On January 1, millions of people the world over make New Year’s resolutions. Most of these aspirations revolve around improving health, finances and interpersonal relationships. Over 40 percent of Americans make such commitments. Not surprisingly, however, after one week, one in four people break their resolutions. Ultimately, only a meager 8 percent of participants successfully achieve their resolutions each year.
A failure to keep our word is a real character flaw. However, the deeper problem here lies within the pagan origins of New Year’s resolutions.
Anciently, Babylonians made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year to return borrowed objects and to pay back debt. This custom was perpetuated by the Romans, who began each year by making promises to Janus—the god who is the namesake for the month of January. Additionally, medieval knights took vows at the end of each Christmas season to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. More recently, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by confessing and making New Year’s resolutions during watch-night services. The Bible condones none of these traditions. In fact, New Year’s celebrations are intrinsic to the pagan origins of Christmas.
There is nothing wrong with making a resolution—a firm decision to do or not to do something—but to attach such a decision to the pagan New Year custom is wrong by association. The Apostle Paul warned the congregation in Galatia against observing pagan customs (Galatians 4:10; see also Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10). Additionally, we should avoid this custom because it is a counterfeit to pre-Passover preparation.
The process of examining oneself and pursuing betterment is not foreign to converted Christians. After all, the Christian life is a process of conversion. Every year God’s people follow the admonition in Scripture to examine the self prior to partaking of the Passover (1 Corinthians 11:28). Also, setting goals and working to achieve them is greatly encouraged by God’s Church. Furthermore, the possibility of fresh starts, new beginnings, clean slates, are made possible by God Himself.
Keeping a resolution doesn’t need to hinge on any particular date on the Gregorian calendar. If there is something to change in our lives, then make the change—why wait?
Follow Through on Your Resolutions
The Seven Laws of Success by Herbert W. Armstrong stipulates the key components of achieving goals. Let’s focus for a moment on the sixth law: perseverance. “Yes, nine in 10, at least once or twice in a lifetime, come to the place where they appear to be totally defeated! All is lost!—apparently, that is,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “They give up and quit, when just a little more determined hanging on, just a little more faith and perseverance—just a little more stick-to-it-iveness—would have turned apparent certain failure into glorious success.” To help us follow through and stick to our resolutions, consider the following tips.
1. Bring God into the equation
If we resolve to put something right in our lives, then that is to God’s good pleasure. We not only need Him working in us, we also need His will (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 3:16)
2. Make positive resolutions
Resolutions are not all about what we cannot do or what we cannot have. God’s law shows us not to think that way. For example, less television is more time for reading; less soda is an opportunity for a healthier alternative. Formulate resolutions with the view of overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).
3. Be specific
Be specific in your goals, and you will be far likelier to achieve them. Make a resolution that includes a specific exercise program and a specific diet. Don’t just resolve to become healthier or to lose weight.
4. Make yourself accountable
Sharing goals is an important step toward keeping them. Even “sharing” a resolution with a journal can be a positive step. It increases your sense of responsibility to meet your objectives. It also places your reputation on the line, which can help you persevere in difficult times.
5. Employ segmentation
Break tough resolutions down into smaller, more manageable steps. Then they are less likely to intimidate you.
6. Be prepared to suffer
While the success of a good resolution will ultimately bring happiness, overcoming a bad habit in our lives can be arduous to say the least. If, for instance, we are uprooting something entrenched in our lives, there will be pain involved, but we have to see it as “good pain” because of the end result (Matthew 5:30). For this cause we can “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake” (2 Corinthians 12:10).