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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year Resolutions

Did you make a New Year's resolution?

Every year, nearly half of the American population makes a New Year's resolution, promising that this year they'd stop overeating, lose weight, quit smoking, get closer to God, be nicer, live easier, and on and on. Sadly, eighty-eight percent of all resolutions fail. Odds are you know they're going to fail. So why do we bother?

The New Year resolution is a tradition that started, as far as we know, with the ancient Babylonians. It was the Romans, however, who gave us the concept as we know it today. They would make promised to Janus, the God of beginnings and passages (also, the God of gateways, doors, or transitions). The Romans believed that the beginning of everything was an omen as a rule, so they celebrated every new month. But the first month after the longest night? Seemed prudent to make special offerings, and promises, and greetings to one another. They even named the month after him. January.

Thus the humble beginnings of New Year resolutions.

Obscure deities aside, now that you've made a resolution how will you achieve it? You made it for a reason, no doubt.

Studies have shown that there are four actions you can take to help turn your resolution into a real life change.

1. Promise manageable steps

It's very easy to say “I'm going to lose weight” but that alone isn't enough. It isn't even enough to say “...and therefore I just joined the gym.” I can tell you, having been a long time gym member, that every January attendance goes up, and by March all the machines are vacant again. You even know you need to diet. However, the broad stroke of “losing weight” bears no weight. So try smaller goals. For example, “I'm going to eat 500 calories less every day for the next week, and repeat that every other week.” Now you have a concrete plan of actions, and odds are it will yield concrete “weight loss” results. Similarly, don't plan on “quitting smoking”, plan on “one less cigarette every week.”

2. Make a public promise

Nothing says determination like announcing your intentions. You can do this in person or in an email, but let family and friends know what you're planning this year. It will help you recognize the effort as more than just words, or a passing whim, or a silly promise made over a glass of champagne.

3. Seek out support

Others are in a similar situation, regardless of what the situation is. Find a group, be it friends, or family, or a Meet Up. Or find someone to do this with you. Talk about your successes and your failures, and let them talk about theirs. It's easier to face a challenge when you face it with others and reaffirm you are not alone.

4. Don't give up

Okay, you had a bad day/week/month -- we all do. Acknowledge that and get back into the swing of things. Anything worthwhile doing is worth a second or third attempt.

I sincerely wish you the best in the new year. Happy 2015!