Should you make New Year’s resolutions?

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Sabrina Almeida

It’s a purely Western tradition, my first born said suddenly taking refuge in his non-Canadian roots, when I asked him what his New Year’s resolution was. Did you make any growing up in India he retorted, confident that my answer would be no. I could tell he didn’t believe me. But I’ve made them for as long as I can remember. The one I made around two years ago—the no-spend year—was perhaps the most successful as I managed to keep it up for around 11 months. Couldn’t resist the Boxing week sales though!!!

As the rest of the family sauntered into in the kitchen, I decided to make one for “us”. Our family resolution would be to avoid “added sugars” in 2018. The boys smiled in response as if to humour me. We won’t know if he cheats, the younger one protested. He was referring to his brother  who would be away from home for most of the year. It was an earnest attempt to derail the project as my youngest thrives on sugary foods and drinks. I doubt he would be able to avoid them even for a day.

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The husband pretended he didn’t hear me. Or, preferred to remain silent… perhaps to say later on that he didn’t consent to the resolution and was therefore not bound by it.

I could tell right away that this pledge that I insisted on making on behalf of the family might never get off the ground. But I was still hopeful.

Most people I talked to have given up on making resolutions which they say barely get past the first few months if you’re lucky. (Studies suggest that less than 10% of us keep our New Year’s resolutions.) Hence they don’t see any point in going through the motions. However, I am nagged by guilt if I skip this seemingly-redundant tradition. I also believe that not making any of these self-promises is worse than breaking them as it can mean not trying at all.

A friend told me she had a long list of resolutions as she was hoping to check off at least a few at the end of the year. I like her philosophy. However it seems like a lot of effort so I’m sticking to the one. To be more active!!!

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Contrary to my son’s belief, this tradition dating back to the Babylonians is popular both in the eastern and western parts of the world. Four thousand years ago the Babylonians made these promises hoping to curry favour with the gods in the coming year. History tells us that the Romans pledged behavior changes to Janus with similar expectations. The mythical god whom January is named after is considered the patron of new beginnings. Centuries later, many of us continue to follow their lead.

It’s no surprise that physical fitness and weight loss are the most popular self-improvement pledges people make. They are also the easiest ones to break. Unrealistic goals and being disillusioned by failure being the main reasons for abandoning them.

Experts say that we should not give up when we stumble. After all you can’t expect to give up a habit you have for years in an instant. Challenges are a part of any endeavour—whether it is personal or professional. Research also shows that people who make resolutions are more likely to achieve their goals that those who do not. The trick or formula for success is to keep it simple and achievable. The small triumphs bring a sense of achievement and motivate you to continue or even step it up a notch.

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As with any other project, planning is key. Create a road map and document your efforts on your smartphone or any other digital device. Breaking it down into weekly or monthly goals can help keep you on track. More importantly don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Be flexible and learn to adapt or improvise.

Why not make a fun resolution along with your self-improvement goals? Like learning a new language or a musical instrument, enrolling in dance or hobby classes perhaps! That way you can enjoy what you do. Also, don’t be afraid to ask friends to join you. Going in a group can make it easier to continue. Often relying just on will power does not work.

Lastly, you can make a resolution at any time.  Which means if you suffer a set back… there is no reason you can’t pick it up where you left off or start over. Good luck!

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