Why We Make, and Fail, Our New Year’s Resolutions

Every New Year’s, we embrace all the possibilities the next 12 months place before us by making resolutions. We promise ourselves we’ll live better, be kinder, and do all manner of things to improve our lives.

These vows, although ardently made, are rarely kept. Why do we have so little resolve? Research shows that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, and only 8 percent are kept.

The most common resolutions are what most would expect: Start exercising, reading more, travel, learn a new language, sleep more, and save money. The last is hardly surprising since New Year’s comes right after the high-spending holidays.

Two resolutions that have been appearing higher on the list in recent years are managing stress better and improving one’s brand. These are clearly signs of the times.

The making of New Year’s resolutions is a worldwide event, and one that goes back a long way. Researchers believe the custom began with the ancient Babylonians–probably 4,000 years ago. The Romans offered resolutions to Janus, the god of beginnings. It’s safe to say that New Year’s resolutions are here to stay.

Today, the most common resolution in Brazil, for example, is to lose weight. In China, it’s to become closer with family, and in Japan, it’s to read more.

If we haven’t done it ourselves, we all know someone who joined a gym in January with a resolve lose weight or be more fit. However, don’t beat yourself up too badly if you failed to follow through. According to Gold’s Gym, its membership jumps 40 percent in December and January, only to plummet in February.

Psychologists say that the main reasons we lose our resolve rests squarely with our choices. We tend to commit to resolutions that are overly ambitious or restrictive, thus setting ourselves up to fail. So, maybe we should all give ourselves a break.

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions years ago. Instead, I make goals for the year–then I have 12 months to fail, or succeed, rather than a mere 31 days.

January 1 signifies a new beginning, but, remember, in truth, every morning is a new beginning.