The Truth About New Year’s Resolutions
2020 is officially underway, which means Planet Fitness and Trader Joes are the busiest they will be all year and the snack and candy isles at your local grocery store seems to be dusty and abandoned. But the New Year also means New Year’s resolutions being made, which also means New Year’s resolutions being broken.
Yet, after all the years of broken resolutions, every New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight our unresolved resolutions from the previous year get stored away with all the other unresolved resolutions so we can make new ones. We blindly enter the New Year with the mindset that it’s time to be someone new, it’s time to fix everything that’s wrong with ourselves and our lives, it’s time to solve all the problems that emerged in the previous year. But why? When did this unhealthy tradition start?
How it all started...
The first New Year’s resolutions were made by the ancient Babylonians about 4,000 years ago and took place in mid-March when they planted their crops. The Babylonians would make promises to their gods to pay their debts and return anything they had borrowed. If they kept their word, they would be granted favor by their pagan gods; but if they didn’t, they would fall out of their gods’ favor.
Later, in ancient Rome, the Romans made promises of good conduct for the coming year as well as made sacrifices to Janus, the two faced god believed whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches. Also, Janus was said to look backwards into the previous year and forwards into the future. When Julius Caesar changed the calendar in 46 B.C., he established January 1 as the beginning of the year and named the month after Janus.
For early Christians, the first day of the year was the traditional occasion for one to think about their past mistakes and to resolve to do and be better in the New Year. English clergyman and founder of Methodism, John Wesley, created the Covenant Renewal Service in 1740; it was held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The Covenant Renewal Service, also known as the watch night services, were spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.
But as time went on, New Year’s resolutions evolved into what they are today.
The First Truth
The first, and biggest, issue I have with New Year’s resolutions is that they imply there is something wrong with you that you need to fix. While no one’s perfect and there’s always room for growth, New Year’s resolutions don’t seem like the healthy answer.
Instead of starting the New Year with the mindset that you have to fix something, start it with the intention to achieve something. What’s the difference, you ask? An intention is an aim or plan, a goal, a purpose. On the other hand, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something; it’s the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter.
The words’ meanings seem similar, but their natures are completely different. Intention has a positive nature: you make a plan to accomplish a goal; you work hard towards an achievement that you can be proud of. Yet, the nature of resolution is negative: you decide to fix or solve something that you believe is bad or wrong.
Both involve an end goal, but achievement means success, it means that you gain something; but if your goal is to fix something, it means that something’s broken. So, instead of gaining anything, you’re stagnant.
The Second Truth
The second thing I don’t like about New Year’s resolutions is that they imply an unwillingness to take action. Why . What another month when you could start now? People spend December thinking about what their New Year’s resolution will be when they could spend their time doing it.
New Year’s resolutions are just another excuse to procrastinate on living the life you want. That’s why we all make resolutions at the beginning of a new year, right? We’re all slightly disappointed about how the previous year went and we want to make sure the New Year is different.
If you always say ‘next year will be different’ nothing will ever change, you’ll continue to live the life you currently live whether you’re happy with it or not.
Furthermore, if you can’t motivate yourself to do it now, how can you expect your New Year’s motivation to last throughout the year?
So, don’t wait until January 1st to start reading more, just pick up the book that’s been on your nightstand for forever instead of watching Netflix before bed. There’s no reason to wait till the New Year to change the way you live life. Even more, why would you want to wait? Don’t you want to live the life you want now?
The Third Truth
The third thing I don’t like about New Year’s resolutions is the guilt you feel when you don’t keep it. Additionally, when we don’t keep our resolutions and consciously break them, we start to feel guilty or we feel like we’ve failed.
There’s no benefit to subjugating ourselves to the inevitable guilt we’ll feel. Remember, no one’s perfect. Yet, with intentions there’s no guilt because they’re ambitions, ideas. You can’t break an ambition and you certainly can’t break an idea.
Intentions vs. Resolutions
Here’s the thing about intentions: intending to do something or be something is better than resolving to do something or be something, but you still have to take the first step to do what you intend to do.
Having a goal and a plan suggests there are steps that need to be taken. These steps create a journey, and every time you reach one destination you begin your next adventure to your next destination, and you do this until you’ve accomplished all the steps to reach your goal.
But, fixing or solving a problem suggest a formula, a checklist even. And there’s no formula to living a happy life. Getting in shape is more complicated than EXERCISE + DIET = SUMMER BODY.
With intentions, there’s no solution, because there’s no problem; there’s no straight answer because there’s more than one way to accomplish your goal.
Like I said earlier, you can fail to keep a resolution, but you can’t fail to keep an intention because an intention is an ambition, an idea while a resolution is a commitment, a promise. Ambitions and ideas can change, but once you commit to something you can either keep that promise or break it.
Intentions can grow and evolve as you do but a commitment or a promise can’t grow, they can only be fulfilled and replaced by another commitment.
So, the next time you think of a good New Year’s resolution for yourself, take a minute to think about whether it’s a solution to a problem or an idea that you intend to do. If it’s a solution to a problem, try and find a way to change it into an intention.
Happy New Year,