January is a time for new beginnings. It is a new beginning to a new year and so, for many people, it is a time to set a new direction. The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions dates to 2000 B.C. E. with the Babylonians. They named January after a two-faced Roman God named Janu. One face looked forward to new beginnings while the other looked back for resolution. The Romans would use sacrifices to resolve issues in the past and promise to do better in the future.
Some of us carry on this historical tradition today sacrificing old ways of thinking and resolving to become the best version of ourselves. I know I encouraged my students to make resolutions when I was a teacher, I make them myself, my parents make them, my kids make them, and my husband makes them too. If you ever go to the gym in the month of January you can see a fresh crop of people who have resolved to get healthier in the new year.
Unfortunately, only eight percent of the people who make resolutions are actually successful in achieving them.
With such a grim outlook on success, why bother?
It turns out there are a lot of reasons to bother.
Resolutions Give You Direction
The act of making resolutions means you must reflect on where you are and where you want to be. It gives you an opportunity to get honest and set an intentional course forward. Once your course is set it is easier to get where you are going.
Resolutions Are Hopeful
Making resolutions is an act of hope and faith. Resolving to take action to get what you want signals that you believe life gets better. This act of faith can motivate you to take action and grow into the best version of yourself.
Resolutions Positively Impact Others
Taking positive steps for yourself generally makes you feel good which, in turn, affects your relationships with others. Furthermore, taking steps for self-improvement is forward momentum. Watching someone take positive steps in their life is inspiring. This inspiration could encourage other people to take positive steps for themselves. Your resolution is like paying it forward. You are like the first light lit; people can use your light to light their own.
If these reasons are enough to inspire you to at least write a resolution, you might as well see if you can be among the eight percent of achievers. The following are steps you can take to succeed in your new direction.
Make the Right Resolution.
Your resolution should be S.M.A.R.T.
Can you see what this resolution looks like in action? Can you picture what the actions are that will help you achieve it?
How will you know when you have achieved your goal?
Is this goal something you can make progress within a year or achieve in a year?
Does your resolution matter to you or does it matter more to someone else?
Is the timeline toward reaching your goal realistic? Are there smaller incremental steps you can take along the path to the goal?
Run your resolution by the SMART test and make adjustments if it is lacking in some achievable aspects. For example, if your resolution is to be more grateful this year, this statement fails the SMART test in specificity and measurability. This resolution doesn’t clearly state what being “more grateful” means nor does it indicate how you know when you have achieved it. By tweaking the resolution to: I want to keep a daily gratitude journal you can clearly see the action to take and a way to measure if you have. This SMART test really makes you home in on what you want to do to make your change.
Create a Flexible Plan
What do you have to do, and when do you have to do it to work towards your resolution? Make sure there are smaller steps to take along the way to your goal so that you can experience success all along the path. In addition, make sure you allow yourself to make mistakes or fail sometimes. Failures help us refine the goal and practice. They give us information we can use to become more successful. If my goal was to have a good relationship with my community but my schedule never lined up with community events, I could plan my own event for the community. The point is to plan, reflect on the success of the plan, and adjust.
Set up Accountability
It really helps to have help along the way. Help can come in the form of accountability. Simply telling another person your resolution can keep you motivated. The light pressure of having to share your success the next time you bump into them might be all the encouragement you need to push through a rough day.
Finding a community of people pursuing the same goal helps with accountability too. The group is a place you can report progress to, a think tank to help overcome challenges, an inspiration to look forward to, and a cheerleader on your path. If you can’t find a ready-made community build one yourself.
Make a Vision Board
A vision board is a visual representation of what you want your life to look more like. It is an in-your-face reminder of what you want. Vision boards can help keep your goals in the forefront of your mind. They can act as a manifestation tool: seeing is believing.
They are easy to make. Simply grab a canvas or piece of paper, cover it with words and images related to your short- and long-term goals, and hang it up somewhere you can see it often. You can even take a picture of it and set it as your phone’s wallpaper.
Make the Daily Decision to Begin
The path to success is often pock marked. There are bumps and setbacks along every path. Make the decision to continue. Let failures slide by and start again. Every second is an opportunity to begin anew.
Resolve to stay the course and, at the very least, you are a hopeful inspiration to someone, and at the very best you reach your goal. Either way making a resolution is a win!
Billock, Jennifer. 12 New Year’s Resolutions Every Renter Should Have. 15 December 2020.
Brower, Tracy PhD. Four Reasons to Make New Year’s Resolutions( Even if You Don’t Keep Them) Forbes Accessed 4 January 2023
Dolan, Chelsea. Tired of New Year’s Resolutions? Here’s Why You Should Try Vision Boarding Instead. 29 December 2020.
Higgins, Haillie. 2023 Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions. 4 January 2023.
Miller, Jen A. Make a Resolution. Accessed 9 January 2023
Segarra, Marielle. How to Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions. 1 January 2023