The practice of making a New Year's resolution has been a part of human history for over 4,000 years when the ancient Babylonians would make promises to the gods they worshipped. History also remembers the Romans making sacrifices to Janus, who they believed symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future.
While the traditions and motivations for New Year's resolutions have changed, the practice of making New Year's resolutions still remain.
Of 2,011 Americans who participated in a recent Ipsos survey, 38% said they plan to have a New Year's resolution. Twenty percent of respondents said they plan to make multiple resolutions for 2020.
Eating healthier and being more active are two of the most common resolutions Americans make each year.
Gyms all across the country are packed during the first few weeks of January and then the fitness crowds slowly fizzle out. Studies show that only 8% of Americans who make a New Year's resolution actually keep them all year and 80% have failed by the start of February.
Clinical Psychologist Joseph J. Luciani, Ph. D, says most resolutions fail due to sabotage caused by a lack of self-discipline. To help build self-discipline, Luciani suggest starting off by thinking small.
"Take a look at the habits that are holding you back in life. Find one that's simple like, 'When I finish this meal, I'm going to wash my dish.' Make a contract with yourself that that dish must be washed."
By making a small contract with yourself to "wash the dish," you slowly begin to build self trust, which is important to building self-discipline, according to Luciani. Once you are able to trust yourself in completing smaller challenges, bigger challenges like resolutions won't seem so daunting.
Other helpful tips on successfully completing or keeping a New Year's resolution include making your goals specific. For example, making "getting in shape" your New Year's resolution can leave a lot open for interpretation. Instead, pick a specific goal you would like to achieve. Maybe it's a certain amount of weight you would like to lose, a specific weight you would like to hit, a distance you'd like to be able to run without stopping, etc.
Make New Year's resolutions measurable. Being able to check progress throughout the process of a resolution will help increase the likelihood it will be kept. If your resolution is to "save $2,000 for a family vacation," you could start by tracking expenditures your family has, making a budget, implementing that budget, and then by tracking that budget you are able to measure your family's finances, thus making it easier to save for your vacation.
Writing things down and keeping track of progress helps to put things in perspective. For example, if your resolution was to "quit smoking," you could keep tally of how many cigarettes you smoke daily. By tracking the progress, you will be able to see your progression or regression towards achieving your goal.
Make sure your New Year's resolutions are achievable. Setting lofty goals for oneself is admirable, but the likelihood of those goals being achieved are lower than say realistic ones. Setting a goal or resolution that is impossible to achieve will just leave you feeling frustrated and ready to give up.
Resolutions should be relevant to you. Creating a resolution to impress someone else or inspire of someone else may give you the motivation to start, but once that grudge or chase for admiration wares off, so too might your desire to achieve your goal. By making sure your resolution is something you want to achieve for yourself, all of the motivation and drive to be successful will come more naturally.