While having brunch on New Years Day with friends, we ventured on to the topic of New Year’s resolutions. Everyone was very quick to say that they do not make resolutions, including me. I thought it quite odd that no one gave a reason why they don’t make resolutions, just that they don’t make them. Thinking about this the past few days had me pondering the tradition of New Year resolutions, and why that tradition continues.
A quick Internet search suggests that the tradition of resolutions has several sources – Howard Bennet credits Julius Ceasar because he switched the beginning of the calendar to January in 49 AD, the History Channel (and others) credits the “ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot,” about 3500 years ago, and Gary Ryan Blair credits Janus, the mythical king of early Rome who lends his name to the month of January. Janus had two faces – one that could look to the past and one to the future – and became the god of beginnings.
Despite how they started, resolutions have become a tradition for many people. But what exactly is a New Year’s resolution? I found my favorite official definition in the Collins English Dictionary:
a promise to yourself or decision to do something, especially to improve one’s behaviour or lifestyle in some way, during the year ahead.
I like the detail of Wikipedia‘s definition even more:
a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. A key element to a New Year’s resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings. People committing themselves to a New Year’s resolution generally plan to do so for the whole following year. This lifestyle change is generally interpreted as advantageous.
I hold a philosophy that one should constantly strive to better oneself in many different areas of life – intellectually, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, inter-personally, etc. The beginning of some element of time, like the beginning of a new year, is a good time to reflect on the past, evaluate what has happened, and make decisions about what you would like the future to bring. But why does it have to be on a yearly basis? Why not focus on improving yourself on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis?
The time I spend improving myself now always pays bigger dividends later. Self-improvement is an investment of time and energy instead of an investment of money, but both pay excellent returns. It can improve your health, your emotions, your career, and your financial state. -Trent, The Simple Dollar
So this year, I vow not to make New Year’s resolutions, but instead focus on New You Resolutions. I will continue to use beginnings to reflect on my progress but I won’t set a time frame on resolutions. I will constantly improve myself every day, every month, every year, every decade. I will be better today than I was yesterday.
The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. – John Dewey