I got to thinking this morning that new year’s resolutions are a funny thing. Why has it become tradition that at the start of a new year we feel this urge to look back on the past year, evaluate how it went, and then set goals for the coming year? How did this practice begin and what were the original goals behind it? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE history, so off I went “a Googling” to find out how all this business got started.
Thanks to Babylon
According to the History Channel, the Babylonians were the first to celebrate the new year over 4,000 years ago although it was marked in mid-March, not January 1, to coincide with the harvest. They made promises to the gods, the forerunner to our modern day resolutions, to repay their debts and return borrowed items to family, friends, and neighbors. They believed keeping these promises would hold them in good stead with the gods for the new year. Not keeping them meant big trouble.
Similar rituals took place in ancient Rome. Julius Caesar created the new calendar in 46 B.C. marking January 1 as the start of the new year. January was named for the deity Janus, a god with two faces who lived in doorways and who could look back into the year just past and forward into the future. The Romans made sacrifices to Janus and promised to behave during the coming year. For Christians, January 1 also became the day to think about one’s sins and promise to do better in the future.
How to keep your new year’s resolutions? Make them about helping others.
For most of us, new year’s resolutions now revolve less around religious reasons and more around self-improvement and material gain. Even though statistics show only about 8% percent of us are able to keep our new year’s resolutions (because, let’s face it, personal change is hard!), what if we switched the focus of our goals off of our own personal wants and needs and on to those of others? I wonder what our success rate would be if we focused on helping others, spreading joy and happiness, and making a contribution to a better world? I see it as being much, much higher!!
I do think it is good to have 2-3 personal goals for the year, but this year I’m adding in a goal to be a blessing to others. My goal is to do something for someone else at least once a week. I already plan to donate my time to build a new website for our local dog rescue fundraising group and to donate more money to rescue efforts, a cause near and dear to my heart. You could plan on one or two big volunteer efforts for this year (maybe donate your time at a food kitchen one day or pick up trash in your neighborhood). Think of the impact if we all volunteered twice a year!
Then look for small ways you can brighten someone’s day. Research has shown that helping others gives a real happiness boost to both parties. So you can be accomplishing two goals with one action – adding to your joy and making someone else happy at the same time!
Start here with our post on 10 easy ways to spread happiness today. I just saw a great story on how this family puts a $5 bill and a short note in the DVD case when returning their movie to Redbox. The note tells the recipient to enjoy their next movie and some popcorn on us. What a great idea!
Let us know what you plan to do this year to help others. We’d love to hear some new ideas from you in the comments below. I love to hear about creative ways people are helping others!