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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Beware the 19th of January

Jan 03, 2024 11:23AM ● By Randal C. Hill

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? About half the folks in America do. But how many of us see our goals to completion? The answer is a surprising 8 percent.

Before I offer some commitment guidelines that may help improve this single-digit success rate, let’s explore the history of formal intentions, dating back 4,000 years to the Babylonians. They observed a 12-day mid-March crop-planting ritual called Akitu. During this ceremony, citizens reaffirmed their commitments to their god, crowned a new king (or renewed their loyalty to the current one), settled debts and pledged to return borrowed farm equipment—a prudent practice in a predominantly agrarian society. 

Several millennia later, significant changes occurred when the reform-minded Roman Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The calendar officially designated January 1 as the commencement of the new year, thereby resetting long-established parameters. (January was named after the two-faced Roman god Janus, symbolizing the ability to look backward into the previous year and forward into the one about to unfold.)

In America, early Christians viewed the onset of the new year as an opportunity for introspection, reviewing past mistakes and vowing to eradicate them in the future. Today, the focus of these resolutions has shifted, primarily centering on self-improvement, which might explain why they’re so hard to keep. 

The five most common resolutions include goals related to diet, weight loss and exercise; a commitment to reading more books; the pursuit of learning something new (such as a foreign language); saving money and aspiring to be a kinder and more patient person. 

Another prevalent January commitment is to consume less alcohol, a pledge often made in reflection of indulgence during the holiday season.

So, what exactly is a resolution? It represents a steadfast decision to do or abstain from a particular action, often aimed at finding a solution to challenges. Resolutions are not about grand, sweeping transformations; instead, they serve to address and correct one’s behavior. 

Do you have a personal list of resolutions for 2024? If so, consider these tips for making realistic commitments: 

1. Refrain from using negative terms like “quitting” or “stopping”

2. Set aside sufficient time for reflection before creating resolutions

3. Keep things simple by choosing only one or two goals

4. Pick goals that truly contribute to your well-being

5. Opt for goals that are specific and measurable

6. Plan a month at a time

7. Share your goal with someone; it may help bolster your commitment

8. If you slip occasionally, don’t worry; however, if repeated, consider a less ambitious plan

More than 90 percent of those setting resolutions don’t reach their desired goals. January 19 holds the dubious distinction as the most prevalent day for people to abandon their aspirations, cynically dubbed “Quitter’s Day” by some.

You’ve been warned!