Resolutions: Where did it all start? Does it even make a difference? Will you make one?

Most of us have heard of the New Year’s resolution but where did it come from? Why do it? Does it really have any impact? After all, we are reminded throughout the year on things we want to improve on, such as lose a couple of pounds, reduce our debt, or make a larger annual income.

Interesting enough, New Year’s resolutions date back to the Babylonians. This was celebrated not in January, but in March, and held great importance for the King. New Year’s for Babylonians signified if they would stay loyal to the remaining King and allow him to continue to sit on the throne, or time to crown a new king. There were also some promises made to the Gods to reduce debt and increase their wealth. Sound familiar?

Fast forward to the ancient Romans who had a similar tradition that also took place on March 1st during the vernal equinox; a time when the day and night are almost equally shared. This was not only a time for the changing of the season but it was also a time for magistrates to affirm they would perform their duties in accordance with the law before being sworn into office. This was a new beginning, a renewing of vows and promises but over time the calendar fell out of sync with the vernal equinox. Now you have to understand that up until now the calendar only consists of 304 days, with a total of 10 months until 46 B.C. when Emperor Julius Caesar consulted with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. They introduced the Julian calendar, with two additional months. The first day of the new year was dedicated to Janus, god of gateways and beginnings, for whom January is also named.

No matter what decade you look at, the New Year represents an opportunity to reflect on the past good things accomplished or wrongdoings and to reflect upon self-improvement. An opportunity to shed one’s past and create a better version of you, whether that be to lose weight, become debt free, buy a house or generate more income. We want to ring in the new year with positivity and hope.

But does it really do any good to write it out?

A study was done in 2007 by Richard Wiseman that showed 88% of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail. found that 35% didn’t track their progress and further studies show that 23% just forgot about them all together. However, something interesting came out of a study from Quirkology that showed women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from others.

The famous Harvard study showed that graduates with goals but didn’t have them in writing still earned more than the 84% of those who had no goals. However, 3% of the graduates who did have clear written goals earned on average 10 times as much as the other 97% of all graduates altogether. Crazy, huh?

So what’s next?

This year consider writing out your goals and keep it simplistic by breaking it down into categories such as personal, financial and career. For personal goals, you may write something down like “lose weight”, “eat healthier” or “stop smoking”. Financially, you may look to pay off school loans, reduce credit card debt or make xxx amount this year and finally career, maybe you want to get promoted, change jobs or just become better at your job. This will get you started, then make a copy that you can put somewhere you will find it next New Year’s Eve. The other copy will be your working copy used throughout the year to help you achieve those goals.

Next, decide what the goal line is for each goal. For example, if you said; “lose weight”, then what weight do you want to be? Write it down. If you want to reduce credit card debt, by how much? Start by just identifying the goal and do not worry about putting dates to them just yet. Most people go wrong by putting dates to everything in the beginning, don’t do this, unless there are deadlines. The dates should come last so you are not setting yourself up to fail. Here is what I mean: If you want to lose 80 pounds, and you write “by February 1st”, then to achieve this goal, you need to lose two and a half pounds a day. Although it doesn’t seem like a lot, it really is — and a complete health risk. Two and a half pounds a week is tough, but if you eat right and add some exercise, then it could be achievable. Now, we know what weight you want to be, how many pounds you can realistically lose weekly so all of this ads us to 32 weeks to accomplish this goal. So now you just need a start date, count out 32 weeks and that’s your goal date. Look, you just lost 80lbs and did it before the end of the year.

Do this for all your goals. If it’s doing better at your job, then what’s that going to take? More phone calls, certificates from trainings, or just learning systems better? You have to start with the end goal in mind, then work backwards from there to understand the steps and time it will take to achieve the goal. These steps are also known as milestones. Steps you must take on your journey to achieving your goal. So if it’ eating healthier but you need to go to the store and purchase product then that milestone must be achieve first but make sure you reward yourself for each milestone because they are just as important as achieving the main goal. The only thing left is to pick a start date and write down the goal date even for the milestones. It’s that simple. Make this year, the year, a New Year’s resolution is worth writing.