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Why I decided to no longer make New Year’s resolutions
Later, in 1813 the first-known recorded use of the phrase “New Year resolution” appeared in a Boston newspaper. It went on to say that people would be deliberate December sinners. And their sins would be wiped away through their new behavior starting the first day in January. My guess is that belief is still so in certain cultures.
How many New Year’s resolutions have you ever kept? Or how soon after making them did you ditch them? The first week? The first month? Did you ever keep any for a year or longer?
Surveys vary, but many indicate that only 8 to 10 percent of American adults hang on for the 12-month run. And just under 50 percent are first-month ditchers, a group I used to be part of.
I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. Why? I got tired of not keeping them. Losing weight was frequently at the top of my New Year’s list. No longer.
Back in 1947, the Gallup Poll New Year’s resolutions list had losing weight dead last. But it was the No. 1 resolution out of 10 on a 2021 survey. Does this reversal reflect a change in our country’s eating habits?
How about deleting old emails? Deleting them was among my must-do resolutions not too long ago. Recently, my 13-year-old granddaughter looked at my computer and asked why I kept them. At the core I’m an instinctive hoarder.
More recently, a goal for the New Year was to create folders by subjects on my Microsoft One Drive. Today, my One Drive continues to be a gigantic sea of mishmash because of all the uncategorized items. Thanks to Microsoft programming, the items are all in alphabetical order.
So, how did the idea of New Year’s resolutions come about? Might past marketing geniuses have brainstormed the question, “What can we sell by having people make New Year’s resolutions beginning the first of January?”
No such marketing plot ever existed that I could find. Yet today there are planning kits, tech apps and assorted new year’s gadgets to whet our buying appetites.
A forerunner of the New Year’s resolution ritual goes back to the Babylonians 4,000 years. To remain in the favor of their gods, promises were made to pay debts and return anything borrowed. Babylonians also committed ongoing loyalty to the reigning king.
Moreover, I was unaware that the concept of a year is based on the Earth’s rotation around the sun. And that in 46 BC Julius Caesar decided that Jan. 1 should be the first day of the year.
This date honored Janus, a two-faced god who symbolically looked back into the previous year and forward into the new year. Romans would then also offer sacrifices to Janus and make promises of good behavior for the year ahead. Another forerunner of the New Year’s resolution concept.
During the Middle Ages, medieval knights got into the New Year’s resolution game by renewing their vows to chivalry. That amounted to a declaration of maintaining their knightly values and a code. Historians tell us that the Code of Chivalry on an actual 10 must-do list was the power elites’ way of keeping the good knights in check.
Later, in 1813 the firstknown recorded use of the phrase “New Year resolution” appeared in a Boston newspaper. It went on to say that people would be deliberate December sinners. And their sins would be wiped away through their new behavior starting the first day in January. My guess is that belief is still so in certain cultures.
My further reading of ancient customs and traditions lacked anything akin to resolutions about losing weight. Perhaps the Babylonians, the Medieval Knights and their kin had more to think about for the coming New Year than the onset of bulging bellies.
So, why did I drop making New Year’s resolutions beyond failing to fulfill them each year? I read articles on the long run, along Peter Schwartz’s book “The Art of the Long View.” Their advice was to evaluate progress in the longer run. And not in days or weeks as often we do with New Year’s resolutions.
In December 2019, after much forethought, I committed myself to a longerview resolution. That was to get me through the next decade. How? By mindfully skirting potential minefields and easing into more healthful lifestyle changes, a journey for future telling.
To some, a 10-year resolution taking me from 2020 to 2030 might have seemed incongruous. But it made sense to me. Now, at the beginning of 2023 I can say I have made it through my first three years resolution.
Yet, the past unexpectedly seeped into my thinking during my 2022 December holiday gouging. When I weighed myself, it seemed as if a voice inside me whispered, “There is a one-month January resolution scenario to lower the holiday high weight reading on your scale.”
Juan A. Negroni, a former international business executive and Weston resident, is a consultant, bilingual speaker/facilitator, and writer. His column appears monthly in Hearst Connecticut Media. Email him at email@example.com.