As the holiday season winds down in the final days of December, millions of people around the world get in a festive and celebratory mood that may involve making certain promises that they are unlikely to fulfill. New Year’s resolutions are popular in Western culture; as a result of globalization, these hopeful intentions are becoming a new holiday custom around the world. New Year’s resolutions date back to ancient times when the Romans made promises to the pagan deity Janus, which was celebrated with a feast in early January.
Janus happens to be depicted as a two-faced deity, which is fitting as it relates to the sketchy record of keeping New Year’s resolutions. According to a research study conducted by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, less than eight percent of Americans manage to achieve the goals they set for themselves at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. This disparity can be explained by means of exploring some elements of modern life in the United States. Americans are known to be part of an optimistic society. The US is a nation of people who are hopeful and seek better lives, but they know that they must work hard to accomplish these goals. Nearly half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions; this is a high rate compared to other countries where revelers are more likely to make wishes or to express their gratitude for having made it another year in a world that seems to be turning chaotic.
Given the resolve and can-do spirit that Americans are known for, it is not surprising to learn that their New Year’s resolutions tend to be lofty and overly ambitious. Rome was not built in a day, but this is not something that Americans believe in. As they say in American competitive sports: “You’d better go big or go home.” The problem with soaring aspirations is that they are often too difficult to achieve, particularly with a time frame of 365 days. A person who weighs 100 kg and wishes to slim down to 75 kg will have to do considerable dieting and exercise; a person who wishes to see $5,000 in the bank before next Christmas will have to work hard and practice some austerity.
Finding success in life is a matter of being rational, and this is what many New Year’s resolutions lack. Those who are able to keep their resolutions do so by setting smaller goals that are attainable and measurable. Instead of losing 25 kg in a year, what about losing 5 kg by March and another 5 kg by June? Instead of saving up $5,000 in a year, what about saving up $200 per month until July and then checking if more can be done to increase savings?
In the end, New Year’s resolutions are about taking concrete steps towards becoming a better person, something we should be doing on a daily basis.