The tradition of making New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to ancient Rome. In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar developed a new calendar and named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and endings. Janus has always been depicted with two faces—one on the back of his head that allowed him to look behind and one on the front of his head that allowed him to look ahead.
At midnight on December 31st, the Romans imagined Janus simultaneously reflecting on the old year and envisioning the new year. Therefore, the last day of the year became a symbolic time for Romans to forgive their enemies and to make resolutions for the coming year. The Romans also hoped that Janus could forgive them for their wrong doings as well. They would give gifts and make promises believing that Janus would see these good deeds and bless them in the year ahead.
In more modern times, New Year’s Eve is still regarded as the prime occasion for reflecting on the past year and resolving to make improvements in the coming year. This day symbolizes renewal and the opportunity to commit to one or more goals that will improve our lives.
However, most of these promises go unfulfilled. In one study, researchers tracked over 3,000 people attempting to achieve a range of resolutions, including losing weight, visiting the gym, quitting smoking, and drinking less. At the start of the study, 52% of participants were confident they would be successful, but one year later, only 12% actually achieved their goals.
Nonetheless, establishing resolutions can be a very powerful tool for positive change and one that can be utilized throughout the year—anytime is a good time for a fresh start! Therefore, it’s important to channel your energy and resources in ways that make this process of setting goals a satisfying and rewarding experience.
Here are three strategies to ensure your success:
1. Take Time to Reflect
Prior to establishing any goal, it is important to take time to reflect on what is truly most meaningful to you. Is your resolution something you really want? If your goal is something someone else said you should do or something you feel you need to do, then it is unlikely to motivate and inspire you. Lou Tice, author of Investment in Excellence, teaches that goals themselves have little value unless you feel a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose as you work towards them.
2. Make Room for Change
When committing to any goal, the key to accomplishing more is to do less. In other words, don’t keep trying to jam more and more into your over-crowded schedule—determine to drop several activities instead.
But, first you will need to analyze your priorities. Once you are clear on what is most important to you, then you can drop additional demands that don’t fit the criteria. Saying “no” more often will allow you to say “yes” to your priorities.
3. Keep the Promises We Make to Ourselves
In a nutshell, a resolution is really about telling ourselves what we are going to do to make our lives better. However, we rarely keep our commitments to ourselves. Instead, we spend so much time worrying about and fulfilling our responsibilities to others. The important thing to remember is that the true test of our maturity is how steadfast we are in fulfilling our agreements with ourselves.
Always keep in mind that the ancient tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions is symbolic of fresh beginnings and unlimited possibilities. However, anytime is a good time for establishing meaningful goals and adopting strategies for honoring those commitments.