As I pen this, it is Valentine’s Day, a day for romance. It also means 2017 is one eighth of the way over.
Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? If so, you have only 320 days left to achieve it.
Why do we make these silly resolutions anyway? We can blame our predecessors from antiquity.
The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.
“Hey, Abui-ili where’s my goat, I need to make a sacrifice Baal.”
“Sorry Balasi, I already sacrificed it. I owe you one and your goat is in the mail.”
The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. One has to wonder what kind of promises these crazy Romans made.
“I resolve to throw fewer people (or more, depending on the circumstances) to the lions.”
“I resolve to conquer and pillage the known world.”
In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
“I resolveth to open the door for me lady, as well as for the wench on the other side of the castle.”
By the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year’s resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40 percent did.
According to a survey, the following were the top 10 resolutions of 2017. I have added some annotations.
1. Lose weight – an oldie but a goody. This comes up every year because of the unofficial “gain weight” resolution we all make at the after the holiday cookie grazing season, leftovers of which to the office. And, as I write this, there are Valentine’s Day cupcakes in the break room.
2. Getting organized – I would do this if I could find my day planner. It was on my filing cabinet, but that is buried under old calendars and day planners from the last dozen or so years.
3. Spend less, save more – This is a great resolution. We’ll do this just as soon as we pay off the Christmas gifts, those silly property taxes and our daughters wedding. As a side note, our fine Governor Sam Brownback might do well to make this pledge.
4. Enjoy life to the fullest – This is one that is an on-going resolut
ion for me, one made easier now that we don’t have kids in the house now.
5. Staying fit and healthy – I rode my bike Sunday afternoon and was in the gym Monday and Tuesday, but otherwise this is difficult due in large part to the cupcakes and leftover Christmas cookies mentioned earlier.
6. Learn something exciting – I think they mean something like learning to speak Swahili or reading “Paradise Lost.” But, for now, I will settle for figuring out how to install new valves in our toilets.
7. Quit smoking – This should be a no brainer, and they don’t mean swapping cigarettes for “vaping.” I never have smoked and never will. I am winded enough after climbing a hill on my bike.
8. Help others in their dreams – Sometimes, the best way to accomplish this is to just get out of the way and be supportive, no matter how whacked out the other person’s dreams might be.
9. Fall in love – I do this every time I turn around and see my wife (earn brownie points here since I am writing this on Valentine’s Day and a matter of weeks before our anniversary).
10. Spend more time with family – This is admirable. We find that we enjoy spending more time with our family members, but in limited doses. I helped my father-in-law move this past weekend. That was my dose for a while.
These are all chock full of vows to make a difference in one’s life. Now for the reality check.
The researchers also found the below statistics about those warm, fuzzy, unicorn and rainbow promises of self betterment.
• Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions – 45 percent
• Percent of Americans who infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions – 17 percent
• Percent of Americans who absolutely never make New Year’s Resolutions – 38 percent
• Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution – 8 percent
• Percent who have infrequent success – 49 percent
• Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year – 24 percent
But, nonetheless, people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.
What about the success of different type of resolutions?
• Self Improvement or education related resolutions – 47 percent
• Weight related resolutions – 38 percent
• Money related resolutions – 34 percent
• Relationship related resolutions – 31 percent
Does age make a difference?
• Percent of people in their 20s who achieve their resolution each year – 39 percent
• Percent of people over 50 who achieve their resolution each year – 14 percent (the whole old dogs and news tricks issue I guess).
How long do the resolutions last?
• Resolution maintained through first week – 75 percent
• Past two weeks – 71 percent
• Past one month – 64 percent
• Past six months – 46 percent
So, what’s the take away from all of this? If you are a young Babylonian who wants to lose weight, you stand a fair chance of making it 14 days with your New Years resolution without having to sacrifice a live animal.
But, since I am apparently in the wrong demographic, I resolve to not even bother. Who knows, by resolving not to resolve, I might actually succeed.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor at the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.