What's the Deal with New Year's Resolutions Anyway?
We have all faced a difficult and challenging year in 2020. Instead of focusing on 2020, I want to focus on the year ahead. We are different people today than we were a year ago and I hope with all that we faced in 2020 we look differently to the year ahead then we have looked towards any other years in our past.
It is that time of year again when we bid farewell to a year that has passed and usher in a new year with the hopes and dreams of this year being a better, more prosperous year. We decide to hold ourselves more accountable, lose weight, get healthy, work harder, spend more time with family and friends, etc. But where did this idea of New Year's Resolutions come from.
Over 2 millennia ago, the Romans named the month of January after the god Janus, the two faced god. Janus has one face that looks backward and one face that looks forward. Janus is also the protector of gates, doors, endings and beginnings. The Romans were also the ones who created the idea of the New Year's Resolution. The resolution each January was to be good to others. Or in the words of Bill and Ted from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure "Be excellent to each other." A rather simple but poignant resolution. So with this simple message how did we get to making resolutions about losing weight, saving money, careers, family, friendship, etc.?
In the 18th century Puritans spend the first month of the new year reflecting on the past year and looking to the upcoming year as a chance to use their talents, treat neighbors with charity and avoid sin. It was American Theologian Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan, who decided to write resolutions but did not leave the task to just one day or time of year, but instead wrote his resolutions throughout the year. Edwards' resolutions were meant to reflect the changes he wanted to make in himself to live a life that was more authentic to himself and truer to God.
Now that we know where the ritual of the New Year's Resolution comes from why is it called a "resolution"? What does the word "resolution" even mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word resolution means the following: an answer or solution to something or the act of finding and answer or a solution to a conflict. Hmmmm . . . . this brings about a very interesting perspective of the New Year's Resolution, what are you trying to find an answer or a solution to? What is the conflict that needs resolving? Many of us are ready to provide answers or solutions (lose weight, save money, have a better career, communicate better, etc.) but we rarely know the problem or conflict we are trying to solve. What good is an answer if we don't know the question?
Today, the New Year's Resolution is taken on with the intention of Jonathan Edwards but many people are not successful in keeping their resolutions the whole year through. I believe that most New Year's Resolutions end in failure due to people not asking themselves the right questions; e.g. Why do I continue to gain weight? Why can't I save money? What career am I looking for? Why am I so bad at communication? etc. Once the right questions are asked, the correct solutions will come and come from within. Asking the right questions is about learning who you are and knowing what you need in order to be successful and happy.
I believe the best New Year's Resolution one can have is to know yourself better with each passing year. The more you know yourself, the better you can take care of yourself and the less "resolutions" you will need in order to be where you want to and deserve to be. Like the Roman god Janus, look to the past for lessons and the future for opportunities. Life is a continuous journey that doesn't start on January 1st and end on December 31st. Use each day to discover something new about yourself, determine what really matters to you and what you need in your life to be successful and happy.