and keep track of your progress as well as your slip-ups. Be accountable in print.

Tell people. Share your New Year’s resolutions with friends and family. Find a support group on Facebook or Instagram with the same goal. They can help keep you accountable, as well. Also, if people know and care, they are more likely to help you reach your goal.

Review your goal regularly and adjust it as needed. Do weekly or biweekly check-ins. Definitely make sure you have your goal updated every month to keep you on track.

Even if you fall off on the way to achieving your goal, hop back on just as quickly. And keep in mind that fulfilling most of your goal is not a failure; it’s just not a full success yet, either. Do not get overwhelmed. Look back at your progress and see where you could improve, but also take the win you did earn and shine like a star.

So, even if you are part of the group that never makes New Year’s resolutions, know that somewhere, someone is committing themselves to life changes that may require your support. If you know a friend or family member that is making a New Year’s resolution (even though the numbers of those who do it are dropping), help them out. And if you are taking part in one yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will be surprised by just how many people want to see you succeed. Hopefully, the numbers will go back up again as the new years continue to roll by.

Writer Profile

Angelica Rovinski

Arcadia University
English with a concentration in Creative Writing

I am a single mother of three girls. I enjoy reading, writing, bowling, camping and spending time with my family. My kids come first. I made the Dean’s List last semester.

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