We’re two weeks into 2015 already. I never asked if anyone made any New Year’s Resolutions. My dad said that he doesn’t believe in making New Year’s Resolutions. He said that most people who make them don’t stick to them and break them within the first week. Since we’re two weeks in, believing my dad means that hardly anybody is still committed to trying something new or changing their behavior in 2015. I looked up the history of New Year’s Resolutions and this is what I found.
A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the West but found around the world, in which a person makes a promise on New Year’s Eve to make certain changes or self-improvements in the year ahead. It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s resolutions around 4,000 years ago, and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since!
The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year, which began in mid-March, that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. March was a logical time period for the New Year because spring begins and crops are planted. But the Babylonians had a greater motivation to stick to their promises than what we have today, because for the ancient people of Mesopotamia, keeping their promise would mean that their gods would bestow their grace on them throughout the course of the following twelve months, and breaking them would put them out of favour.
The practice carried over into Roman times with worshippers offering resolutions of good conduct to the two-faced deity named Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, who looks backward into the old year and forward into the new. By the way, Janus is where the month of January got its name, the first month or “beginning” of each calendar year.
Today, the only thing that has changed (for some) is that, rather than making promises to gods, we make promises to ourselves. And since we cannot possibly rain thunders and lightning on ourselves as punishment for not keeping our promises, it need not surprise us that sooner or later we fail in staying true to our words.
A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions failed, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.
But all is not lost, the study also showed that men could achieve their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.
My New Year’s Resolutions are already coming true. I vowed that this year I would:
- Get all A’s on my report card. In both the first and second quarters I got all A’s and one B. That Pre-Algebra keeps getting me. Well, this week I got a 100% on my first math test of the third quarter, which just started last week, so I’m off to a good start.
- Move up in dance and go en pointe. Much to my surprise, when I got back to dance from the holiday break last week, my dance teacher informed me that I was moving up from Division II to Division III – the beginning pointe class! She said that she had never had a student move up half way through the year before! Pointe shoes here I come!
- Make my bed every day and keep my room clean. I’m still working on this one!
- Get along better with my brother. I’ve messed this one up a few times already, but I haven’t given up on it just yet.
Two weeks in, so far so good! What are some of your New Year’s Resolutions?