A New Year’s Resolution is a tradition that is most common in the Western Hemisphere, but is also found in the Eastern Hemisphere. res8 People make a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something nice for others.

Many resolutions had religious origins.  The Babylonians started the New Year by promising their gods to pay their debts and return borrowed goods.  The Romans made promises to the god Janus.  In the Medieval times, the knights reaffirmed their commitment to chivalry after Christmas.  During the Jewish high holidays, they seek and offer forgiveness for their errors.  Similarly, Christians make Lenten sacrifices.res1

As we near the end of January, how are you doing on the resolutions you made on January 1st?  Have you lost weight?  Has your diet improved?  Are you saving more money?  Are you exercising regularly?  Keeping those well intended resolutions is very challenging.

If you are going to succeed, it is best to have started before New Year’s Eve according to psychology professor, Art Markham.  You need preparation time.  Resolutions fail because people do not work hard enough at making them succeed.  Old habits get in the way.res5

First you need to focus on positive goals, not negative goals.  The negative goals are what you wish to stop doing.  You need to develop new habits and keep a record of your progress.

Make sure your plans are realistic.  For instance, if you are a total couch potato, do not set a goal of starting to walk six miles a day.  You are setting yourself up to fail.  It would be better to start by saying, “I will walk 30 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Once you succeed with that, increase your time gradually by 10 minutes each day.res2

Change your environment to help you stay on track.  If you are trying to diet, have only low calorie healthy snacks around.  Remove the chips and candy from your house.  If you are exercising, find a buddy to go with you.  It will make you much less likely to cancel and having someone to talk to makes the time go faster.

Accept the fact that there will be ups and downs.  Do not become discouraged on a down day.  Learn from it and keep moving forward.  Be kind to yourself and do not give up.

The top 10 resolutions are:res4

1.  Lose weight

2.  Getting organized

3.  Spend less, Save more

4.  Enjoy life to the fullest

5.  Stay fit and healthy

6.  Learn something exciting

7.  Quit smoking

8.  Help others

9.  Fall in love

10. Spend more time with family

45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolution, 17% infrequently make resolutions and 38% never make resolutions.  Unfortunately, only 8% are successful in achieving their resolutions.  75% maintain their goal for one week, 71% for two weeks, 64% for one month and 46% for six months or more.res3

Even if you can feel yourself slipping on your resolution, do not give up.  Stay positive, look at the record you are keeping and put yourself back on track.  Reward yourself periodically as you reach a goal.  You will be much happier with yourself if you maintain your goal.  Good luck – it is not too late to regroup and start again.