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A New You in The New Year

It's 2011; Happy New Year! It's that time again when the tabloids, television, even your family and friends will be awash with New Year's Resolutions (NYRs). As is the custom, we'll be inundated with celebrity resolutions, which seem to be the same each year, and folks like David Letterman will supply us with a dose of humor using his Top Ten List of New Year Resolutions. Having a NYR is in vogue, indeed, at least for the month of January, NYRs will be a hot topic at parties and around the station as well.

Some research indicates that while over half of people involved in a study involving NYRs were confident they would be successful, only 12% actually were. Interestingly, women were 10% more successful in achieving their goals when they made them public and received support from friends. Men met their goals more often, 22%, when they made them more specific rather than general, e.g., they set a goal of losing a specific amount of weight per week, rather than just setting a general goal of losing weight.

According to, the top ten NYRs are as follows:

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.
  2. Get fit.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Quit drinking.
  7. Get out of debt.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Help others.
  10. Get organized.

Do any of the above goals look familiar to you? They do to me. However, the even larger question is: Have you achieved any of your goals after you've set them and if not, why not? If you answered no, there just may be a way to get you back on track do just that.

Have you ever heard the old axiom: Never bite off more than you can chew? It's a bit of homespun wisdom that makes sense. In the case of NYRs it translates into making just one resolution rather than many. Your chance of success is far greater if you channel your energy into making just one change of behavior rather than several.

Planning, as all cops know, has value. Without one, any operation has a propensity to fail. The same principle holds true when making NYRs. Think ahead about what it is you're about to embark on, rather than just blurting out a goal on New Year's Eve and trying to stick with it. Weigh the pros and cons, and realistically consider whether your plan is doable. Perhaps you'll have to approach it incrementally, rather than trying to gobble up big chunks at a time.

Avoid previous resolutions that you've failed to keep. Choosing a goal you've failed to reach time and again reinforces failure, which in turn lowers your resolve, and ultimately your confidence in being able to achieve success. Focus on doing something you're confident you can do. Unrealistic goals are just that - unrealistic.

Personalize your NYR so that it's up to you alone to reach that goal. Don't make a resolution that makes you dependent upon others to complete, i.e., running with a friend or a group several times a week, or perhaps swimming three to four times per week at the local YMCA. These are activities which cause you to have to wait on others, or be at the mercy of an organization's hours of operation. By the time you wait around for a friend or a group, you probably could have had your run in and be in the shower.

One of the reasons people fail to stick with NYRs is because the resolutions have become so clichéd. Who hasn't vowed to lose weight or exercise more, eat better, or reign in their spending? It's become almost formulaic, in that most of us follow the program for a couple of months and then slowly slip back into our old habits. Instead of dusting off old predictable resolutions, why not think about something new and interesting?

Have you ever thought about self improvement? It can take many shapes; it doesn't always have to come in the form of losing weight or quitting smoking. Have you ever thought about learning a new language or taking up a new hobby such as woodworking or painting? How about going back to school and finishing that degree, or perhaps starting or finishing that novel that’s been kicking around inside your head forever? Being creative in stating your goals will help you achieve them in the long run. Not being a member of the herd by choosing a resolution that everyone typically chooses, makes you even more likely to succeed.

Can't think of anything creative? Let me help. How about resolving to become better informed? Why not research things you hear people say, rather than accept them at face value? A perfect example might be New Year's Resolutions themselves. When the topic comes up, why not take a different tact and talk about the origin of the day, how the whole practice of making NYRs evolved? I can get you started with that one right now.

In 153 B.C., a mythical two-faced king of early Rome, Janus, appeared on the calendar. Having two faces allowed him to look at both the past and the future. He became the ancient symbol for resolutions and the Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and exchanged gifts before beginning each new year. Our present day New Years, January 1st, began in 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar developed a new calendar that was more in tune with the seasons. New Year is the oldest of holidays, having been observed first around 2000 B.C. by the Babylonians. Their celebration lasted eleven days which makes our New Year's Eve parties pale in comparison. Obviously there's more to the genesis of New Year's and the whole idea of resolutions, but won't your friends and family marvel at your knowledge when you give them a little slice of what you've learned?

The New Year is upon us, so resolve to reinvent yourself into a new and improved person. Remember to make your goals simple and achievable, and don't allow failure to be an option. Oh, my resolution? Simple, honor God, country, and family by putting them above all else. That's an easy and achievable one.

Stay safe, brothers and sisters!