Category Archives: Babylonians

New Year Resolutions? Forget ‘em

Try the 3 ” S’s” instead
At the risk of seeming heretical  at this time of the year, I’m not really a fan of  New Year’s resolutions. To bring myself further into a tin-hat zone,  I  also wonder if the resolution process if for people who don’t make goals.

In one year … out the other. Why New Year’s resolutions are useless

My experience is that if I vow  before Christmas to lose 5 pounds after the party season is over, by January 1st the weight loss requirement has hit double digits. Next week I can say with certainty that my gym will be so rammed there’ll be no space in the car park, but can also say with equal certainty  that by mid February I’ll be able to slip into a space  right next to the door.  We all make painfully superficial lists of  minor things to work on or let go at this time of the year,   but in the full knowledge  that if we back slide it’s not that big of a deal.

History
The Babylonians were early practitioners of SMART goal setting at new year to win favour with the gods,  believing that failure to achieve their new year resolutions would  bring bad luck.  They therefore chose wisely: something realistic and achievable.  It was also the time they returned borrowed equipment  – thus making good old debts.  They  celebrated their new year on the first new moon after the Vernal (Spring ) equinox, which without appearing too reactionary, seems to make a lot more sense to me  some 4000 years later,  conjuring up as it does images of growth, re-birth and optimism.

Flexible Timing
The beginning of a new year has for  thousands of years been a time when people have  made commitments to review the past and make changes for the future.  But historically the timing of this festival  has been flexible and quite arbitrary, having been been moved around over the centuries, mainly for political  or religious convenience .   The Chinese New Year  based on a  lunar calendar,  can be any time from mid  January to mid February.  The Romans originally celebrated New Year  on March 1st, moved it again to March 25th,   but  in 46 BC  Julius Caesar  then saw fit reform the calendar to better reflect the seasons,   shifting it again to  January 1st.  At the same time he honoured the  two-faced god Janus,  the god of doors and entrances,  who could look backward into the old year and forward into the new,  which has become the modern metaphor for endings and beginnings.  There was no astrological or agricultural significance for this.

During the Middle Ages,  Christian powers attempted to remove pagan Roman traditions from the calendar  and new year and  Christmas traditions became blurred until the sixteenth century, when Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar and the new year was once again celebrated on January 1st.

Resolutions
I’m tempted to think that our  ancient ancestors who thought up the concept of  new year resolutions would have had a greater chance of success with  spring resolutions, or even  summer solstice resolutions.   They’re just  simply sunnier, brighter months.   January for me is not actually a great time. In my part of the world it’s cold, dark and  faintly miserable,  which is perhaps why celebrations  at this time have been associated with driving out  metaphoric demons ( modern-day bad habits?)  with fireworks and cymbals. Or perhaps I’m just a Babylonian or ancient Roman at heart.

Make it meaningful
But basically, whatever the time of the year,  we all know that if a goal  has any real meaning  it shouldn’t be postponed until some conveniently notional cut off  point  at the beginning of the year, only to  feel temporarily wracked with guilt before we predictably relapse into our comfort zone some time at the end of January.

No substitute for now
I never exhort anyone to implement any special job search strategies specifically to start on January 1st.  Why?  Goal setting should be ongoing .   You wouldn’t need to start anything  on 01.01 because you probably shouldn’t have stopped in the first place!  If you need  to change those goals on February 14th (Chinese New Year 2010 )  or the Spring equinox -  it  is not going to make the slightest bit of difference.  There  is no need  either to wait 11 months until 2011 to review the situation.  We all know that. We also know that the best time is not then,  but  now.

Positive focus
Yet to follow our ancestors  it’s always a good idea to generate some positive energy at any time, but with no built-in guilt trip for failing to implement, especially during the dark month of January,  when there is not a cymbal in sight to ward off those demons . So here’s what I suggest:

The 3 “S’s”

  • SMILE  in the spirit of Burn’s “cup of kindness”., at one total stranger, at least , a day  ( without appearing weird and risking arrest of course). Do you ever notice when you’re walking down busy streets how few people  make eye contact,  let alone smile.  Smiling makes us all feel good, especially in January .
  • SUCCESS  -  record your successes. We are very often our own harshest critics. So when you have  achievements no matter how small – write  them down somewhere  in a  little Success Book and look at them from time to time. Appreciate yourself , the people around you and what you already have and do well. Instead of focusing on our demons ( bad habits) –  accentuate the positive.
  • SET  and review your goals regularly.  Give yourself a timeframe.  Reflect on what has  gone on.  Don’t worry about  special dates  – they don’t matter. What matters is they are ongoing and you are active in the process not tomorrow, next month or next week … but today.

As the old joke goes  “don’t let your new year be the new start for old habits”.