How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions
New Year's resolutions are notoriously
difficult to keep, with unrealised goals often leading to feelings of guilt and
shame as the months roll by. In order to avoid this cycle of failure and
regret, it's important to take a long hard look at your life and come up with a
realistic plan that matches your intentions with the outcomes you desire.
Imagination plays an important role in this process, both in setting your goals
and in working out the specific changes necessary to create the life you want.
The New Year's resolution tradition is
mostly found in the Western world, with evidence of seasonal resolutions
existing before the birth of the Gregorian calendar. The Babylonians made
promises to their gods at the start of each year, the Romans made promises to
the god Janus - after whom January is named, and Greek philosophers touted the
benefits of a life well-lived. While the modern date of January 1 was only
realised in 1582, humans have always longed for a reset button, a new start, a
way to remake ourselves and improve on the past.
A New Year's resolution can be anything at
all, with popular goals including improved fitness, enhanced physical and
mental well-being, and improved finances. Particular problems often inspire
resolutions, with busy people wanting to spend more time with friends and
family, sedentary people wanting to get active, and people leading chaotic
lives wanting to improve their time management skills and get more organised.
According to a 2007 study from the University of Bristol, however, 88 percent
of people who set New Year resolutions fail - with 35 percent setting
unrealistic goals, 33 percent unable to keep track of their progress, and 23
percent forgetting about their resolutions altogether.
Imagination plays an important role in New
Year's resolutions, with people needing to think about the changes they want
before they can take shape. According to Professor Kind, who specialises in the
philosophy of imagination, "With respect to the cultivation of habits, I
think imagination can play a really big and helpful role... Suppose you make a
New Year's resolution to go to the gym and by imagining yourself getting up and
going to the gym, and getting on the rowing machine or the stationary bike or
whatever it's going to be... Once you have really the picture, not just the
idea, but the picture of how you're going to be doing these things, it can
really shape the self that you want to become."
Before you make a resolution, it's
important to take a good hard look at your life and what it is lacking. While a
good imagination is important, there's a strong tendency for people to set
unachievable or impractical goals. In order to create real changes, you need to
be clear about your goals before investing time and energy into things that are
beyond your control. For example, instead of making a resolution to get
promoted at work, why not put your energy into being more productive and
diligent and let the Universe do the rest. If you can avoid failure and the
accompanying sense of sadness, you have a much better chance of setting up
sustainable life-long habits based on positive feedback and achievement.
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