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Goal Setting 101: How to Stick to New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

The concept of a resolution — a firm decision to do or not to do something — has been a New Year’s tradition for 4,000 years now.


The History Behind New Year’s Resolutions

It all started with the Babylonians, who celebrated their New Year with an 11-day festival in March. Their celebrations centered around religious beliefs; they made promises to their gods in order to gain favor for the coming year.

In 46 B.C., Roman emperor Julius Caesar was the first to oversee the New Year as we know it now: on January 1st. The Romans worshipped the god Janus (fittingly, in January), who had two faces. One of them looked to the past, and the other looked to the future and to new beginnings.

However, it wasn’t until 1582 that the Gregorian Calendar — which is the calendar we use today — was introduced. Pope Gregory XIII permanently revived the January 1st New Year.

So if people have been making New Year’s resolutions for four millenniums, why are we so bad at keeping them?


Resolution = intention

Plenty of people intend to achieve the goals that they set for themselves. However, intention isn’t always enough to drive us over the finish line.

Roughly 10% of resolution-makers actually stick to their resolutions.

Pretty poor stats, huh? There’s a number of reasons why people give up on their New Year’s to-do’s (and why one third don’t even make it past January).


1. The resolutions aren’t personal.

The number one resolution people make for the new year is to lose weight. Other variations include: get more exercise, eat better, be healthier, etc.

This resolution, and a slew of others, is rooted in what other people are telling us to do.

The societal ideal for most Americans is to be thin and fit, and successful financially as well as in romantic relationships.

Because resolutions like “losing weight” and “making more money” mirror the expectations placed upon us, they can lack personal motivation, and seem more like unreachable dreams than attainable goals.


2. The resolutions aren’t specific.

If you make the popular resolution to “lose weight” — how much weight are you planning on losing? What is your timeline for losing the weight? And how are you intending to cause this weight loss?

If there’s nothing specific to tie you to your goal, you’re probably going to forget about it or deem it less important than other daily tasks.

January is the busiest month of the year for gyms. But as the motivation of the New Year passes, so can the willingness to stick to your vague resolutions.


3. The resolutions aren’t attainable.

Making a list of lofty goals to accomplish shouldn’t be what you’re aiming for with your resolutions.

In addition to being specific, resolutions should be achievable. If you’re looking to clean up your finances, you could set a goal of saving $500 a month. However, if you only save around $100 now, that gap may be too big for you to bridge without some serious overhaul.

Be practical with your goal setting. Give yourself time to save up for that car you want, and remember that not everyone can get six-pack abs in three months.


4. The resolutions are private.

If you’re writing down all your resolutions for your eyes and your eyes only, you might as well be locking them in a box and throwing away the key.

Accountability is a huge reason why people follow through on their goals. The worker shows up to work every day because the employer would notice if they didn’t. In the same way, it’s easier to keep to your resolutions when your friends and family are in the know and encouraging you.

Consider making resolutions that both you and a friend can complete together. Having a buddy around with the same goal as you will help motivate both of you to work towards achieving it.

The reward feels twice as good when you cross the finish line and someone is waiting there to congratulate you on it!


What’s the benefit?

Goals can be set and attained at any point, but the New Year is an understandably popular and symbolic time to do so.

A new year is often considered a clean slate. It’s a chance to start over from any negative feelings that may be lingering, and move forward with new hopes and aspirations.

Even if you’re skeptical toward the fad of making New Year’s resolutions, the practice of setting and keeping goals is always a good one to get into. It teaches you to have better control over your life, and demonstrates that proper effort can lead to great success.

Make sure to forgive yourself if you slip up on your resolutions; humans are not goal-keeping machines. Setbacks don’t mean you have to give up. Good luck, and happy 2019!

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