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Are New Year’s Resolutions Stupid? Ep. 20

The History of New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions started as a 12-day Babylonian festival around 2000 B.C. to celebrate the start of farming season, crown their king, and make promises to return borrowed farm equipment and pay their debts—Babylonians promised financial health and keeping their word basically (a standard resolution even today).

The Romans adopted this tradition but shifted the date to the Julian calendar in 46B.C. which declared January 1st as the start of each new year. They celebrated with promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named—Janus was the god of beginnings, transitions, doorways, and endings (see image)

Once Christianity took hold, watch night services, were used to review the year that passed and make confessions, preparing for the coming year with prayer and resolving to be a better Christian.

In modern times, New Year’s resolutions have shifted from being biblical to personal. But even by the beginning of the 19th century, the tendency of people to make (and fail to keep) resolutions was commonly known and satirized.

Facts About Failing

A 2007 study from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning.

And research conducted by Strava using over 800 million user-logged activities in 2019 predicts the day most people are likely to give up on their New Year's Resolution is January 19, aka “Quitter’s Day.”

Why Resolutions Fail

Making resolutions is wonderful. It’s great way to reflect on how you’re unhappy or mistakes that you’ve made and to try and be better. That’s amazing and noble. However the issue is most people aren't ready to make changes. They’re just not ready. Period.

We, as humans, tend to be unrealistic in determining how much work, time, and energy the massive changes we’ve promised ourselves in our resolutions. We set unrealistic goals and make too many of them. In short, it’s just too much too fast and we’re not actually ready.

Quick failing and reverting back to previous habits is the consequence.

It’s All In The Timing

The key difference in success: your mindset and timing.

There is nothing magical about the start of the new year. Yes, it’s a new calendar year and you write a new number for the date and metaphorically/symbolically it’s wonderful BUT it’s pretty much back to exactly as it was before the new year without you taking action to change that.

Which means there’s no reason why you can’t make a change in June, September, the third week of March, whenever you see a problem you’d like to solve. You can start changing and working towards it immediately.

Time is a construct of man. Literally our calendar is made up by the Romans. They invented the calendar to make Julius Cesar happy and named the first month of the year after one of their now “extinct” Gods…

Thinking that New Year’s is a magical sparkle time is part of the issue.

How Do You Make Changes Then?

If you see a problem you want to solve, just start solving it right then and there. Don’t wait until “the New Year” or “after my birthday” or “after this weekend…”

You’re pushing off what could just be started now. You’re pushing it off because you’re not ready to make the change. What makes you think “after your birthday” you’ll suddenly change whatever it is you want to change?

For example, many people list “lose weight” as a New Year’s resolution, so let’s go through that example because it’s an easy one…

You want to “lose weight” but you never say:

  • how much

  • how you plan to lose it

    • are you cutting certain foods & drinks out?

    • are you taking up hiking? going to the gym? running meetups?

    • are you going to carve time out to meal prep? to work out?

  • what’s your accountability plan?

  • WHY do you want to lose it?

  • what do you gain if you “lose weight?”

  • How are you going to keep it off?

You set yourself up to fail by saying I want to lose a nebulous amount of weight. Your goal is vague with no real plan, vision, or end goal behind it. Also, it’s easy to lose weight…you can just cut off an arm. Therefore “lose weight” isn’t a real goal.

There’s A Better Way!

I know there’s lots of blogs, videos, books, etc. going to tell you there’s certain ways that are better than others to set and achieve goals. It should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) is one example. BUT I’m not going to do that.

I think it’s simpler than that, in most cases. It’s asking yourself “What trait or attribute do I want to identify with?” or “Who do I want to be?”

Let’s go through the same example of “lose weight.”

A more accurate representation of what you probably mean is: “I want to be a healthy person and make healthy choices for my body and life.”

To turn that into a statement of action you can now work from you turn that “I want to…” into “I am a healthy person and I make healthy choices for my body and life.”

Now, if you’re a healthy person, how do you live your life? What changes would you make for yourself? It’s as simple as that. You can even look to people you deem as “healthy” to get you started.

Do the people you deem as “healthy” eat Chik-fil-A sandwiches and 40g of sugar drinks from Starbucks every morning and stay up until midnight watching Netflix? Probably not…(even though that sounds amazing)

“What trait or attribute do I want to identify with?” or “Who do I want to be?”

They probably eat moderately healthy most of the time, they’re conscious about what they put into their body, and make it a habit and part of their lifestyle to integrate physical activities that work for them.

They don’t hop on trendy diets, they don’t lose and gain the same 30lbs, and they aren’t full of shame and doubt about their health. They know they’re making “the right” decisions for their bodies because they feel and look good, whatever that means for them.

Stepping into the identity you want to be associated with is a mind shift and a lifestyle shift.

The Top Resolutions and Success

A couple of the top 10 most common resolutions:

  1. Exercise more

  2. Lose weight

  3. Get organized

  4. Learn a new skill or hobby

  5. Live life to the fullest

  6. Save more money / spend less money

  7. Quit smoking

  8. Spend more time with family and friends

  9. Travel more

  10. Read more

Chances are if you made a New Year’s resolution, your resolution was some variation of these top 10.

Using the prompt of “What trait or attribute do I want to identify with,” we can then pick one off the list and do the exact same thing.

#10 Read more: “I am a reader and I love to read books.” SO what would a person who identifies as a “reader” do with their spare time? Would they go line dancing? Probably not. They would probably spend a lot of their free time in a cozy spot reading books and spend lots of time at their local library, maybe in a book club, listening to audio books on their commute, etc.

Hopefully you get the point!


If you set New Year’s resolutions or any form of goal for yourself this year and are feeling like throwing in the towel, for whatever reason. STOP!

Ask yourself: What trait or identity are you trying to identify with? Who is that you want to be?

That will help guide you on if you still want to throw in the towel or not.

Cliff Notes:

Do you laugh and roll your eyes when you hear someone say “New year, new me?” That’s fair and one of my reactions as well BUT there are wonderful intentions behind that statement that shouldn’t be dismissed but instead should be helped. Today we’re going into the history of resolutions, why people set resolutions, why and where they often fail, and a much simpler and more effective method to achieve what you set out to do.

In this episode we discuss:

  • are resolutions a waste of time…?

  • why people most often fail their resolutions

  • how timing and mindset play a pivotal role

  • the ONE question to ask yourself if you want to succeed at your goals

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