Why We Make and Break Resolutions

You’ve had a month to make friends with that resolution. How’s it going? The three week mark has come and gone so you should have created a habit by now.

Hmmm. Not going as well as planned?

Don’t feel bad. Like millions of people, you probably quit.

Only 8% of the people who make resolutions succeed.

I’m here to tell you that it’s okay if you didn’t make it.

I understand how stressful the new year can be. You have to start writing 2018 on your checks, for you dinosaurs who still use checks, and you have to review that goals list from last year that you made in January and tucked away in a drawer, never to be seen again. If you’re in the northern part of the country, you might be trying to stay warm and worrying about that heat bill that doubled from last month.

So why do we make resolutions at the beginning of the new year?

Once again we can blame the Babylonians. Some 4000 years ago, when they were tinkering around with the calendar, they began their new year with a twelve day celebration when the crops were planted. During this time, they would make promises to the gods to pay debts and return items they had borrowed.

When Julius Caesar made his contribution to the changing calendar by moving the beginning of the year to January 1, the Romans made sacrifices to the deity Janus in hopes of bringing in a good year.

Today, we don’t make sacrifices, unless you choose dieting as your resolution, but we do make resolutions hoping to make the coming year better. It’s tradition.

I’m all for tradition so for those of you who already quit and want to try again while there’s still time, I’d like to offer a few suggestions.

Define that resolution so it’s achievable. Saying you’re going to lose weight isn’t specific enough. Saying you’re going to lose 30 pounds is reaching. Instead you need to lower your standards.

Resolve to lose 5 pounds. You can certainly do this in three weeks. Heck, you can probably do this in a week. Either way, you’ve set a goal that you can achieve just by knocking out the chips, soda and ice cream. Once the week is over, you can get on with your life knowing you succeeded with your resolution. If you decide to continue, even better. Anything extra is a bonus.

What if you resolve to be a better person this year? Again, you have to make it specific. Be a better husband by a) putting the toilet seat down, b) do something about your snoring, and/or c) watch “Dirty Dancing” at least once this year with your wife. You can measure your success by simply asking you wife how you’re doing.

If you want to be a better wife let your husband watch the ballgame every third Sunday, unless the Sunday falls on the 1st or the 15th of the month. Again, measurable. She’ll let you know how she’s doing.

Next, you have to make sure that what you resolve is something that you really, really and I mean really want to do. My philosophy is that a person will make time for something he or she really, and I mean really wants to do. Put the power of the mind on your side, and the battle is half won.

Do an internal audit and decide if you really want to lose weight. Don’t put it on the list because you feel the pressure to come up with a resolution.

Those of us in the north have an exceptionally difficult time with dieting when the wind chill is 20 below. Our survival instincts tell us to fatten up for the winter, not diet. We also have the big sweater excuse that is too easy to use. Many a northerner has used the big sweater excuse to delay dieting until April. No need to lose it if you can cover it.

I think we can all agree that trying to succeed at your resolution takes hard work. Maybe we need to take a different approach. I suggest that instead of resolutions, we make limitations. This could take some of the pressure off and be less stressful.

Let’s say you resolved to lose 20 pounds. If you change that to, “I limit myself to losing 20 pounds,” you win if you lose anything under 20 pounds. You’re not climbing a 20 pound mountain any more.

What if you decide that you’re going to be a better person this coming year. Again, you can change this to a limitation. I’ll be good most of the time because you should anyway, but limit your exceptional behavior to Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other Saturday.

As always, you have to find what works for you.

If you’re part of the 8% that’s still going strong, I applaud you. Good for you! You obviously have stamina and resolve. We could learn from you.

If you never made a resolution, I applaud you too. You must know who you are. You either realize that resolutions are for sissies, or you know that you’re going to fail, so you don’t bother wasting time.

If you did make a resolution and have quit, or about to, don’t beat yourself up. As I’ve shown, making resolutions is stressful. Use some of my advice and try again. It’s not too late.

But if you don’t try again that’s okay too. 2018 is probably not going to be any better than 2017 and by the end of the year, you’re not going to remember enough from 2017 to compare the two years anyway. The only thing you’ll remember about 2018 is that Easter was on April Fool’s Day and the Easter bunny decided not to cook the eggs.

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