The Origin of New Year’s Resolutions and the Secret to Keeping Yours!

Fireworks explode around the world, people shout “Happy New Year” – and many make New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe you made resolutions this year, but let me ask you this: “What is the origin of New Year’s resolutions, and is there a secret to keeping yours this year?”

The origin of New Year’s resolutions does not rest in recent history, even though resolutions are popular in the 21st century. We must travel some 4,000 years backward to find the origin of New Year’s resolutions. There, stepping down from our time machine, we find ourselves in ancient Babylon – the country of origin for New Year’s resolutions.

How did the Babylonians come up with such a practice?

New Year’s resolutions did not originate as promises the people of Babylonia made to themselves. Rather, the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods. In return, they hoped to win favors from the gods throughout the New Year. The thinking seems to have been this: “If I promise the gods I will get out of debt, they will not only help me do that, but will also prosper me.”

History shows, by the way, that getting out of debt was a very popular resolution.

You may identify with that! Many people today make that same resolution, and they really mean it. They want very much to get out of debt – or to lose weight – or to get a new job – or to be kinder to family. Those who have learned the vital importance of building character make resolutions to build certain traits into their lives in the coming year.

The trouble is, as anyone who has made New Year’s resolutions for a few years can tell you, resolutions are easier to make than to keep. Wanting to change is not at all the same as accomplishing change.

What’s the secret to keeping your resolutions?

Stickiness. You must give your resolutions stickiness.

1. One solid way to impart stickiness is to share your resolutions with family and friends.

Joe Ferrari, professor of psychology at Chicago’s DePaul University writes, “When you keep resolutions a secret, no one is going to check up on you. You’re only accountable to yourself.” Professor Ferrari believes problems arise when you keep resolutions to yourself.

Instead, the professor suggests, throw a party specifically to share New Year’s resolutions. It’s easier to share them when everyone is sharing. Post them on social media, too, letting others know your goals and asking them to remind you now and then.

2. A second way to give your New Year’s resolutions stickiness is to be realistic. Before you write a resolution, ask yourself if it’s too difficult to accomplish. I so, don’t even make that resolution.

For example, you probably can’t build courage of convictions into every area of life in a year, but you can build courage of convictions that acts in the workplace. If you manage to build and exercise courage of convictions at home as well, you will have succeeded. If you build and exercise courage of convictions in two areas, but your goal required that you do it in every area of life, you’ve failed. Make realistic resolutions and you are more likely to keep them.


The origins of New Year’s resolutions may lie deep in history, but the practice is alive and well in the 21st century. Make yours stick this year by making each one realistic, and sharing it with those who are most likely to care about your goals.

© 2016, Elizabeth L Hamilton. All rights reserved.

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