Okay then, there — I said it, and doesn’t it feel almost sacrilegious? The sky won’t fall and the world won’t come to an end if you don’t! You may be asking why I would make such a bold statement at the end of the year when this is what every right-thinking human should be doing. I’m saying this because most people don’t keep the resolutions they make anyway. U.S. News in 2017 released a statistic that 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February.
Where did the practice come from?
Like many traditions, it has a religious origin. The Babylonians started it 4,000 years ago, even though their new year began in March when crops were planted (what we call spring). They would promise to pay their debts and return anything they borrowed in hopes of being in favor with the gods. The Romans also had a similar tradition and would make vows to the god Janus, after whom the month of January was named. Janus was a two-faced god who was considered a ‘gateway’ god, inhabiting doorways and arches. The Romans believed Janus looked backward into the past year and forward into the New Year, thereby making sacrifices to the deity making promises of good conduct for the coming year.
In the Christian faith, John Wesley held covenant renewal services, typically on New Year’s Day or on New Year’s Eve, commonly called “watch night services”. During this time, congregants reflected on the past year through song and prayer and made resolutions for the New Year. Modern churches use this time to “cast vision’” or share the vision of the ministry for the upcoming year. Interesting isn’t it? How often do we investigate the practices that we hold as unchangeable or immovable?
So now what?
What am I suggesting you do then, if you don’t make resolutions? Change your approach completely. First of all, one of the things that I’ve changed is the need to make major changes at the beginning of the year. You can make changes at any time you need to. You can start to eat healthy on Wednesday, September 19, if you decided you needed to after sitting up all night on Tuesday, September 18 with heartburn after that cracked conch with onions, extra ketchup and hot sauce snack. Why wait until the first Monday in January? The same applies for any other goal or desire that you may have.
So what I am suggesting is the following:
1. Write a life plan or vision. A vision is a long range outlook on the entire spectrum of your life that can even outlast your life and become what is known as a legacy. In a personal vision, you will articulate exactly what you want to be and accomplish in major areas of your life such as career/business, social, physical, financial.
2. Set a few monthly or quarterly goals. In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, author Stephen Covey recommends that people set just a few goals that are achievable, rather than a slew of goals that are overwhelming and become unattainable. Set two to three goals that you would like to have accomplished within a certain time period. Achievement and motivation release ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains that make us happy and euphoric. Before you know it, you will be checking off those completed goals like nobody’s business.
3. Consistently check your goals and progress. Making it a lifestyle to check in with ourselves and our vision is the key to a living a great life. Ongoing evaluation and celebration eliminate the need to feel like having to reset only at the beginning of the year. Some people make it a practice to do a full review and planning time at a certain point of the year that could be as early as September or during the latter months of the year so that by January they are full steam ahead with the plans already made.
Stop making New Year’s resolutions! The bottom line is it is your life; take control of it, live it and live well, based on your own values and standards for success. Make self-reflection, renewal and transformation a year-long, lifetime practice that is sustainable and a part of who you are, not a faddish, temporary exercise that’s forgotten by Valentine’s Day.
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, mentor and activist who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals ‘live limitless’ by identifying purpose and vision, aligning to purpose through authenticity, and breaking free of limiting mindsets and practices. For comments, queries, strategic solutions and bookings, email email@example.com.