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The month of January is named for Janus, the two-faced Roman deity of doors, gates, beginnings and endings. He’s one of the earliest gods to show up in the Roman pantheon, and he’s usually shown with his two faces looking in opposite directions — one into the past, and one into the future. It’s why the month of January takes its name from him. And it’s why many people pick this time of year to become a more contemporary kind of two-faced freak: a maker of New Year’s resolutions.
With one eye on last year’s failures and one eye on what we hope to become, we set goals for the coming year. Most of us fail to meet them. In fact, a lot of people think these resolutions are stupid because 1) Fewer than one in five adults are able to make significant lifestyle changes, especially health-related ones, as a result of their resolutions; and 2) if you really thought it was important to stop smoking, lose weight, and exercise regularly, you would have done these things already, right?
So some of us use January as a time to be hopeful and look toward the person we want to be. And others use January as a time to be cynical about the hopeful people, who probably won’t end up following through with anything. I’ve seen a variety of statistics, but the most notable one is that 97% of resolutions are never fulfilled. Gulp.
But I’m still in the optimistic first group, only because I’ve seen New Year’s Resolutions be effective personally — especially in terms of health and fitness. I’ve got a lot of willpower and am pretty disciplined, so a few years ago when I made the decision to get healthy, it worked. Multiple triathlons and thousands of exercise hours later, I’m in much better shape at 37 than I was at 27. (I injured my knee last year and it knocked many of my 2010 resolutions off the table…so I’ll be tackling that half-marathon again this year.)
But this resolution-setting thing has to be more than just making a list. In a lot of cases, it requires a significant lifestyle change. And those take time. Here are some pretty good tips on making lasting lifestyle changes.
One of the things that I hear most about New Year’s resolutions are that you’re more likely to stick to them when you reveal them to someone else. The support helps…as does the potential for shame if you quit your weight loss plan so you can spend your evenings watching NCIS and eating Ding-Dongs.
So today I want to give us a chance to publish our resolutions for other people to see, hoping that it’ll prod us toward success.
This is where you get to participate. In the comments, please list:
1. One resolution you kept in any previous year.
2. One resolution you failed to meet in a previous year.
3. One resolution for 2011.
I’ll do the same. Happy new year!