New year sparks new interest in self fulfillment

Ancient Babylonians made promises at the beginning of the new year to pay off debts. Romans made promises to the god Janus. Medieval knights took vows at the end of the Christmas season to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
These origins were the predecessors of what we call New Year’s resolutions, a tradition continued by approximately 45 percent of Americans each year.
It’s common knowledge that resolutions don’t have a high success rate; only 46 percent of people stay true to their resolutions after six months. So why do we continue to make these vows every year?
One reason is that the idea of bettering ourselves is a natural inclination and the beginning of the year offers the allure of starting from scratch with a clean slate.
Another reason is simply that making resolutions is a tradition that goes back so far that we are just compelled to do it, even when we know the odds are against us.
“We often see a big jump in membership around the first of the year and the majority of those last two to three months,” said Gilmore Memorial Wellness Center exercise specialist Peggy Stevenson, who added that most of the Wellness Center’s membership is made up of people who have been coming for years.
The nature of New Year’s resolutions has changed over the years. An early 20th Century New Year’s resolution postcard reads:
“I will, this day, try to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity and self-seeking. I will cultivate cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence, exercising economy in expenditures, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust and a child-like trust in God.”
The most common resolutions of 2013 included some of the same vows, with 34 percent of Americans resolving to spend less money while many resolve to enjoy life to the fullest and reduce stress.
However, the majority of resolutions had more to do with losing weight and exercising than with quiet contemplation.
No matter what the resolution or the outcome, it’s still good to make them as it ultimately indicates a certain level of belief in the ability to change. Some research confirms that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than the 38 percent of people who never make resolutions.
Simply stated, it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all.