"I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life is too much of a daily event for me." - Anais Nin
Many people would agree with Anais Nin, and others might say that the only way to keep a New Year's resolution is to make one that says, "Don't make any New Year's resolutions." The custom of making resolutions originally began with the Romans somewhere around the time of Julius Caesar. It is based on the pagan god Janus, namesake of January, significantly the first month of the year. Janus was a two-faced god who was able to look back at the past year and forward at things to come.
Romans symbolically did the same and wrote out behavioral wish lists. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire pagan references and customs were down-played and discouraged, and celebrations were turned to more somber fasting and reflective days.
Nearly 50 million Americans will start a diet this year. The National Weight Control Registry found that dieters who have lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off have these behaviors in common: 1. Keep a food journal and monitor their weight (there are a variety of free websites and apps available;) 2. Exercise everyday for an hour; 3. Eat breakfast; 4. Eat a mixture of 24 percent fats, 56 percent carbs and 19 percent lean protein.
Financial fitness is another popular resolution. The Federal Reserve says that average household credit card debt is nearly $16,000. There are several secure smart phone apps, like highly-rated “Mint,” helping users get on track with payoff and savings goals.
At least 40 percent of smokers will try to quit this year. Those who succeed will reduce their risk of dying from smoking-related causes by 50 percent if they quit before age 50. Those quitting before age 30 will reduce that risk by 90 percent. There are many different types of programs at stores, online and apps. Check with a doctor for a healthy recommendation.
The Puritans in the 17th century were against celebration and any hint of paganism. In fact, they called January "First Month" rather than utter a reference to Janus. It was they, however, who rekindled the resolution embers. They used resolutions as a tool for self-improvement and discipline. It became a tradition once again.
"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man." - Benjamin Franklin
Are you one of the 45 percent? This has nothing to do with personal income. According to StatisticBrain.com, in 2012, 45 percent of Americans said they "usually make yearly resolutions." At the other end of the spectrum, 38 percent said they "absolutely never make resolutions." The top resolutions for last year were as follows: 1. lose weight; 2. get organized; 3. spend less, save more; 4. enjoy life to the fullest; 5. stay fit and healthy. The top 5, or 10 at least, will probably read in a similar manner for 2013.
People are ever hopeful, always trying to improve. Another statistic states that people who make resolutions specifically are 10 times more likely to achieve goals than the statistical 38 percent who do not make them. The New Year holds promise and a clean slate. With lists on their refrigerators, mirrors and calendars, the majority of that 45 percent will make it through the first week, but 25 percent of them will already start dropping back.
Even after the second week, 71 percent, according to statistics, are still hanging in. At the end of the first month, the total continuing to maintain their resolution vows drops to 64 percent. This is actually just under 29 percent of Americans, considering that only 45 percent make resolutions in the first place.
After six months, fewer than half of those who started are still in the game (46 percent). While 24 percent of the whole group say that they "fail every year with no success" at their resolutions, nearly half acknowledge some "infrequent success" in this yearly ritual. There are others who are successful every time with their resolutions, and they are the elite 8 percent, or 3.6 percent of Americans.
"People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas." - Author Unknown
Why do 92 percent of Americans fail when they make resolutions? It probably has more to do with the resolutions than the people making them. Specific, detailed goals are better, and writing them down reinforces that positive energy. Decide what you want to do and how you can accomplish it. Being realistic is what is important.
For instance, "losing weight" is a popular resolution and leaves some room for interpretation. Technically, if one loses five pounds, the goal is met. However, if losing weight means getting into your high school jeans or your 20-year old wedding tux, you may have some work ahead and possibly set yourself up for failure. Decide on a goal for the end of the year or a special event during the year, and work towards that. There are online tools like Weight Watchers and free calorie counter/nutrition programs that can provide ideas and support through the rough spots. Smart phone apps abound for weight loss and fitness. One of the most popular is MyFitnessPal with more than one million foods in its database and its food journal premise. It's also available online and is free.
If getting a busy household organized is your goal, there are apps for that, also. Cozi Family Organizer is a free top-rated calendar with family to-do lists, shopping lists and journal that everyone can access and add to from a Smart Phone. You may find that you have more free time for quality time once everyone is, literally, on the same page.
Local mom and church program director Lisa Buckingham says that she makes resolutions each year, and "realistic" is the key for her.
"One year I cut down on how many times I went to drive-thru fast food," she says. "My strategy is to choose two or three goals that. . . I would want to improve upon whether it was the start to a new year or not." In 2013, she's decided to make more of an effort to remember people's names.
The traditional tone of resolutions is that of "self" improvement, but there is no law against choosing a more social goal. Maybe a you and a friend can agree to fitness walk twice each week, or perhaps you can volunteer for a couple of hours at an animal shelter or a nursing home. Resolve to attend an art class or join (or organize) a book club. Make an effort to meet and befriend one new person each month, and invite all of them for a year-end get-together.
To monitor your progress, try "Resolution 2013." Introduced last year, this app allows you to enter three goals in various categories. It provides tips on achieving them and monitors your progress to keep you on the path to joining that 8 percent.
Whatever you choose, it must be something realistic and something in which you believe. The commitment factor must be equal to or greater than the effort factor. Resolutions or no, Bob Dylan had this to say about success: "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do."