Happy 2014! As the line from John Lennon’s song states, “Another year’s over, a new one’s just begun.” I don’t know about all of you, but for me 2013 was a blur. Maybe that’s how they’ll all be from this point on, I don’t know.
So, because the weather and recovering from “the crud” (AKA upper respiratory infection) had me hibernating for a couple of days, I reflected on all the hope we put on New Year’s Eve and resolutions.
I’ve shared in the past that I don’t make resolutions, but each New Year’s Eve or Day I write in a goals journal what I’d like to see happen in each area of my life. I’ve been doing that for about 15 years. I feel resolutions tend to get broken, but goals are achieved. While I decided that this year I wasn’t going to put so much hopeful expectations on 2014, I still wrote down specific goals for the year. I think I’ve shared that my categories include: spiritual growth, finances, career, health (physical and emotional), home and travel and entertainment.
An Internet site claims the tradition of making resolutions goes back to the early Babylonians, who resolved to start the year with a clean slate by returning borrowed farm equipment. Jan. 1 has not always been the date for the new year, but it goes back to 46 BC when Julius Caesar revised the calendar to better reflect the seasons. Christians changed it in the Middle Ages to Dec. 25 because of Christ’s birth and then again to March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a son. In the 16th century Pope Gregory XII revised the Julian calendar and the celebration of the New Year returned to Jan. 1.
The biggest reasons why people don’t succeed in keeping their resolutions is because they make them too broad; not specific enough. Example could be “get healthier” or “put the house in order.” They lack clear action steps.
The “experts” and I agree you need to break the resolution down. If your resolution is to “be healthier,” consider what that means. Do you want to lose weight? If so, how much weight and by when? Do you want to exercise more? When are you going to fit that in to your busy schedule? Do you want to eat healthier? Break that down even further — I resolve to eat more salads and vegetables and fewer packaged foods at least four times a week.
Once you get specific about what you want, your brain knows what to do and will help. The mind is like a search engine in a way — give it too broad a subject and it’s not sure what we want. But narrow it down and it’ll bring you the answers. When it comes to losing weight and eating healthy, Americans tend to label food as good or bad. If it is “bad” we shouldn’t eat it. So we tell ourselves things like, “I will not eat chocolate cake.” I bet for many of you when you read that line an image of a piece of chocolate cake popped in your head, which then creates a desire for it. Research has shown that the brain doesn’t recognize the word “not” so rephrasing any sentence that has the word “not” in it is probably wise. We’ve created emotional attachments to food. When we’re happy we celebrate with food; when we’re sad we drown our sorrows in a pint of rocky road.
My problem is — and don’t hate me for this because it wasn’t always this way — not that I need to lose weight, but that I need to eat more and healthier. My pain condition and the medications leave me with very little appetite. My son gave me a great analogy that I needed to hear and often remind myself that food is fuel for my body like gas is fuel for my car. It can’t run without it, so it doesn’t matter if I “feel like” eating or not.
Also when we say we need to “get the house organized,” unless you have just one room that statement is too broad. We tend to go out and buy all those cool organizing tubs and containers that just happen to be on sale in early January and then we get home and forget what we were going to use them for and they become part of the clutter.
Get specific before running out to buy the containers. Decide where you are going to start — with a room, a closet or genre. I read a tip about color-coding your bookshelves to make a visual impact and become art, which by the way could be used for a variety of things in the home. Find a way to make everyday clutter art. One of my 2014 goals is to get my published articles out of boxes and into organized binders.
I just mentioned the top two resolutions for 2014. Here’s the complete list according to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology:
1. Lose weight
2. Get organized
3. Spend less, save more.
4. Enjoy life to the fullest
5. Staying fit and healthy
6. Learn something exciting
7. Quit smoking
8. Help others in their dreams
9. Fall in love
10. Spend more time with family.
Their statistics stated that 45 percent of Americans usually make resolutions and 38 percent absolutely never make them. Only 8 percent are successful, but 49 percent have infrequent success. Twenty-six percent never succeed, failing each year. The resolutions last longer than I thought as 75 percent last through the first week, 71 percent past two weeks, 64 percent past one month and 46 percent last past six months. Younger people apparently are more successful in achieving their resolutions as 39 percent of people in their 20s achieve their resolutions versus 14 percent in people over 50.
Being specific does increase the odds of success. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those who don’t. So whether it’s eating more veggies or finally getting to that great restaurant or museum you’ve always wanted to go to, here’s to living more resolutely in 2014!
Denise Fedorow is a columnist and correspondent for The Goshen News. Her column appears every other week. She’s especially cheering on the over 50 crowd, hoping to increase those statistics and “Show those young whipper-snappers we still got it!”