At no other time of the year do so many people think about personal growth
all at the same time. Fifty percent of Americans make resolutions to improve
themselves or their lives in some way during the yearly transition. There is an
overwhelming perception that change is possible. The hope for something new,
different and better in their lives is higher than at any other time of the
This tradition of celebrating the New Year goes back at least 4000 years to
the ancient Babylonians who celebrated it during Spring equinox. The tradition
of making New Year’s resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.
With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future.
Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions.
Have you been swept away in this wave of
positive intentions and made your New Year’s resolutions yet? If not, here is a
list of what other people resolve to do. This may just spark your
introspective self to aspire to new heights. Of the 10 most popular New Year’s goals, four involve physical health related issues, three involve
mental health, two involve social activity and one deals with financial
improvements. Here are the top ten:
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Work out regularly
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Enjoy life more
- Quit or reduce drinking
- Get out of debt
- Learn something new
- Help others
- Get organized
Research shows that 60% of these resolutions will be
broken as of the 6-month mark. The most important factor in preserving the
change is in the process of goal planning and writing.
The most comprehensive assistance for
writing effective resolutions comes from Gary Ryan Blair, “The Goals Guy.” On his site, you are able to download a free
21-page report which details the five stages of successful resolutions, taken
from the psychology of behavior modification, and also lists four important
resolution guidelines. Gary
also provides forms to guide you through the process.
If you don’t want to spend that much time
with it, I suggest that you at least use the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines in writing your resolutions. These
traditional goal-writing guidelines are used to insure that your goals are
specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
- Feel and
- Express your goal.
Whereas S.M.A.R.T. goals may appeal more to the analytical left-brain
dominant types, S.A.F.E goals may appeal more to those who are generally more creative
or right-brain dominant.
Once you have your goals written, check out
these seven recommendations from two University of Maryland psychiatrists
on how to maintain your resolutions.
If you need free online assistance to reach your goals, check out this impressive collection of web application tools at the
website lifehacker, specifically designed to help you manage your New Year’s
resolutions online including the goal areas of financial gain, weight loss and
fitness, calorie management and goal tracking.
And finally, here are some suggestions to stretch those of you who live more from your heads than your hearts. Inspirational personal development expert James
Arthur Ray , featured on the movie, The Secret, gives
the following five suggestions for self-actualizing yourself in 2008.
- Find inspiration and something you are excited about.
- Specify your intentions. Use the S.M.A.R.T. or S.A.F.E. goal
- Maintain attention and focus. “Energy flows where attention goes.”
- Be grateful. See www.gratefulness.org for more information.
- Be enthusiastic! Go three for three by aligning your thoughts with your feelings with your actions.
Happy New Year!
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist practicing in Geneva.