New Year resolutions are a common practice, especially in the Western Hemisphere. The origin of the tradition, however, is also found in many eastern cultures since ancient times. The Babylonians made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year, vowing to return borrowed objects and pay any outstanding debts. The Romans started each new year with a promise to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named after.
Other religious sectors also offer this tradition. Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) in early fall. The celebration culminates with the Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) when people reflect upon their sins over the year, seek and offer forgiveness. Certain sectors of the Christian faith practice the liturgical season of Lent – a season of sacrifice and introspection. Several churches welcome the new year with watch night services, as believers gather to pray and renew their devotion for the year that starts.
Regardless of creed, New Year’s resolutions usually focus on self-improvement. We feel like a reset button can be pushed, and a sense of renewal and empowerment fills our souls. There is hope for the goals we did not accomplish in the year that ended, and the tasks which have gathered dust jump to the forefront of our to-do list once more. We watch the year come to an end and thus recommit to jobs that promise a more fulfilling life, more health, or more organization.
However, like a child filled with excitement as she enjoys a new toy on Christmas morning, only to discard it a week later, we often play with our New Year’s resolutions for a while, and then drop them when things don’t happen as fast (or as easily) as we would like.
Statics show that 40% to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. Losing weight, exercising and stop smoking are the top resolutions that half of the American population commits to once the Time Square ball hits the ground. One week later, however, studies show that 25% of these individuals have already dropped their resolutions. The number grows to 29% at the end of the second week and 64% after six months.
The result of our unwillingness or lack of willpower to stick to our objectives is a sense of low self-esteem. It also prompts in our minds the underlying idea that the obstacles to accomplish our goals are more significant than the power within us and even God’s ability to enable us to do that which we so desire to achieve.
As I reflect on my failures regarding New Year’s resolutions, I can assign various reasons for not sticking to my goals. Lack of discipline, the busyness of life, and the fact that many times I try to accomplish things on my strength instead of reaching out to God for direction, wisdom and endurance.
But I believe there are yet other reasons for our lack of commitment to our goals. Not only does success take dedication, effort and self-denial, it also takes much patience and endurance. And when it comes to that, it’s funny that I can be remarkably forgiving with other people’s failures, but have very little tolerance with my own. Likewise, when it comes to the outcome of my efforts, I want to see results pronto, so I find myself growing increasingly impatient with the process.
I don’t think I am alone – of the 64% of Americans who quit their resolutions after six months; I am sure a significant number of them give up their goals altogether because they refuse to press on through the hardships with the patience that brings forth long-lasting results.
But truth be told, most of us “quitters” are fully committed to the goals that others set for us: our bosses’ business plans, our children’s schedules, or our church activities. We stick to those goals and tasks and patiently wait for the outcome. But when it comes to those goals that will give us a better sense of direction in life, it seems to be easier to condemn ourselves, become impatient and quit.
Perhaps that is the key to committing to our goals for 2020: realizing that more than a tradition that surpasses time and culture, God put certain objectives in our hearts for a reason. And committing to them as you would to a business plan may just be the key to unlock treasures that are richer and better than the results themselves.
Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com
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