New Year’s resolutions

A tradition, when a person resolves to change undesired behaviour, accomplish a goal or otherwise improve their life.

Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Knights in the Medieval era took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

Why do we like them?

Most of us like the idea, every now and again, of starting afresh, reinventing ourselves or just doing a little better in some facet of our lives. Infused with a surge of optimism for a new year, and encouraged perhaps by a Christmas toddy or two, we lurch towards New Year resolutions.

And what sort of resolutions do we make? The list is endless and varied. To improve our physical or mental well-being, to be more charitable, to improve our finances, career or education, and the old standard “to enjoy life more”. Basically, to stop doing something or start doing something.

But old habits die hard, especially bad habits.

A 2007 study 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 participants were confident of success at the start.

Why are we so bad at resolutions?

Much has been written and said about the fizzling novelty and ultimate failure of most resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise. However, in a more positive vein, may I offer my dilettante suggestions for increasing your chances of achieving your New Year resolutions:

  • Set realistic and meaningful goals (and not too many at one time).
  • Envisage a specific goal, with a specific plan, rather than a generalised, bland goal.
  • Work towards the goal incrementally.
  • Set targets, keep track of progress and be truthful.
  • Give rewards for progress.
  • Imagine being successful and the benefits that will come from that success.
  • Don’t procrastinate or find excuses.
  • Adapt and build on your specific action plan.
  • Ask for support.
  • Forgive setbacks. Perfection is unattainable.


February 2019