New Year’s Resolutions: Where do they come from and do we actually keep them?

Every year as January arrives, New Year’s Resolutions are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Some of us have a casual relationship with them– we may make them occasionally but don’t treat them as hard goals. Others take their resolutions much more seriously and will feel highly successful if they are able to keep them and like miserable failures if they can’t.

There are also those who have absolutely no relationship at all with New Year’s resolutions and refuse to keep them or think about them.

Whether you make them or not, or keep them or not, here is a little background information on where these resolutions come from and how we keep or don’t keep them.

The best we can trace the origins of New Year’s Resolutions to is a custom of the Babylonians roughly 4,000 years ago. As a part of history’s earliest celebration of the new year, the Babylonians would make promises to their gods, believing that if they kept their promises for the entire year, the gods would smile down upon them and show them favor.

The promises were outward-focused and involved other people, such as returning any items they had borrowed from a neighbor or paying any debts they owed.

By contrast, the average American’s resolutions don’t look much like those made by the ancient Babylonians. The top seven of our most common resolutions are inward-focused. Weight loss tops the list followed by getting organized, spending less money, enjoying our lives to the fullest, staying fit, learning something new and exciting and quitting habits like smoking.

Helping others achieve their dreams clocks in at number eight, and the 10th most common resolution is to spend more time with family. For those who were wondering, the ninth most common resolution is to fall in love, which kind of involves another person, but is still more about self-fulfillment.

In terms of percentages, 47 percent of all resolutions are related to self-improvement and 38 percent of all resolutions are related to — you guessed it — weight loss.

We may have good intentions and good feelings about our resolutions, but the simple fact is most of us either give up on our New Year’s resolutions or give up on them in short order. As a whole, we start strong.

About 75 percent of New Year’s resolutions are still being kept after one full week. That kind of makes you wonder about the 25 percent of people who have dropped their resolutions like a stale fruitcake within the first six days of the year though. Two weeks into the year, 71 percent of our resolutions are still going strong.

By the end of January, a solid majority, (64 percent) are still being kept. As the year moves on and the weather warms up, more of those resolutions fall by the wayside. By the time the Fourth of July rolls around, only 46 percent of our resolutions are still being kept. So, if you’re still losing weight or saving money by the next time we shoot off fireworks en masse, you’re doing better than the majority of people who made New Year’s resolutions in January.


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