It is human to always commence new beginnings on a positive upbeat, something even the profound pessimist would nurse. This nascent desire, this timeless urge to welcome life’s many journeys with a hopeful vibe is at the crux of humanity; be it a new age, new government or a new year.
A New Year’s resolution, according to the popular search engine, Wikipedia, “is a tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behaviour to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life”. There is this space where old things trap you into; a place of solemn retreat —however brisk —where you cast a retrospective gaze on your life with the aspiration of doing better, adding more, removing or changing things that have encumbered the dying year in the new, coming year. A study found 46% of participants who made common New Years resolutions (e.g. weight loss, exercise programmes, quitting smoking) were likely to succeed, over ten times as among those deciding to make life changes at other times of the year (Norcross, JC, Mrykalo, MS, Blagys, MD, J. Clin. Psych.).
This seemingly universal New Year’s resolution is well documented even in history. “The tradition of New Year’s resolution dates all the way back to 153 B.C.” (Wonderopolis), when “the Romans began each year by making promises to the god, Janus, for whom the month of January is named” (Muticultural Holidays, Teacher Created Resources). History also tells us that, the “Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts” (Now You Know Big Book of Answers, Dundum). History aside, people begin this 365 days voyage with their hearts earnestly yearning for a re-engineering of the bad habits of the outgoing year to good habits, the good to better, the better to best and the best, reinforced in the New Year. So, “regardless of what resolution you commit to, the goal is to improve life in the coming year” (Wonderopolis).
Popular among these resolutions are: to become more assertive, to improve physical well-being which ranges from eating healthy food, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking to stopping biting nails, to improve mental well-being which could be thinking positive or laughing more, to improve finances; get out of debt, save money, make small investments, to improve your career by performing better at your current job, getting a better job or establishing own business, and to improve self; become more organized, reduce stress, manage time, perhaps watch less television, play fewer sitting-down video games, settle down, get engaged or married, pray more, be more spiritual, spend less time on social media (Popular New Year’s Resolution, USA.gov).
This is often how the New year’s resolution things come: Your niece, Salome, caught in the euphoria that comes with the New Year, starts hammering on her endless New Year’s resolutions for 2020. Salome lists them in a jotter and bluffs, “Brother, this 2020 is my final year in school; I will save big money to start a business when I graduate even before National Youth Service.” She thinks and talks about this resolution for endless days. Sometimes in April, she comes home for her first semester break. Your gists drill into her resolutions at the onset of the year. Salome has already misplaced her jotter where she lists her goals for the year in March. You spy on her account balance in October; it is in red. You decide to keep quiet so as not to hurt her feelings. And sometimes, it is your elder brother. He rants so painfully about the girls who feed fat off his salary in the year. He promises himself to change in 2020. More so, change is the mantra of the moment in your country. He says he would sack all those girls, look for one girl and build a relationship with her for marriage in 2020. In November, you go on a short visit. The number of girls he brings home in the week shocks you. It is more than he had complained before the beginning of the year.
Honestly, 365 days is long enough to break and wear your heart-felt resolutions out. Hence, you need to know how and what to do to stay true and pull through your resolutions now that the year is still young and malleable. So, how do you improve your chances of achieving your New Year’s resolutions?
Specificity. Your resolutions should be clear, concise and concrete. It is one key to unlocking your aspirations for the New Year. It makes your resolutions tangible and unclutters your aims. It cuts your resolutions down to sizeable, measured bits. “In a 2014 report, 35% of participants who failed their new year’s resolutions admitted they had unrealistic goals, 33% of participants didn’t keep track of their progress, and 23% forgot about them; about one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions (Bunch of failures or just optimistic? finder.com.au). Specificity will help you avoid the pitfalls that plague New Years resolution. So, be specific.
Measurability. Are your resolutions measurable? Can you tell when you have gone through achieving them 20%, 75% or 100%. You must be able to, in a way, calibrate your resolutions in clear, unambiguous parameters. It’s not bad if your efforts in achieving your resolutions can be graphical. A study in the University of Bristol by Richard Wiseman puts it wisely, “Men achieved their goals 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting wherein resolutions are made in terms of small and measurable goals (e.g., “lost a pound a week” rather than lose weight.)”
Reward (and punishment). This is simple and effective tool for making your New year’s resolutions come true. To ensure that you adhere to your resolutions, as you hit important measured milestones in the course of the year, you reward yourself with you cherished prize. (or otherwise punish yourself if you’re faltering). You could take yourself out to a new mall or to the beach. Just anything that would enthuse you and gear you towards the finishing line of this race you pledge yourself to at the beginning of the year. Isn’t this cool?
Accountability. You need accountability partner(s). To clinch your goals and reach those sweet ends you desire in the New Year, it is paramount to have accountability partners. These are people — friends, mentors, parents, siblings —who will keep eyes on you, caution you and put you on your toes to those resolutions you confide in them. This is more crucial if what you set to achieve in the New Year is a behavioural change.
Every 365 days, the calendar turns to usher in a new, clean, stainless year, with people shrouding their hearts with new hopes for the year, only to reach the end of the year with such hopes unattempted, half-lived or dead, and you see them unwilling to bury them in the memories of the passing year, so they soldier on, hopeful for the coming year, trusting it to breathe life into the resolutions of the preceding year — an obnoxious, vicious cycle. If your new year resolution would not become as empty as air, fake as mirage and crumble before your nose like a pack of cards, you need to set the aforementioned mechanisms into place and having done all, by God and His unfaltering grace, you are bound for a safe voyage.