New Year's Resolutions or Dissolutions


It's hard not to get the resolution urge on New Year's Eve. It's that time of year again when we resolve to get off our lazy duffs and run around the block more often, maybe even cut back on consumption of all those things we know we aren't supposed to eat. Or drink. Or smoke. There's that sense of renewal, of rebirth, and the guilty awareness that you ate your own weight in chocolate during the holidays. Sure, last year's resolutions didn't make it past the fifth of January, but hey, this year's going to be different, right?

New Year's Resolutions or New Year's Dissolutions, if you are one of the backsliders who breaks the first rule on your annual list before breakfast on New Year's Day, you won't find a lot of comfort in a new study by psychologists at the University of Washington. In a survey conducted chiefly over the Internet, the researchers found that most people—unlike YOU—keep the promise they put at the top of their list, at least for awhile. 63 percent of the 264 persons they questioned remained faithful to their No. 1 resolution in 1997 for at least two months.
Most of us don't have a clue how to make a reasonable resolution, which is why most of us fail to keep the ones we make. We set high goals for ourselves, and then wonder why we never attain them. So we either stop setting goals (never a good choice), or make resolutions that are ridiculously easy to keep. I asked a friend what his New Year's resolution was last year. He thought very seriously and then replied "Breathing." An admirable goal, but hopefully not one he'll have to struggle to keep!

While admitting that little is known about human behavior modification, the researchers came up with some interesting conclusions. People who thought about their resolutions for some time were more successful than those who came up with them at the last minute. Like after the New Year’s Eve party.

The study also suggested that people can be reasonably confident about embarking on a new healthy behavior, like getting more exercise. But breaking a bad habit may be far more difficult.

Key to Success

Determined that this year you'll keep those New Year's Resolutions? Here are a few goal setting tips to get you started!

Don't Try Everything at Once! There's a temptation, with the New Year, to run off a list of everything we've ever wanted to change. Don't fall for it! You'll have better luck fulfilling one or two goals than you will with a list of fifty.You can always add new resolutions to your list later. Take one thing at a time.
Word it Carefully. Let's say your resolution is to relax more in the coming year. Word this carefully. Try not to think of it as "This year I am going to relax." That's a stress-inducer waiting to happen. It forces you into thinking of the resolution as something you must do, not something you want to do. Try to make it sound a little gentler: "This year I'm going to explore different ways of relaxing." It also suggests more of a plan—you'll fulfill the resolution by experimenting with relaxation techniques. The first resolution sounds as if you're going to force yourself to relax by sheer willpower.
Make a Plan. Once you know what your resolution is, try to break it down. Nobody accomplishes anything of significance by trying to do it all at once. This doesn't have to be a complicated plan; just brainstorm enough to give you a place to start. 
For relaxing, you might devise a plan like this:
1) Surf the Internet to find different relaxation techniques.
2) Make a list of all the techniques that interest you. 
3) Pick one of these techniques—meditation, progressive relaxation or self-hypnosis, for instance—and try one for a month.
4) Try a different technique every month until you find one you like.

Write it Down. Write down your resolution and your plan of action. Stick it up on the fridge, in your locker, wherever you know you'll see it. That way you'll have a constant reminder of the resolution. You may want to change the wording as time passes and your goal changes. 

Tips for Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions
  Make only one or two resolutions.
  Choose resolutions that you've been thinking about for some time
  Choose to adopt a new good behavior rather than trying to shake an engrained bad habit
  Choose realistic goals, that you feel confident you can meet
  If you don't succeed, determine the barriers that blocked you and try again

The Babylonians celebrated New Years Day over four thousand years ago, although their celebration was in March rather than in January, coinciding with the spring planting of crops. So if you must break your resolution, break it with pride! You'll be continuing a long tradition of broken resolutions dating back to the dawn of recorded history! And if you had a false start, why you can start again in March, à la Babylonia!

The New Year, no matter when people have celebrated it, has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It's time to reflect on the changes we want, or often need, if we're to have the motivation move forward.  Resolutions are a reflection of the Babylonians' belief that what a person does on the first day of the New Year will have an effect throughout the entire year. Think about that at the New Year's party!