So, why do we make New Year’s resolutions? Interesting question. More than 2,000 years ago, the Babylonians observed a New Year’s tradition of returning items borrowed from neighbors, which I believe were usually farming tools and mystery novels. In the early 18th century, Jonathan Edwards published a list of 70 resolutions. For Edwards, the resolutions were a guideline to live by. Benjamin Franklin, in his publication Poor Richards Almanac said, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”
But Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions?
The human race is hard-wired to strive for improvement. We haven’t moved from caves to outer space by not trying to be more than what we currently are. Nearly every aspect of the human condition is affected by our great curiosity and desire to improve things. Individually we work to improve our educations, living conditions, occupations, and more. We push our children for constant improvement and expect our loved ones and friends to do the same.
Lunch with a Friend
While having lunch with a friend, who has a master’s in human resources, we discussed desirable character traits of employment candidates. One character trait we both sought was self-improvement. We ask such questions as, what was your biggest failure, what did you learn from it, or what would you most like to improve about yourself? While disappointed with disingenuous responses, we’re joyful with honest answers about mistakes, lessons, and improvement. So, once again, why do we make New Year’s resolutions?
Is There an Answer?
The answer is partly because of tradition. It’s become, if not expected, of each of us to make resolutions. It’s indeed accepted and often embraced. While many strive to improve not all go public, and not everyone seeks self-improvement. Many of us do go public with our desire to improve in the hope of reinforcing the behavior. It’s much more challenging to break a resolve that’s publicly shared. Sharing also makes us take a realistic look at our resolution. It’s easy to say, “I want to lose 50 pounds,” when nobody knows. However, when we go public, it forces us to make a plan, to take action.
So, what is your New Year’s resolution? If you’d like to “go public” with your resolution, you can add it to the comments here. Happy New Year to you!
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