Why new year’s resolutions are a great idea

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Last year was not a good one for me – I lost someone close to me to cancer, was professionally frustrated, financially strapped, and entangled in a highly dysfunctional relationship. In fact, I couldn’t wait to see the back of 2011. That’s why, after a fittingly festive New Year’s Eve party, I woke up feeling liberated and exhilarated on the morning of the first, and ruminated on my blissfully blank slate and my list of resolutions for the year ahead.

New Years Resolutions

‘The beginning of the year offers a fresh start,’ says business coach Nona Jordan, who believes there’s a lot to be said for making New Year resolutions. ‘The fact that people keep making resolutions even when they don’t always follow through ultimately means that they have hope and a certain level of belief in their ability to change and be more of who they really want to be.’

But recent studies have found the vast majority of resolution makers renege on their good intentions. ‘Six weeks after people make their New Year’s resolutions, 80 percent have either broken them or couldn’t remember what they were,’ says Marti Hope Gonzales, associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. Even worse, failing in our self-made goals ultimately reinforces feelings of low self-esteem, say psychologists. So why do we even bother to continue making them year after year?

Perhaps because Jordan is right: there’s nothing like the feeling of a blank slate; a chance to reinvent yourself, clear out, let go. Yes, we might break our resolutions after the first month … or week … or day … or even 12 hours, but at least we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to dream, to feel new again – why deny ourselves that?

But research shows that’s not the only reason to keep with this ancient tradition*: people who make resolutions are more likely to become the person they wish to be than those who never resolve to change. One recent study found that 46 percent of people who set resolutions achieved their goals, in contrast to just four percent who expressed the desire to change but did not set themselves any targets or devise any strategies to reach them.

In short – to get anywhere in life we need to at least start. Rather than abandoning the ritual of New Year resolutions altogether, why not rather focus on strategies that may help us to keep them? It’s only through trying that we eventually succeed. As William Arthur Ward said: ‘If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you dream it, you can become it.’

*The concept of new year resolutions is an ancient one: the Babylonians made it a priority to return borrowed items and settle the debts at the start of each new year, while the Romans began each anum by pledging vows to the god Janus.

Other articles you may be interested in:
Have fun and stay motivated
Give up your dreams and achieve more
New years resolutions? Erm
Beauty resolutions you should make now

Written by

After spending most of the last decade working as a journalist and editor in Thailand and travelling the East, Cindy returned to the Mother City in September 2010. She has written for a wide spectrum of online and offline publications in both South Africa and SE Asia and is passionate about reading, writing, food, globe-trotting and cats.

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  1. Livvy

    the last paragraph just wraps it all en a good way.

    7 years ago •

  1. CindyR

    Got my list so hopefully i will stick to it.

    7 years ago •

  1. Sam

    Nice article although I find that I make them and then break them just as easily.

    7 years ago •

  1. Tasha

    Great article! Thank you! Time to make dream come true

    7 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    Have a long list this year – Hopefully will stick to all

    7 years ago •

  1. CindyR

    i have to draw up mine. hopefully this year i will stick to them.

    7 years ago •

  1. Debbie

    Reminds you as to what goals you set for yourself and keeps you in check

    7 years ago •

  1. Tanya

    Got to make new years resolutions and learn to stick to them!

    7 years ago •

  1. Angelisha

    Can’t believe this year has flown by, Christmas and then New years… And it will be time for Resolutions…“If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you dream it, you can become it.”… Time to make these resolutions…

    7 years ago •

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