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New Years Resolutions…do we have to?

How many times have you made a new year’s resolution and not stuck to it? If you’re like most people, the answer is the same as your age. In other words, every…single…year.

And every single year tons of magazines put out articles telling you why 92% of us fail to stick to our resolutions, and why this year will be different if you just choose a realistic goal:

  •     Work on your will-power
  •     Find a buddy to work on the goal with you
  •     Choose a resolution from their list
  •     Get more specific with your goals

Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing. Every year, we think, “this year is going to be different.” We put so much expectation on ourselves and the idea that everything is going to change overnight. Then, when the practically inevitable failure occurs, we give up and wait for next year. Because, “next year will be different.”

What’s so Special About the New Year Anyway?

The ancient Babylonians, 4,000 years ago, made promises to their gods to pay debts and return any objects borrowed. They also crowned a new king or renewed loyalty to the reigning king. This did not, however, take place on the new year, but the first day of the harvest season in March. Centuries later, a similar practice took place in ancient Rome, when new magistrates were sworn into office. Initially this was also in March, until Julius Ceasar decided to change the calendar to begin January 1.

More centuries later, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, created a new church service on New Year’s Eve that often involves praying and renewing their pledge to God – in effect, to be a better person.

Modern People Need not Apply

For most modern people, the historical new year’s practices no longer apply to their lives. The tradition of the new year’s resolution isn’t as meaningful as it was to the ancients. We like the idea of being better people, but our resolutions don’t involve a covenant with God or a pledge to our countrymen. It’s more of a personal goal, and a loose one at that.

What Supports Your Passion?

There are several things to do in place of new year’s resolutions, and what you choose really depends on why you do them in the first place.


Make it spiritual. Like those before us, renew your commitment to your spiritual or religious practice. Maybe this means attending church services, maybe it means restarting daily meditation or maybe it means a personal ceremony.

Renew a commitment. In ancient times, the new year meant an oath to serve in government office or an oath to serve those in power. Is there someone in your life that you’ve lost sight of your commitment to? This could be as varied as renewing wedding vows or volunteering your time for a community project.

Share a special memory. For many, new year’s traditions are a time to create memories with loved ones. Consider creating a new tradition that doesn’t end with disappointment (like failing to follow through with an unrealistic promise).


Try monthly resolutions. If you love the idea of resolutions, but let yourself down with the new year’s resolutions, consider going on a monthly basis. You could either create a resolution with each coming month, or create 12 resolutions at the new year – one for each month.

Baby steps. Forget the new year and just resolve to make change. Do you want to eat healthier? Add a serving of veggies to your day. Do you want to exercise more? Get outside and walk for 15 minutes a day. You don’t have to start big. You just have to start.

Try a 30-day challenge. Instead of telling yourself you’re going to do something for 365 days, try 30 days. If it doesn’t work out, give yourself a couple days, maybe make an adjustment, then start again.

Do some journaling. Consider these questions: Why do you want to change? Is it for your or someone else? How will that change make you feel? What is the thing that keeps getting in your way? Is there something else you need to address before you can be successful?

The idea behind new year’s resolutions is often very positive, but we bumble with the execution. Empower yourself to be a better you all throughout the year, and forgive yourself when you “fail.” Change is hard, but with persistence and faith in yourself, you can do it.