Creating and managing obtainable goals
New Year’s Resolutions are by no means a new custom. The tradition was initiated by ancient Babylonians around 4000 years ago. It began as a promise to their gods at the beginning of the New Year which was mid-March. The Babylonians would return borrowed objects to repay their debt and make sacrificial pledges to their gods in order for the deities to distill good grace upon them throughout the course of the year. Breaking these resolutions would put the individuals out of their gods’ favour. This custom carried over to Roman times. The Romans would make the resolution of good conduct to a two-faced deity named Janus, the god of beginnings and endings from whom we get the name January. Janus looked backwards on the old year and forwards on the New Year arriving.
Throughout time, there have been many notable customs of cultures celebrating a new year by making vows or resolutions to assure the next year will be even better than the last, to learn from past mistakes, or for general reflection purposes. Recently, New Year’s resolutions have become a personal goal rather than a promise or sacrifice to a deity. Many individuals see the New Year as a way to leave certain things in the past and to go into the New Year with a positive outlook. Some of the most popular resolutions made in the Western world are related to health, self-control, money, and travel. The practice of making New Year’s resolutions is seemingly gaining in popularity. By the end of the 1930s, approximately 25 per cent of North Americans made resolutions, compared to an approximate 40 per cent of North Americans who were making resolutions by the year 2000. Not that it really matters all that much, considering 80 per cent of people fail to keep their resolutions according to a 2007 study, even though 52 per cent of the participants began the year feeling confident in their success.
According to the study, 35 per cent of failure to keep resolutions is due to the individual creating unrealistic goals for themselves. 33 per cent is due to individuals not tracking their progress of their goals as time goes on, and 23 per cent of failure was caused by individuals who simply forgot about their resolutions altogether. A total of 10 per cent of the group studied admitted or claimed to have made too many resolutions to maintain.
The most popular New Year’s resolutions made in our society include: lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, learn something new, develop a healthier diet, get out of debt/save money, spend more time with family, travel abroad, be less stressed, volunteer, quit drinking/drink less. All of the above mentions are obtainable goals; the progress and results, however, depend on the individual who makes the resolution. A large part of the failure rate of resolutions depends on not meeting unrealistic expectations which have been set. If the individual goal is to lose thirty pounds in a month, that is not only a very unrealistic goal, but also a very unhealthy one.
Weight loss is often a concern for many and not just as a New Year’s resolution either. Having expectations that are too high or unrealistic can cause dangerous results, or might even cause the participant to feel discouraged and give up on their goal altogether. Rather than making a goal to lose a certain amount of pounds or inches, try making one to be active, to work out three or more times a week, or to join a class or something similar, which is obtainable and easy to maintain. Once a regime is in place the participant can easily make and reach small goals as they develop their routine.
It is also a good idea to spread your resolutions throughout the year. This could mean either designating a specific goal for a specific time of the year—especially if the goals are seasonal. Obviously it makes more sense to learn to ride a bike in the summer and to learn to skate in the winter. Spreading goals out throughout the year can also mean creating an idea or a plan as to where you would like to be in regards to achieving your goals, and comparing your actual progress to your plan as the year goes on.
Tracking the progress of your resolutions is very important. Things like changes in diet and exercise plans are easier to track, whereas progress of learning an instrument or quitting smoking may not be as easy to keep track of. No matter what the resolution is, a journal is always a good idea. In today’s technology and social media driven culture, tracking your progress can be as easy as downloading an app, finding an online group of people who have a similar resolution, or even tracking your progress by means of video or blog. Individuals can keep track of the progress of their resolutions, and broadcast their progress online to others who might be interested. This way the individual not only has a means to track their progress, they can also receive support and encouragement from others online, and may even encourage others to create and achieve a similar goal themselves.
A common mistake among resolution makers is not accounting for the change that is about to take place in their life. If the goal is to eliminate something like smoking or drinking, the individual should have a plan as to how they will they cope with the change. Will they substitute it with something else? Will they seek a program or meeting of people who are experiencing the same thing? Or will they give it up cold turkey? If the goal is to have more time or money to spend, the individual must realize that unless their circumstances have changed already, they will have to make a change to account for the extra time or money they need. You cannot expect to save money without changing any of your spending necessities or habits, just as you cannot expect to have more time for things without giving up time from another area in your life.
The most important thing when it comes to successfully achieving New Year’s resolutions is that the individual is setting the goal for themselves and not for anyone else. It is nice to quit smoking for your spouse, and it is understandable to want to lose the baby-weight because you think society expects you to, but the likeliness of success is driven by what you want and your determination to achieve the goal. Not to mention, we shouldn’t be changing ourselves based on how we believe others would prefer us. If you do not have the want, the will, and the determination, it is less likely that you will achieve your desired goals, and you are more likely to stress yourself out about not achieving them.
Unfortunately, having will and determination does not always guarantee success either. This is why it is extremely important to create realistic goals and not to put too much pressure on yourself to achieve them. Some people find a greater success rate in maintaining resolutions by telling friends and loved ones about the goals they wish to achieve. This can help create a support system, and the individual maintain a certain level of drive and determination, knowing that others are paying attention. This method may not work for everybody. Some individuals might find that telling others about their resolutions puts too much pressure on succeeding, and in turn they might subliminally sabotage themselves out of their success. Some people prefer to make resolutions with a group in order to create a support system within, encouraging everybody equally. Others might find themselves comparing their results to those of other members in the group. This might cause loss of focus on the program altogether. What works for one person may not work for everybody else.
Resolutions do not need to be huge, dramatic, or life-changing endeavours. They can be small changes in your day to day life, or even in your attitude, that make things better. Things like doing a good deed each day or simply making an effort to think positively can make an impact and take little effort. You can be completely selfish with your resolutions, and sometimes that is not only okay but necessary. Goals like getting enough sleep, or having time during each week to relax are critical. Even if you feel like you should be doing something more important with that time, maintaining your mental health and avoiding symptoms of burnout are extremely important for your overall health. Resolutions do not have to be serious either. Sometimes they’re simply a way to boost morale during the long, cold, winter months. Resolutions can be silly things like planning to watch the new movie every weekend, discovering a new band, or master new drinking game. Goals like these are great group motivators and help keep friends from complete hibernation during the winter months.
Breaking your New Year’s resolution is not the end of the world. Do not punish yourself over small setbacks and do not give up after a small slip. It is called a New Year’s resolution because it is intended to be achieved throughout the year; you do not need to try to change your entire life before January is even over. Even if you completely fail and give up on your resolutions, it is not the end of the world. In fact, there will be a whole new year to try again next year.
Zach: Read more.
Karen: Stay active and stretch, write every day, and learn to knot/crochet/or cross stitch.
Alicia: Eat 90 per cent less Kraft Dinner.
Trish: Be more money conscious this year.
Jeff: Create more outside of work and school. Pick up the slack on hobbies that have fallen to the wayside.
Sarah: My resolution is to click continue 50 per cent less often on Netflix.
James: Try and beat more of the games I have on Steam.