My fellow planet dwellers and wisdom seekers, as we approach the beginning of February, I can’t help but reflect on the promise of a new year and the goals we set for ourselves just a few weeks ago. Whether it’s improving our health, advancing our careers, or strengthening our relationships, each new year brings with it a chance to hit the reset button and strive for something better.
But as the days turn into weeks, and the weeks into months, it’s all too common for our resolve to weaken and our goals to fall by the wayside. So, I ask you, what’s left of your New Year’s resolutions?
Before we face reality and examine what we can do to get back on track, let’s look at what history tells us about this enduring tradition. Where did this practice come from? Why has it lasted for centuries? And what can we learn from our ancestors?
The origins of New Year’s resolutions
New Year’s resolutions can be traced back to ancient Babylon, over 4,000 years ago. During the first month of the year, the Babylonians would make promises to their gods in hopes of earning their favour and good fortune for the coming year. This practice was adopted by the ancient Romans and later spread to other cultures, becoming a staple of Western New Year celebrations.
Over time, the focus shifted from pleasing the gods to pleasing oneself, as people began to use New Year’s resolutions as a way to improve their own lives and well-being. The tradition has remained a popular one, with many people around the world setting resolutions for personal growth and change.
However, despite the longevity of the tradition, making and keeping New Year’s resolutions can be a challenging task. Research has shown that only a small percentage of people actually achieve their goals, with many resolutions falling by the wayside by the end of January.
What do philosophers have to say about New Year’s resolutions?
Throughout history, philosophers also have offered their insights and perspectives on the practice of making New Year’s resolutions.
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed in the power of habit and routine, and saw the making of resolutions as an opportunity to establish virtuous habits that would lead to a better life. He emphasized the importance of perseverance in pursuing one’s goals, stating that “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Epicurus, another ancient Greek philosopher, believed that happiness was the ultimate goal of life and encouraged individuals to set resolutions that would bring them closer to this goal. He argued that small, consistent actions were the key to achieving long-term satisfaction, rather than relying on major life events or accomplishments.
In more recent times, philosopher Immanuel Kant emphasized the importance of self-reflection and moral growth, arguing that New Year’s resolutions could serve as a means of evaluating one’s behaviour and making improvements to become a better person. He believed that individuals should set resolutions that would help them act in accordance with the moral law, and that they should follow through with these commitments in a deliberate and consistent manner.
What can we learn from the history of New Year’s resolutions?
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that the tradition has roots in self-improvement and personal growth, rather than simply ticking off a list of to-dos. By focusing on meaningful changes and growth, we can make the most of this tradition and reap the benefits in our own lives.
Furthermore, the longevity of the tradition speaks to its enduring relevance and value. Despite the challenges and setbacks, people have been making New Year’s resolutions for centuries, indicating that it is a powerful tool for personal growth and change.
However, research has shown that a large percentage of people who make New Year’s resolutions are unsuccessful in achieving their goals. So, what can we do to reap the benefits of our New Year’s resolutions and make this time-honoured tradition work for us?
Five easy steps to get back on track
First, motivation can often be a challenge. We start out with the best of intentions, but life can easily get in the way and throw us off course. That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to stay motivated, whether that’s by setting small, achievable goals, or seeking support from friends and loved ones.
Second, we must be realistic in our resolutions. Setting unrealistic goals, such as losing too much weight too quickly, can lead to disappointment and make it more difficult to stay on track. Instead, let’s aim for achievable and realistic goals that we can work towards gradually. Break down larger goals into smaller, achievable tasks.
Third, it’s important to make our resolutions a priority. If we don’t allocate time and focus to our goals, they may fall by the wayside. So, let’s prioritize our resolutions and make sure they receive the attention they deserve. And as a corollary of step two, remember it’s not too late to ditch unrealistic goals and clear the pass to other more achievable ones.
Fourth, accountability is key. Without someone to hold us accountable, it’s easy to let our resolve slip. That’s why I encourage you to find an accountability partner or join a support group to help keep you on track. This accountability partner can be your partner, a friend, or even better, a coach. A coach can help you set goals that work for you and hold you accountable throughout your journey.
And finally, celebrate small victories and don’t beat yourself up over setbacks! Don’t chastise yourself if you don’t see immediate progress. Instead, focus on the progress you have made and the benefits you are experiencing. In other words, be patient! Change doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and keep working towards your goals. “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy.
Last word of wisdom
As we look ahead to the new year, let us draw inspiration from the roots of New Year’s resolutions and recommit ourselves to the pursuit of self-improvement and growth. Whether it’s taking small steps or making big changes, let us embrace the power of this tradition and make the most of the opportunities it provides.
If we have gone off-course, there is nothing to worry about and it’s still time to get back on the horse. New year’s resolutions can also provide a sense of purpose and direction. When you have clear goals and a plan for achieving them, you have a sense of purpose and direction in your life. This can help you feel more focused, motivated, and can give you a sense of meaning.
So let us make this New Year one of growth, progress, and fulfilment, and let us do so with the wisdom and lessons of our ancestors guiding us along the way.
About the Author: Philippe Gelin is a maverick entrepreneur turned business and life coach. He practices a range of creative coaching techniques to help impactful startup founders, entrepreneurs and executives develop their vision, empower their community, and unleash their true power.
You can contact Philippe here