Resolving to Set Goals

By Willie Victor and Pam Salvadore

It's that time of year again, the time for making New Year's resolutions. The time when everyone jumps on the bandwagon making promises of losing weight, exercising more, and being kinder to one another. Given their timeliness, I thought it would be fun to take a look at resolutions and the motivation behind them.

What is a resolution? According to the Oxford Dictionary, a resolution is "a firm decision to do or not do something." A definition is always a good place to start, but this one led me to wonder how these "firm decisions" became associated with the New Year in the first place. It's believed that the ancient Babylonians are the ones responsible for the practice of making resolutions in honor of the New Year. In their time, the New Year represented the beginning of the planting season in March. As the seeds were sown, Babylonians made promises to the Gods to pay their debts and return all they had borrowed in exchange for a bountiful harvest. This idea progressed with the Romans, who adapted the concept of New Year's resolutions to coincide with Julius Ceasar's revision to the calendar, establishing January 1st as the beginning of the New Year. Much like the Babylonians, Romans too made promises to the Gods – specifically to Janus, the two-faced deity who inhabited doorways, simultaneously looking both backward and forward. On Ceasar's newly conceived New Year's Day, Romans would offer sacrifices and make promises of good conduct in hopes of falling in favor with Janus. So, the basis for making resolutions began as a somewhat religious pursuit.

These days, a New Year's resolution is more likely made to improve the maker's personal life. The single most popular New Year's resolution is the promise to lose weight. January is now known as the time when we bravely stride into the gym in search of the "perfect body" or elusive pant size. Unfortunately, even the most determined among us are more likely to fail than succeed with these resolutions. According to an article in US News's Health section, only 8% of those making New Year's resolutions achieve their goals. Furthermore, approximately 80% of all New Year's resolutions have failed by February 1st. Why is that? Without getting too heavy here, perhaps its' because too many of us make very broad resolutions about things that only matter slightly to us.

So, how do we take advantage of the New Year as a time for renewal and improvement and keep our resolutions? I suggest that we do so by eliminating resolutions altogether. Instead, let's set goals for the New Year. A goal more accurately portrays what most of us want to accomplish in regard to a resolution anyway. According to that same Oxford Dictionary, a goal is "the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result." It's a word that conveys action and ownership, instead of promises. In this day and age, isn't this what we are after? We are not promising the Gods that we'll lose weight. We are making a commitment to ourselves.

Thinking more actionably, take a minute to think about what you want for yourself in 2020. Choose one or two goals that are the most important to you and define them well. Create a step by step, concrete plan for achieving those goals. Be very specific. Don't just say "I want to lose weight in 2020" write out how much weight you want to lose, by what date, and how you plan to go about it. Enlist the help of others in attaining your goal. Break down your goal into a series of small steps. When each one is achieved, reward yourself with a little indulgence unrelated to your goal (never use food as a reward or punishment). Finally, think about what you are going to do once you reach your goal. What will your life look like after this accomplishment? How will you feel about yourself after having achieved it? Keep the answers to those questions in mind whenever you feel defeated or are tempted to stray. Then, congratulate and celebrate the person you've become when you do reach your goal. Remember, there's no such thing as a small victory. Any victory is HUGE and deserves to be appreciated as such.

Now go out there and embrace the New Year. Set your goals and achieve them. I'll be right here, cheering you on. Happy New Year! Happy New You!