According to that institution of all contemporary knowledge and global truth: Wikipedia, a New Year’s resolution is a resolve to change an “undesired trait or behaviour.” A common phenomena of the modern world, its traditions can be dated back to the days of Babylonia – quite fittingly – when people promised the gods to pay off their outstanding debts and return borrowed objects upon the dawn of each new year. Other historic connections to NYRs include medieval knights’ annual renewal of their vow of chivalry, known as the “peacock vow”, and the Roman ritual of prayer to Janus, the god for whom the month January is named.
In 21st century society, typical resolutions include becoming more socially responsible; improving one’s education; starting a new career; quitting smoking; and, of course, losing weight. Apparently, men and younger people in general are more likely to make career-focused resolutions, while women and older generations are committed to travel and taking up hobbies. It has also been found that only 12% of people achieve their NYR aims within the year, with 1 in 3 losing track of their progress and a quarter forgetting about their resolutions altogether. By the start of February, 44% of resolutionists have conceded failure already.
It is with this in mind that I renew my commitment to a healthier lifestyle. I could blame work-related fatigue for the decline of my initial excitement over exercise and health foods; I could say I was being unrealistic, and that I’m just not one of those people who cares about this stuff. But it is only human to become distracted or lose faith. Rachel Adams at the Mancunion says we need to ask ourselves why we have chosen these specific goals for ourselves, but mustn’t be afraid or ashamed to change the end target as we proceed. Forbes’ Maynard Webb says NYRs require thoughtfulness and dedication in the first place, and suggests actually stating our aims out loud leads to greater chances of achieving success.
The reality is, failure is a considered part of making resolutions in the first place – we know it’s a possibility, otherwise the whole thing wouldn’t be something we felt compelled to address. That’s why most people in the Western world don’t actually make New Year’s resolutions any more; committing to the challenge isn’t worth the prospect of losing against our own feeble-mindedness. But if I can turn my attention to carrying on, having wavered in the face of session IPA and office pizza, and learn to forgive my indescretions – maybe I just might make it into that 12%.