Another year has passed. This massive spaceship we live in called Earth has once again completed its trip around the Sun, marking the passing of another 12-month period we spent sleeping, running, laughing and crying, and going about our everyday lives. And you, like many, have probably chosen this arbitrary date to mark the end of a period of your life and the beginning of another and made a resolution to end a bad habit, stop seeking for 5 ways to spend your Canadian summer vacation and go somewhere exotic, to be fitter, to live healthier, to love and laugh more, and to fundamentally change who you are. Let me tell you, it was probably not a good idea – the change itself is welcome but linking it to this date is not.
Because New Year’s resolutions have the habit of failing.
New Year’s resolutions are a habit that has been around for ages. Some sources put the beginning of this habit in ancient Babylonia – they have been the first people to have made resolutions (and to celebrate the New Year) some 4,000 years ago. While their New Year’s Day wasn’t tied to the Winter Solstice but the beginning of planting (and it took place sometime in March) the habit of making promises to pay their debts, return borrowed objects and stay loyal to their king was all the same. Their resolutions were likely simpler than ours and easier to keep – especially since they came with the threat of falling out of the gods’ favor if broken, a very fearsome thing for such a deeply religious civilization.
Today, in turn, we are rarely held accountable for our resolutions – not by divinities or humans. On New Year’s Eve, we promise ourselves to quit smoking, to give up eating bacon, to run at least five miles each day, to be more open with our loved ones and more giving – and, since we are the ones to keep tabs on our own promises, we are far more concessive than the Babylonians ever were. This is one of the reasons why many of our New Year’s resolutions fail – but not the only one.
You can make sure to break your resolution if you set goals that are far too vague or unrealistic. If you decide to start running five miles a day starting January 2nd (not the 1st as you are likely to be pretty tired after the party) but you haven’t run a yard before, you are doomed to fail – and this will discourage you enough to break your promise. The same is true for setting goals like being a better person (the definition of this is pretty vague), losing weight in general, being fitter, and eating healthier. Soon, cheat days will become the norm, laziness will overtake the desire to be fit, and delicious meals will take the place of salads and oat porridge in your diet.
So, don’t take any big New Year’s resolutions this year. Instead, try to tweak your life one small step at the time, make change a habit, and don’t be too harsh on yourself. You have a better chance to succeed this way.