‘Tis the season… for abandoned New Year’s resolutions! With 2013 rolling around, it’s time again for setting, and then giving up on, our New Year’s resolutions. Why do we feel it necessary to participate in this crazy tradition? And more importantly, why can’t we ever follow through?
The New Year’s resolution is actually a tradition that came from ancient Babylonian culture, where the first New Year was celebrated (as far as we know). Similar to modern times, the Babylonians essentially chose something that they had been “meaning to do” and made it their goal to actually complete it in the coming year. Although, unlike us, the Babylonians weren’t pledging to give up smoking or lose weight (the most common resolution was to return borrowed farming equipment… HA!)
Despite the obvious differences, I would wager a guess that a lot of those Babylonian resolutions went the same place that our current resolutions tend to go… NOWHERE! So why even make them?! Simply put, we make resolutions because we need to have a goal or challenge to motivate us to do something. For example… If I was standing next to a mountain, I’d probably be thinking nothing more than, “Wow, that’s a really nice mountain.” But as soon as someone challenges me to climb it, the only thing running through my head is, “Okay, how do I get up this baby?!”
The truth is that we need resolutions and challenges because we are an inherently competitive species. Don’t think so? Open up a history book and find a time that wasn’t defined by competition for something…. resources, power, money. Competition has defined the human species for hundreds of thousands of years, and it is a tool that we can use to our advantage… if we do it right.
This brings us to the most important discussion. That is, why is it so difficult to follow through with our resolutions? This answer is multi-‐faceted, but the real root of the problem boils down to the simple fact that we are competing against ourselves! It’s very easy to lose when you’re losing to yourself. And without some sort of accountability, letting go of our resolutions is as easy as letting go of those unwanted pounds (when they finally DO come off.)
So what is the answer? Should we not make resolutions at all? Or do we need a lesson in sticking to our guns? To be perfectly honest, I don’t have the answer. But what I DO know is that the New Year’s Resolution is a time-honored tradition with a lot of inherent value. And, from this writer’s perspective, its most important value is NOT in the accomplishment of sticking to our resolution; it is in identifying what is important to us. When we make that resolution, whether it is to lose weight, use a little less profanity, or return borrowed farm equipment, we are saying to ourselves, “This is something about myself that I am not satisfied with.” And it is in those awe-inspiring, sky-opening moments of self-analysis that we really grow as individuals. And whether or not we accomplish the goal, we can at least say we tried. Have a happy (and healthy) New Year!