Reinventing the Wheel for New Year’s Resolutions

| By Editorial Staff

Every New Year few things are all but guaranteed:

  • Folks will flock online and to stores to return unwanted gifts, and cash in on gift cards
  • The lyrics to Auld Lang Syne will be butchered by 99% of revelers
  • Resolutions will be made, and quickly broken

While there’s little we can do to address the first two items, there are some ways we can do better with our resolutions. Besides, we’ve been making resolutions for thousands of years; you’d think by now we’d have mastered the concept.

The history of New Year’s resolutions

Some 4,000 year ago, the Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions.

Of course, they made these promises in mid-March, when their crops were planted. This ritual was part of a huge 12-day religious festival, known as Akitu. This is when the Babylonians would crown a new king or reaffirm their loyalty to their reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed.

It’s believed these promises were the birth of our resolutions.

Fast forward a few thousand years to Ancient Rome, where, around 46 B.C., Julius Caesar thought it a good idea to make January 1 the New year, since January held special significance to the Romans. The god Janus (which January is named after) would symbolically look backward into the previous year and ahead into the future; as such the Romans would offer sacrifices to Janus and made promises of good conduct for the coming year, to please him.

And that’s what led us to all those self-improving resolutions we make today.

But focusing on self-improvement is almost surely why our modern-day resolutions are so hard to keep.

According to research shared on Statistic Brain, while as many as 45% of Americans say they make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving their goals.

But perhaps there are ways to change all that?

Since making resolutions focused on self-improvement (lose weight, cut out sugar, stop drinking) is challenging, we think it’s time to reinvent the wheel.

Here are a few ideas that might have you singing a new tune (perhaps even the right words to Auld Lang Syne) this New Year’s.

Learn a new simple skill

It’s not uncommon for folks to want to learn a new skill for the new year. Say, guitar, piano or an entirely new language.

Nice, lofty goals you have there! But maybe they’re too lofty. What’s wrong with a simple, small skill, that you can easily learn and will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something in 2018? That small win could lead the way toward a series of small wins throughout the year.

What kind of simple new skills are we talking about? Why not learn a new card trick, or some other party trick like:

  • Fold a dollar bill into a t-shirt
  • Whistle with your fingers in your mouth
  • Master a few shadow puppets (like a goat or dog)
  • Become a killer moonwalker
  • Use one hand to light a match

Any (and all) of these tricks are simple to master and will make you feel like a king (or queen) in 2018.

Try new things each month

Make a list of 12 new things to try in 2018. Make them simple, like taste a new food, visit a new museum, take a new route to work, and learn a new word one month.

Like the resolution above, this helps you accomplish small wins without much effort, plus you get to experience new things, which is always a good thing.

What you might discover is, over time, you’ll want to try out more than one new thing a month. So, you’ll bump it up to two new things and then, maybe, one each week.

But, when in doubt, stick to one new thing each month. It’s doable and far from overwhelming. Just make sure to write it all down. Nothing really exists until you write it down.

Get happy by delivering happiness

While it’s not perhaps common knowledge, many people have discovered that the true key to happiness is to make others happy. When we do good things for others, we really do feel better about ourselves.

In other words, there’s a way to accomplish that self-improvement goal we all typically have when it comes to resolutions … without focusing on ourselves.

What can you do to make the lives of those around you better? Here are a few ideas:

  • Visit an elderly relative once a month or week. They’ll love it and you’ll walk away from each visit wondering what took you so long to do that in the first place.
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter, food bank or something similar
  • For folks who don’t have the time to volunteer, or prefer not to, schedule monthly donations to a charity (or charities) of your choice. It doesn’t have to be much. Forego a coffee one week and right there you have $20 that could go to a better cause than your caffeine habit.
  • Surprise your spouse with a home-cooked meal once a month. Unless you’re a cooking wiz, it’s OK if this meal is pancakes or heck, even cereal! Trust us, it’s the thought – and surprise – that counts.

Filter out the negative

Lots of people promise to quit Facebook or hop on social media less frequently than they currently do.

Let’s be honest – is that realistic?

Try this instead: filter your feeds. Stop following negative people and pages. If one of your friends posts rants and negative content all the time, you can unfollow them while still being their friend. They’ll never know.

And, do you really need to follow all those news pages and celebrities? How often do you fly through your feed and ignore post after post after post? Why not bring the art of minimalism to your news feed and return social media to what it was, originally: a place to catch up with your friends and family?

That way, it’s OK if you can’t cut back on how often you go on social media; you won’t be inundated with the negativity that currently resides there.

In the end, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t commit to your resolutions. The only person you’re hurting by doing that is yourself. That’s a whole lot better than how the Babylonians had it. If they failed to keep their promises, their gods would punish them for the rest of the year.

At least you don’t have to deal with that.