What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

New Year’s is a 4,000 year old celebration as we mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, and we get to credit the Romans for having it on January 1 instead of the middle of March as the Mesopotamians intended. The other thing we can credit the Romans for his the tradition of New Year’s resolutions. 

Julius Caesar changed the Roman calendar in 46 BC to reorganize the Roman year. Among the reforms he instituted, he named one month after himself, now July, and he ran in a new month called Januarius after Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. Finally, Caesar set the Roman New Year to begin in January. As a god, Janus is generally shown with two faces – one facing forward and one facing back, a fitting representation for a new year. The Romans themselves evidently saw Janus as representing new beginnings and it was a custom for Romans to pray to Janus whenever they undertook a new task.  He also became a symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year – a sort of “everything changes with the new year.”

While the Romans seem like they may have had some lofty interpersonal goals centered on the New Year, we have largely left noble proclamations of change to political and religious leaders and most of us concentrate on more mundane goals, like eating less and quitting smoking.  In the US, our top 10 list of resolutions (courtesy of about.com) reads like a row of self-help books:

1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends
2. Fit in Fitness
3. Tame the Bulge
4. Quit Smoking
5. Enjoy Life More
6. Quit Drinking
7. Get Out of Debt
8. Learn Something New
9. Help Others
10. Get Organized

These days, about 1 in every 2.56 adults will make a New Year’s resolution – with about 207 million adults in the US population, that is about 80 million resolutions.  Given the nature of the top 10 resolutions listed above, it’s a good bet those resolutions will involve breaking some sort of negative pattern. Unfortunately, as most of us know, this type of change ain’t easy.  A University of Washington study done in 1997 discovered that 47 percent of the 100 million adult Americans who make resolutions give up on their goals after two months. If this figure seems low, from your personal experience, more recent research at the University of Minnesota pegs the number at closer to 80%. A contemporary website, bookofodds.com, puts the odds that an adult who makes a New Year’s resolution will not keep it for more than one week at 1 in 8.33, the odds for a month are 1 in 2.7 and for a year 1 in 1.15.  In short, if you like to make New Year’s resolutions of the large and life-changing variety, don’t entertain high hopes of success.

Experts in these matters suggest staying away from the sort of grandiose and hard to define resolutions and stick with simple goals that can be measured and try to stick to those one day at a time.  Take a small number of goals you are really interested in and create a specific plan of action to achieve them. Write down your plan and put it somewhere where you can see it regularly. You can share it with people you trust to help you keep it but steer clear of broadcasting it to everyone you know. Keep track of your progress and if you stray from your plan, forgive yourself for your transgressions and get back on your plan.

Good luck in the New Year from all of us here at Homer Smith Insurance.  And if one of those simple resolutions includes reviewing your insurance needs to make sure you are up to date and adequately covered, don’t hesitate to give us a call.  We can help you keep that resolution.

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