“New year, new me!” We all go rushing into each new year excited for change and excited for the idea of a transformation of some sort. Undoubtedly every year we find ourselves in a conversation or reading and sharing posts on social media about resolutions.
A study done by Finder.com estimates that 74.02% of the U.S. adult population (that’s 188.9 million people!) would be making a resolution for 2021. Yet over the years, people who actually follow through on resolutions they make are only about 8%. If you are in this 8%, keep up the great work! It seems that we are miserably failing to follow through with our resolutions.
This got me thinking, why do we make resolutions, what started this whole thing anyway?
It turns out that New Year's resolutions date back all the way to the ancient Babylonians, about 4,000 years ago! According to History.com, resolutions of the Babylonians started as promises that were made to pagan gods to pay off debts and return borrowed objects. If these promises were kept, their year was said to be blessed and if not, they would fall out of favor with the gods.
Over time, what was a practice among many religions has evolved into a mostly secular practice that focuses on the individual self. So, thanks to the Babylonians trying to receive favor some 4,000 years ago, we are proclaiming every January we are going to accomplish something for the year, and we almost never follow through.
Why do Resolutions Fail?
So why do we fail at our resolutions? Let’s take a second to think about the types of resolutions we are often making. “I’m going to lose weight!”, or “I’m going to eat healthy/exercise”, or “I’m going to save more money!” Don’t worry if you are guilty of saying one of these statements and then didn’t, we’ve all been there.
A resolution usually just becomes a great excuse for us to procrastinate. We put something off until January, even though we likely knew we needed to do it earlier. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh I’m just giving up and eating whatever I want through the end of the year, I’ll get back to things after the holidays!” You usually start hearing this way before the holidays!
What we should be doing is making goals at any time they are relevant throughout the year. If you really want to accomplish something, the time of the year won’t matter. You are likely not to stick to something too long if you are using January 1st as your reason to “really do something this time.”
Another reason resolutions fail is because they aren’t tied to anything of meaning! Think of any time you’ve set a goal for yourself and accomplished it. The key to why you’ve accomplished that goal is why you set out to accomplish it in the first place. You didn’t just randomly wake up one day and say, “I’m going to read 12 books!” (yes, that was my failed resolution last year). If you wanted to read 12 books and actually did, you probably said, “I want to read 12 books that will help me learn about topic ABC because that will help me become more knowledgeable and better positioned to get a promotion.” Now doesn’t that second option sound like something that would be said by someone who is much more likely to accomplish that goal?
Unfortunately, I was not in this mindset when setting my resolution last year. I had no real purpose for wanting to read 12 books other than it sounded like a good thing to do throughout the year, and I had to have a resolution, right? When we are setting a goal, or what we refer to as a resolution in January, out of obligation, rather than having a true purpose, we are bound to be setting ourselves up to fail.
Ditch the Resolution – Set Meaningful Goals
As we enter the new year, why don’t we enter it with a new mindset of forgetting short-lived resolutions? Instead, why don’t we truly evaluate where we are and decide if there are goals worth setting and establish the why behind those goals? What is the motivator behind setting that goal in the first place? And if you don’t have a goal with a true motivator on January 1, don’t just throw something out there out of obligation!
There is good news! You can set goals all year long! Goal setting doesn’t expire in January and don’t let anyone tell you it does. If you don’t have a goal, or you are still completing a goal from the end of last year, that’s okay! Allow yourself that time and move on to your next truly meaningful goal when you are ready. Break the cycle of failed resolutions and start a new trend of meaningful, achievable goals!