This is the time of the year when people tend to fixate on making new resolutions, setting goals and intentions to discipline ourselves, or making life improvements in big or small ways. Accomplishing these goals or resolutions does not work by magic, but it is about following up and committing to the behaviour change we desire.
But how did this all begin? According to Almanac.com, it all started with the Babylonians in 2000 B.C.E.. The Babylonians celebrated a 12-day Akitu festival beginning at the vernal equinox, through to the New Year. The agriculturally-based society would resolve to pay off their debts, return borrowed farm equipment (before the start of the farming season), crown a new king, or pledge allegiance to the reigning king.
This tradition was then adopted by the ancient Romans, who with the Julian (Caesar) calendar in 46 B.C.E. shifted the timing to Jan. 1 as the start of the new year. Medieval knights also made yearly New Year resolutions — their “Peacock Vow” — by placing their hands on a peacock and renewing their vow to chivalry to maintain their knightly values.
By the 17th century, making resolutions became a widespread popular tradition, which lost the seriousness and sincerity attached to following through and making and breaking pledges. Almanac.com also quoted the first newspaper “New Year resolution” article, found in a Boston newspaper from 1813. It states “People will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behaviours, and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away their former sins.”
Resolutions in the early 1900s became more religious or spiritual in nature, reflecting a desire to develop stronger moral character, a stronger work ethic, and more restraint in the face of earthly pleasures. Over the years, however, resolutions seem to have shifted from the denying of self to general improvement of self.
This remarkably interesting historical fact lets us see that New Year’s resolutions are nothing new. But while there is nothing wrong with making resolutions, or setting new goals for the new year, let us start with the renewing of our minds. Where the mind leads, the body follows. The battle to follow through and not procrastinate is in our minds, and is the hardest to fight.
This time, before we create too many unrealistically grand expectations or unreachable goals, let us be true to ourselves. Consider the “why”. Why are we doing this in the first place? This will help us to not focus on the results, and the process will not be daunting.
We all have unique paths and purposes, and though setting resolutions and goals is good, it will not take us to where we want to go. Our focus and commitment to why we desired change in the first place will lead us to accomplish our goals. This commitment will help us overcome obstacles while we are trying to succeed, and will inspire us and allow us not to quit, no matter how hard it may seem. It allows us to see opportunities in our challenges, and increases our enthusiasm so that we stop procrastinating, zero in on our target, and go for it. We just need to trust the process that things will work out. It will get easier, and makes perfect when we keep practicing.
Happy New Year everyone! May our year be filled with kindness, joy, love, and laughter. May we gain a renewed sense of purpose in life and in self. May this new year bring us new experiences and new opportunities. All the best for the months ahead, as we raise our glasses and cheer to the start of a great new year.
Here are the top 10 resolutions from 1947. Do any of them surprise you?
1. Improve my disposition, be more understanding, control my temper
2 Improve my character, live a better life
3. Stop smoking, or smoke less
4. Save more money
5. Stop drinking, drink less
6. Be more religious, go to church more often
7. Be more efficient, do a better job
8. Take better care of my health
9. Take greater part in home life
10. Lose (or gain) weight