Resolutions for the New Year

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Mr Peter Tann, Head of Upper School, considers how to make, and keep, effective New Year’s resolutions:

The year 2013 is now two weeks old and like many people all over the world, you may have made one, or several, New Year’s resolutions.  If so, you have taken part in a tradition that is far older than you may realise.

The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.  The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. Janus, a two headed god, faced both forwards and backwards, encouraging the idea of reflecting on the past and looking ahead to a changed future.  There are also religious parallels to this tradition in both Christianity and Judaism. The concept, regardless of creed, was to reflect upon self-improvement annually.

What sets the New Year’s resolution apart is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings; that things (life, the person, their health) will be better if the resolution is adhered to.

‘No-one can go back and make a new beginning. Anyone can start from now and make a new ending.’ – Carl Bard

Large numbers of people will have made at least one resolution in the last couple of weeks – as many as 50% – and it is commonly accepted that it is largely a waste of time.

Weight loss (Image courtesy of jypsygen)

Resolutions often focus on looks and appearance.

Research carried out by Bristol University in 2007 claimed that 88% of people who make a New Year’s resolution fail to see it through.  Americans are even less successful, according to research published last month in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, which claims that 92% fail to see their resolutions through.

So why bother, especially when one considers that the nature of many resolutions has changed from ones which used to be focused on good works (resolving to become less self-centred, more helpful, a more diligent worker, and to improve character) to ones focused on looks and appearance?

One of the main reasons might be that whilst people rarely succeed in fully realising all of their resolutions, making a resolution makes them up to 10 times more likely to affect some positive change in their lives.

And whilst only 12%, according to Bristol University, might fully achieve their goal, nearly 50% will still be striving to fulfil their resolution six months from now.

‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ – Yoda

Setting realistic but challenging targets helps significantly in making progress. Setting concrete ‘mini-goals’, stepping stones along the way to your main target, also helps.  Making those targets as specific and precise as possible is another positive step to take.

Not surprisingly, taking time to plan the details of what you need to do and how you are going to do it boosts your chances of success even further.

Making a public statement of your resolutions is also helpful – so letting close friends and family know what you are striving for helps them support and encourage you, which can be a big help in motivating you to stick with your resolution

So, make an effective resolution and you are likely to be sticking to it six months from now.

Take a moment to consider what that might mean for you.

Year 9 students will have made GCSE options choices.  They will have studied material which will be the foundation for what they go on to study in Years 10 and 11. What difference might six months’ focused effort make to the worth of that study?

In six months, Year 10 students will have completed over half of their GCSE studies and sat their end of year exams; two highly significant staging posts on their journey to GCSE examinations in the summer of 2014. How much better prepared might they be if they reflect now on what steps they can take to improve, and then devote the time to taking those steps?

In Year 11, before the end of June, students will have completed all of their GCSEs. If they resolve to make changes and show resolution in making those changes a reality, between now and then, what might happen to their chances of success?

The goals don’t have to be huge, but it is better to be ambitious.

‘Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.’ T.S. Eliot

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