Most of us have encountered a psychological condition that for our present purpose can be labeled Resolution Re-Run Syndrome. Sufferers of this syndrome repeat a particular ritual every year known as the making of New Year’s resolutions. The most peculiar feature of this ritual is the presence of a magical amnesia under which the resolution maker apparently forgets that he or she has done it all before. In cases where partial recollection exists in the resolver’s mind, an I-really-mean-it-this-time determination energizes the ritual (before disappearing within three to five days).
Although no formal guidelines are imposed over the resolution ritual by any governing body, one would swear that every aspect is tightly regulated. For example, each don’t seems to be required to have an accompanying do. A resolution to stop downing large quantities of fattening fast food is routinely coupled with a promise to exercise more. A determination to watch TV less is normally paired with an aim to read more.
The desire to improve one’s self is certainly an admirable aspiration. So should we be skeptical about the millions who will be participating in the resolution ritual on New Year’s Eve? Let history answer the question. The practice of formulating yearly resolutions dates back to the beginning of recorded time. In ancient Babylon, citizens started off each annum with a goal of returning borrowed objects and paying off their debts. Sound familiar? The Romans (famous for liking themselves just as they were) made annual life revision promises to the god Janus. This may have been appropriate considering that Janus was the two-faced god. Medieval knights yearly re-affirmed their commitment to the values of chivalry (then promptly went off to engage in horrific enterprises such as the “Crusades”).
You may have already noticed the major thing that the above self-improvement minded societies have in common: they’re all defunct. The United States has no embassy in Babylon. Undaunted by such trivial considerations though, people of various faiths and philosophies continue their attempts to bring about positive developments in the New Year, some by replacing resolutions with the consumption of special foods ranging from soup to sauerkraut.
Perhaps the reason why the making of New Year’s resolutions has the flavor of a dazed boxer wildly punching air is its tendency to isolate something with which we should be regularly occupied into a once-a-year consideration. Maybe our efforts at self-improvement would be more effective if we treated the pursuit more like a process than a broad sweep, less like doing our taxes and more like bathing. Let us this 31 December highly resolve to cease resolving and start doing.