I am not one for making resolutions on for the New Year mostly because by three of four days after I have already broken them. I prefer to set small goals that have a date or a time associated with them. I find it is much easier to complete these tasks then some lofty resolution that I will disregard right after it is made. So I resolve this year to not make any resolutions at all, well except the one I just made that is.
The New Year gives us an opportunity to look back over what has past, the mistakes we have made and also the good things that have happened. We certainly cannot change the past, but we do have to learn from it. What changes can be made in our lives so we do not repeat the mistakes of the previous year, and it is a time to set some goals for the coming year.
But the New Year also gives us a chance to start off fresh. Three hundred and sixty-five days stand in front of us, each brand new with opportunities for us to make a difference in our lives or in the lives of someone else. It is the time of the year when there is so much hope and promise for the coming year. If the past year was difficult it does not have to define the future.
According to the dictionary, a resolution is a commitment that we make to one or more personal goals, projects or the reforming of a habit. These can be made all throughout the year but they are especially made before or one New Year's Eve. These are resolutions that we plan to work on all during the coming year.
The making of resolutions does have a religious significance to them. During the Jewish New Year and continuing throughout the High Holy Days, Jews will look back upon the year that is ending and seek and give forgiveness to those who have been harmed or who have harmed them. Not a bad way to start off the New Year, I would say.
There is also a parallel to this type of resolution in my own Orthodox tradition. The Sunday before Great Lent begins is called Forgiveness Sunday. At the end of the Vespers service, or in my parish at the end of the Divine Liturgy, each person present asks for forgiveness from all of the others who are in attendance. In this way we start off the season of Great Lent reconciled to everyone and the hope is, at the end of Great Lent, we are reconciled to God.
But the religious significance continues.
The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods that they would return object that they may have "borrowed" during the year as well as pay off all of their debits. Imagine if we all did this we would begin the New Year out of debit and not owing anyone anything. The Romans made a pledge to the god Janus, medieval nights made vows at the end of the Christmas Season to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. And at the Christian Watch Night Services on New Year's Eve, Christians would make resolutions and pray that they would be able to fulfill them.
So what is it about our ability to keep to our resolutions?
As I mentioned at the start, my resolutions usually last only a few days and then I break them. Or worse as time goes by I simply forget I even made them!
According to a 2007 study conducted at the University of Bristol, men achieved their goals 22 percent more often when they were shared with others. By sharing the resolutions or setting goals that can be measured, we stand a much better chance of completing whatever it is that we set out to do. If we are accountable to another person, who perhaps has the same goals, then the other person will be able to keep us accountable on that goal. We do not want to let anyone down so we will be more apt to complete the goal.
Perhaps the best resolution we can make is to just be the best person that we can possibly be in the coming year, be kinder to each other and just be thankful for what we have. I know this is a lofty goal but imagine what the world would be like if we were able to do just that.