WHAT IS IT WITH NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS?
Well it’s a new year and with all of the excitement of a new year, many of us start the year with setting resolutions. New Year’s resolutions have a long history in many forms, dating back at least 4,000 years to ancient Babylon, where people celebrated the feast of Akitu and promised to repay debts and return things they’d borrowed in an attempt to please fickle deities. Versions of the practice were also common in ancient Rome and medieval Europe, and the concept was carried into modern cultures by religious traditions like Christian watchnight services and the Jewish High Holidays, which emphasize taking stock of the previous year and making amends to move forward.
As American culture has become more secular, resolutions have been mostly stripped of their religious origins, pivoting instead to focus on the self. That’s been especially true since the self-help and personal fitness booms of the 1960s and ’70s, when self-improvement practices that had previously been confined to the fringe started seeping into mainstream use. Fifty-four percent of American adults intend to make resolutions for 2019, according to a poll conducted in December by NPR, PBS Newshour, and Marist.
Of those who make New Year’s Resolutions the most common include saving more money, losing weight or getting in shape, eating better, reading more books, stop smoking, and managing stress better. Some studies suggest that no more than eight percent of us actually achieve our resolutions. For me, I actually know that I will not start the year by saving money, because I returned home from vacation last night to discover my heater was out. A new heater is being installed as I type this blog, while it is balmy 54 degrees in my home, for only $4200, ouch! Perhaps it is not too late for me to come up with some new resolutions.
It seems like resolutions start with a great intention, but somewhere along the way we lose our attention. We rationalize and negotiate with ourselves that it is ok to break the diet today, or skip a work out because it was a rough day at work, over even decide to have a warm house vs shivering to death. Little by little the resolution or intention seems to slip away and by the end of February, it is a distant dream and we feel guilty that we have failed to achieve our goals for the new year. Oh well, at least now we have 10 months to begin thinking about resolutions for the next year. There has got to be a better alternative!
So, I had this idea of not to have any resolutions for the new year. At least I won’t break any goals, ha! Actually, my idea is that each day I will set an intention. I will plan to set simple goals for the day like, writing this blog, getting some healthy food to cook at the store, going to yoga, etc. On top of that, I will set one or two daily affirmations about myself, like I am happy, I am focused, I am a good friend, etc. I figure the affirmations will help set a positive tone, so if I don’t achieve my daily goal, I won’t beat myself up. I will tell myself that it’s ok if I am not meeting my daily intention, and I will focus on getting back on track. Before I go to sleep, I will think that about the good things that did happen today. Besides thinking of the good things that happened, I will reflect upon what could have made today even better.
I decided that starting small is better than setting the bar too high. When we fail, we feel bad and have negative thoughts. By setting simple goals each day, I know I have a greater chance of succeeding and feeling good about myself. I can reflect at the end of each day about the good things that did happen, eg the goals I did meet and reflect on how the day could have improved. I also know that by setting simple goals every day, I won’t feel the sense of failure and guilt of not achieving those major life changing year end resolutions.
So, I am beginning 2019 without any resolutions! I plan to set simple daily intentions that are relevant to each day. And I know that if I am not meeting my daily goals, I can try and refocus during the day, or just let it go, because I know that tomorrow I can start all over. I also know that I won’t set an intention every day. How do I know this, well I am only human. I journal 3-5 days a week and while it would be great to do it every day, it just always does not happen due to a variety of circumstances. The interesting thing about missing a day of journaling is that I don’t get upset with myself. And even better, if I miss a day or two I wake up the next day with lots of energy and enthusiasm to journal. It’s like my compass finding its way back to true north.
I am totally confident that I will beat the eight percent success rate of those who set annual resolutions. I am excited that I will live this year knowing that every day that I wake up is an opportunity to have a fresh start with new goals or intentions for that day. If you saw the movie, What About Bob, you will recognize this line, “take baby steps.” If you did not see the movie and are a Bill Murray fan, rent it! Bottom line, every day is like a new year and live that day like it is a fresh beginning. The only thing that I truly know about today is that I will not save any money, but I will be warm tonight.
Happy New Years!!