Every year, at the start of the year, we take time to reflect on how we want to change patterns from the prior year to accomplish personal goals and improve our lives in the present year. We all do it…whether you write it down, think it to yourself, or make a vision board. We do it because it makes us feel better, focused, purposeful, and empowered. You know, we often do certain things out of habit or tradition without ever questioning why we do it. In thinking about all of this, especially after the year we’ve had in 2020, it made me wonder: What is the purpose behind all of this? Why do we set New Year’s resolutions? Where and when did this all begin?
Well, to answer these questions you have to go way way back! The origin of making New Year's resolutions began approximately 4,000 years ago with the Babylonians. Although the Babylonians did not have a written calendar, historians determined that they observed the start of the New Year. They made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they believed they would fall out of the god’s favor.
Additionally, the month of January is named for the Roman god Janus. The ancient Romans imagined Janus as a two-faced god: one facing forward and one facing back. This symbolized his ability to look forward and backward at the same time. Janus was the guardian of arches, gates, doors, beginnings and endings. In 153 B.C., the Roman Senate declared that the New Year would begin January 1. But it was not until Julius Caesar took the throne in 49 B.C. that the calendar was adjusted so that January falls where it does today. The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions began during the reign of Caesar. At the time, New Year’s resolutions were of a moral nature, such as being kind to others.
Interesting right? As they say, there is nothing new under the sun. I've always thought this was a 20th century tradition. Notwithstanding whatever you thought regarding the origin of New Year’s Resolution, what has not changed is that most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement even 4,000 years later.
So in keeping with 4,000 years of tradition, I have made a resolution this year, as I am sure most of you did. What I have learned over the years is that I am not great at keeping a New Year’s resolution so I have decided to choose a word to live by throughout the year and apply to every aspect of my life. For me, my word for 2021 is BETTER. I have found that in doing this it allows me to focus and manifest my intention on how I want to be as a person with this word as the theme. I did not come upon this word by myself. I had meaningful conversation at the end of last year with my friend and the original "Bachelorette", Trista Sutter, on her podcast “Better, etc.” This podcast challenges you to have bigger and better conversations around various topics. The conversation I had with Trista really resonated with me, as did her willingness to discuss controversial topics such as: race, injustice, stereotypes, and privilege. For Trista, she established this podcast to challenge others to be better through simply having conversation. She challenged me.
I thought to myself in what ways could I take steps to better myself. It was through this experience that I decided BETTER needed to be my word for 2021. I need to devote more of my time and attention to bettering specific areas of my life emotionally, physically, personally and mentally. To be frank, I have spent so much time focused on my career that other aspects of my life have taken a back seat. Now that I feel that I have some stability in my professional life I really want to be BETTER in focusing on the personal aspects. Someone told me that to understand what it is you want to accomplish you have to anchor it to a WHY. My why is that…I am making an effort to improve myself for my current and future situations. I want to be a BETTER wife, friend, sister, daughter, and co-worker. Each morning I set my intention for the day on what I can be BETTER about and whom I can be BETTER to.
I encourage each of you to find whatever resolution works for you. If you have to narrow it down to a word, then great. If you can commit to an actual act, then great. No matter what action you take, devoting yourself to helping your life and the lives of others can only have a domino effect on making things BETTER and being an example of what BETTER looks like.