Creating New Year resolutions is a tradition that began over 4,000 years ago. Around the time new crops were planted (mid-March), according to History.com ancient Babylonians celebrated their new kings and prayed to the pagan gods for good crops. During this time, they also pledged to repay their debts and return borrowed objects, believing if they kept their promises they would have good fortune in the coming year. Circa 46 B.C, Julius Caesar established the current calendar with January, beginning the New Year. January is in the name of Janus, the two-faced god who symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future. The Romans offered sacrifices to the gods and made promises of good conduct for the coming year. Early Christians continued the tradition by thinking about past mistakes and resolving to do and be better going forward.
New Year resolutions have become secular in modern times with people focusing on self-improvement — weight loss, improvement in healthy lifestyles (better eating, increased exercise, and reduction in alcohol use and smoking), and or spending more time with family and friends. Some seek to reduce spending or improve their financial status by finding new jobs or career growth. But, according to recent research, 45 to 60 percent of Americans make New Year resolutions, while as few as eight percent are successful.
So, why do people fail? It’s all in the framing of the resolutions. Many people set vague goals, for example, “I resolved to eat better in 2019.” As physical therapists we already know how to set goals for our patients. Apply what you have learned to yourself; if you want to be successful, think like a clinician with regard to your personal goals.
Create SMART goals:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time cost limited, time-sensitive)
Focus on the positive aspects of your life, create goals based on what brings you joy, and remember that your success is defined by YOU. As Tony Robbins said: “Success is doing what you want, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want.”