Right so 2018 is with us – awesome! 

Like the vast majority of the population you have probably had a good look at yourself in the mirror:  farewelled 2017 and made some resolutions for 2018. But, have you ever wondered where this ‘tradition’ originated? Well here is a potted history for all you fact lovers!

  1. The ancient Babylonians are believed to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago.

They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations for the New Year, though for them the year began in mid-March, when the crops were planted. It is believed that they held a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed…potentially the forerunners of what we call our New Year’s resolutions.

The reward for the Babylonians if they kept to their word would be that their (pagan) gods would bestow favour on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favour—a place no one wanted to be!

  1. The Ancient Roman calendar also had the New Year beginning in March, following the lunar cycle. It is believed that Sosigenes, an astronomer, convinced Julius Caesar to follow the solar year, instead. So from 46 B.C. onwards the New Year began in January.


This change was also partially done to honour the god Janus, for whom the month January was named. Since Janus had two faces, he was able to look back into the past and forward into the future simultaneously, making him a great spokesperson for the holiday we celebrate today.

  1. For early Christians, the first day of the New Year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

Also known as known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Now popular within evangelical Protestant churches, especially African-American denominations and congregations, watch night services held on New Year’s Eve are often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.

So now you have the history – have you considered how S.M.A.R.T your New Year’s resolutions are? (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound)

A 2007 study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman found that of the 3,000 people followed for a year, 88% failed to achieve the goals of their resolutions!

Why is this?

Generally resolutions are generic; such as:

I need to lose weight…I promise to be a better person…I’ll cut down on alcohol….I need to do more exercise…

If you have made goals like these you will probably fall into the 88% who fail to achieve their goals. The reason?

They are not specific!

Try instead setting goals in a manner that you might set goals at work. For example:

New Objective:

I will lose 2KG per month for the next 6 months.

New Key Result Area (KRA):

KRA 1: Do 30 minutes of walking 4 times a week

KRA 2: Cut out my mid-morning biscuit with my cup of tea

KRA 3: Limit myself to one beer or glass of wine during the week


These are specific! These are achievable and realistic! They are time bound! You will have to measure these goals – otherwise you will not know how you are tracking!

Do this weekly, not monthly and make sure it is visual and you see it regularly. Your sub-conscious will kick in and help with your motivation if they are in a visible place. Above all hold yourself accountable – or get someone else to hold you accountable, your partner, your best friend – whatever works!

Aim to be in the top 12% in 2018 not the failing 88%.

Hope this helps and Happy New Year!

Stephen Cushion – General Manager Consulting

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