Hello 2016, good-bye 2015. It is a New Year and time to start making all sorts of positive changes in our lives and get rid of all the negatives and bad habits. This year (as in every year for way too long) I resolve to lose weight, get fit, control my spending, make a budget, be nicer and on and on and on. Are you with me on this? Why do we do this to our selves? Yes, it is a new year, but what has really changed since December 31 other than the year number? Did we become new people at the stroke of midnight? Why is January 1st so magic and not March 1?
The arbiter of all knowledge, Wikipedia, says this about New Year Resolutions: A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.
I love that phrase “something slightly nice”. I could probably stick with being slightly nice. I do open doors for people and hold them open for those following me. Wow, I’m ahead of the year already!
Our Wiki friends further tell us that this form of self abuse has been around for a long time, to wit: Babylonians made promise to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
I have never personally met a Babylonian, Roman or knight and understand that they are no longer around so I am not sure if they were any better at keeping their resolves back then than I am today.
Studies have shown that the most common reason for 35% of NYR (New Year Resolvers) failing is because of their unrealistic goals. Also 33% of NYR didn’t keep track and 23% forgot about it. I don’t know about you, but I fit into each category. I always resolve to do something that I know darn well I won’t, I never really write my resolutions down and then I can’t remember what they were to start with. Really, I shouldn’t feel too bad since I also found this nugget: A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.
Now don’t you feel better? Granted, I don’t know where in the world the University of Bristol is to start with and they may all be slackers anyway, but if the majority of 3,000 people don’t keep their resolutions, then I can’t consider myself a lone failure. After all, there is comfort in numbers and who really wants to be out of the mainstream? Don’t you find people who do keep all their resolutions to be just a little bit sanctimonious?
There have been years that I have kept my resolutions for three or four months. Want to know my secret? Just morph your resolution into Lent. Want to drop some weight? Give up doughnuts. Of course the year I gave up doughnuts for Lent was a lesson in what not to do. My office was right next door to a small town mom & pop bakery and I had been in the habit of popping in a couple of days (5) a week for a doughnut or six. They were just these little circles of heaven but they certainly had a way of making clothes too tight. So, that is what I gave up. However, I did not give up maple bars, bear claws, cinnamon twists etc. Guess who did not fit into her Easter dress? But still, I did sort of keep a resolution.
I think the best thing it is to not call them resolutions and try not to be too broad. (Although I do have to be very broad regarding what I give up for Lent, since obviously I cheat. Henceforth I give up all Fried and Baked Sugared Breakfast Pastry.) Setting a goal is somehow a little more manageable. Having specific end date helps too. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble seeing more than a month or two ahead. Doing something specific for a real length of time is just beyond me. Oh, I start off well and can usually end up in pretty good shape, but it is the middle that does me in. Take getting the house under control. I joined a Declutter in 365 Days group and rocked it for about three months. My cabinets were works of art, my drawers so very neat and my pantry actually organized. Then I didn’t make my menus and master grocery list and the CDs never got organized and let’s not even talk about the coat closet. But come November and the holidays are looming, I found the declutter calendar pages I had ignored and actually got November and December’s done (I’ll work on April – October this year, maybe).
One of the best resolutions I’ve heard is to make no more resolutions on January 1. Frankly, November 22 makes more sense to me. My birthday is November 21 and if I am going to make some big changes, it should be at the beginning of MY new year. So in a way, that lets me off the hook (for 2015 anyway). And even better, it gives me plenty of time to think, really think, about what I want to do or accomplish for my next year. There are some things that at this age I should not even consider. Really, I’m not going to EVER get back to what I looked like thirty years ago, either in weight or fitness and that’s just fine. If I haven’t mastered the art of magazine pretty housekeeping by now, I’m not going to no matter what I resolve. And I’m just too darn lazy to cook healthy, nutritious meals every night. (After all, I am the mother that set three different kinds of cookies on the table along with a gallon of milk and called it dinner.)
But I do want to be more patient and helpful, I do want to make the world a better place even if it is just my own little corner, I do want to be healthy so I can have a long life with Nort, and I do want my family and friends know just how much I love them. So maybe that is what I will resolve on November 22, 2016. After all, I have eleven months to practice so I can get it right.