Humans have been making (and breaking) New Year’s Resolutions for over 4,000 years. Current resolutions tend to be personal goals for self-improvement, however the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year to return objects they borrowed and pay off their debts. They were more likely to keep their resolutions because a broken promise meant angering their gods and bringing unfortunate situations into their life for the next twelve months.
Fast forward to the ancient romans whose god of choice was the two-faced Janus, the god of doors, beginnings and endings, and transitions. He was described as having two-faces, one looking in the future and one keeping an eye on the past. By the medieval era, knights were taking the “peacock vow” at the end of the year as a promise to keep their chivalric ways. Around this time Christians were reflecting on their mistakes of the past year and resolving to avoid repetition of their errors. (Ancient-origins).
In modern times, New Year’s resolutions have evolved from making promises to a deity to making a commitment to yourself for the next year. According to the University of Bristol, on average 88% of people fail at keeping their New Years goals. Men are 22% more likely to keep them if they focus on goal setting whereas women are only 10% more likely to succeed if they tell others and seek support from others.
Here are seven tips from UC Davis Health experts to keep your New Years Resolutions.
I. Be picky about your resolutions
We may want to lose weight, eat more vegetables, volunteer more, quit smoking and spend more time with family. But experts say that’s too many goals to set for a New Year’s resolution. Pick one, maybe two things you’d like to focus on and go all in. This sets you up to achieve specific goals instead of feeling like a failure for hitting none of them.
II. Plan your resolution
It’s best to plan for your goal. Think through how you want to accomplish your resolution and how long it might take to reach your goal. For example, if your resolution is to quit smoking, research how long it takes an average person to kick the habit and the possible setbacks to expect. Proper planning will help ensure you can see it through to the end.
III. Set very specific goals
Many of us will set a New Year’s resolution like “exercise more.” But what does that really mean? Instead, you should be detailed in your resolution. It could be “exercise 30 minutes daily.” This gives you a measurable goal to reach each day that you can check off your list. It will help you feel more accomplished.
IV. Don’t take on too much
Start small. Avoid setting an overly high expectation of yourself. If you’d like to lose weight, pick a small but realistic weight loss goal. Maybe that’s 10 pounds in two months. Once you reach that goal, you can think about losing another 5-8 pounds. Setting small goals can help you achieve big results.
V. Choose a new resolution
Avoid picking a goal that you’ve tried in the past but failed. You may set yourself up to fall into the same pitfalls that stopped you previously. Instead, pick something different where you can set up a better path to success. Or maybe you can modify a previous goal if that’s something you still want to accomplish.
VI. Identify accountability partners for support
Lean on people – whether it’s a friend to keep your exercise resolution on track, or a spouse to help with healthier eating habits. We function better with community around us, motivating and reminding us why we chose that New Year’s resolution in the first place.
VII. Give your resolution time to become a habit
New routines don’t just become habit overnight. On average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit. Be patient with yourself. If you have minor setbacks or don’t hit your goal one week, pick it back up the next week. Just keep working at your goal and eventually it can become second nature.
Good luck achieving your goals. I wish you much success in 2023!