What is your new year resolution?
People have been doing it for 4,000 years.
Your chances of achieving them are as low as 12%, so why set yourself up for failure?
Either pray to the God Janus or consider the alternative approach here.
History of the New Year Resolution
Making New Year Resolutions is not new, it is believed that as far back as 4,000 years ago the Babylonians started making them to please their gods. Their New Year began in March when spring began and crops were planted.
This filtered over into the Roman era where resolutions became more about good conduct. The most known god to receive these promises was Janus, the god of beginnings and endings. A chance to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. It is commonly believed that the month of January was named after Janus.
In the Medieval era, knights took the “Peacock Vow (Les voeux du paon) at the end of the year “to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry” (Ancient Origins). Apparently, medieval knights would place their hands on a live or roasted peacock and recommit themselves, for the next 12 months, to the ideals of chivalry.
Whilst chivalry might not be dead, it certainly fails to find its way on to the Top 10 of modern day resolutions.
Here is one view according to Neilson.
I analysed this and four other 2015 New Year Resolution charts (Statistic Brain, Time Magazine, Daily Mirror, Supply Management and the Western Daily Press). The most popular subjects for our New Year Resolutions were as below.
The reasons for failure according to an Australian survey are :
- 23% forgot their resolutions
- 35% due to unrealistic goals
- 33% did not track the progress of their resolution
- 10% made too many resolutions
Certainly in Australia it seems your age has an impact too.
Generation Y (18-34) were more likely to share their goals with family and friends and for this reason they were more likely to achieve them.
Generation X (35-54) struggle the most with achieving resolutions and normally within 3 months of starting, partly because they had no plan or did not share them.
Baby Boomers (55-74) were the highest group to fail achieving them.
They also found that women had more trouble in achieving resolutions than men, and were more likely to give up within the first three months. It seems men were more likely to share their goals and more likely to plan, than women. Both these factors are considered to be useful in achieving your resolution.
Life is tough enough, so why set yourself up for failure. Yes failure is a good way to learn things but at least give yourself a reasonable chance of success and 12% is not good odds.
As most of the resolutions are based around your health and cultivating your mind, it is in your own interest to do this on a daily basis and be part of your natural attitude to life.
For example, a common resolution is to lose weight. You are in this situation because of the lifestyle you have led so far.
Making a promise to lose weight is just a promise. The reality is you need to change your lifestyle. This is a change that will take time, perhaps more than a year.
Diets may achieve a short term gain but are renowned for putting weight back on again very quickly. If you change your eating habits then this will become part of your daily routine and no need to make promises or monitor plans.
Ahh I hear you saying, but surely its down to having a bit of willpower. Those that fail probably don’t have a strong motivation.
Researchers like Professor Baba Shiv at Stanford University believe that the brain area largely responsible for willpower is the prefrontal cortex, which is also in charge of keeping us focussed and handling short term memory. The belief is that the prefrontal cortex is like a muscle in that if you overload it, it tires.
Roy F. Baumeister research (Where has your willpower gone?) supports this point and suggests that practically, what this means is that, each time you practice self control it becomes less effective and your prefrontal Cortex tires. So in our weight loss example, as you keep trying to not eat that burger or drink that beer, eventually you resistance fails.
Most resolutions are about your own self-improvement in terms of health, wealth and happiness.
Your chances of success are low, very low, particularly for my female readers.
Don’t set yourself up for failure, the odds are against you. Your self control brain is not good at maintaining willpower.
You are where you are today because of your lifestyle, look to change this for an easier more natural and long term impact.
Fine, you may be thinking, so what should I do. Well if you really want to make a New Year’s Resolution then make it this.
“To change my lifestyle so I don’t need New Year Resolutions”
If you insist on a resolution just pick one and make it an achievable one.
Alternatively look at how you could change your lifestyle to overcome your problem in a more natural and longer term change.
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