Returning some old tools and farm equipment was all the Babylonians had in mind when they began the tradition of New Year's resolutions. They resolved to give back to their rightful owners what didn't belong to them so they could begin the year with a clear conscience.
North Americans are the ones who have turned the tradition into the oversubscribed fad it's become today.
Almost half of us will make a New Year's resolution. Traditionally, health and fitness goals have topped the resolution charts. But according to a report by my goals.com, it looks as if more and more adults are focused on making changes around workplace issues this year.
"Jobs are what's on everybody's mind, period," said Greg Helmstetter, CEO of my goals.com. Last New Year's, only 9% of people's resolutions centered on career advancement. For 2003, however, a massive 27% of the goals set are expected to be career-related.
"The dramatic increase in work-related goals is not just about getting jobs, but in particular, doing well at current jobs," Helmstetter said. "People are focusing on acquiring new skills and increasing their sales, productivity, and profitability. It's a real sign of the times."
For example, Captain William Pizer Jr., a pilot for American Airlines, set a goal last year to fly captain on a Boeing 777, but due to seniority issues within the airlines his resolution wasn't realized. This year, however, he has resolved to try again for the 777 class, as well as learn more Spanish for the company's South American operations.
Nuala Snowden, a Children's Aid social worker in Toronto, says this year she wants to find work closer to home (or a home closer to work).
"I commute two to five hours per day both ways," Snowden says. "I can't keep that up -- my time is so valuable to me."
Jim Loomis, a first officer also with American Airlines, is one of the other half that doesn't make resolutions. "I equate New Year's resolutions with wishing on a star ... they both are not realistic."
It's easy to see why Loomis might be skeptical. According to a 2001 USA Today poll, about half of people will drop one or more resolutions within the first month, and 80% will be back to their old ways within two months. Only 20% of us will make a lasting change.
It can be demotivating to set goals you never really intend to meet. If you are making resolutions because it's tradition, rather than making them with the honest intention of fulfilling them, you are better off resolving not to make any resolutions at all.
For those of you who are die hard resolutionists, William Knaus,
co-author of Overcoming Procrastination, has a few suggestions for creating a plan to help you stick to your resolutions.
Pick a start date;
Make a public announcement;
Find a "buddy" to help keep you accountable;
Force yourself to sustaithe
effort until you owthe change;
Accept the ups and downs that change cabring;
Chart your progress;
Constantly review the long-term benefits; and
If you haven't set any resolutions, it's not too late. If you have, stick to it -- only one in five see it through. But if you fall off the resolution wagon, don't worry, there is always next year -- at least you won't be alone!
(Ellen Goldhar is manager, people development at Sun Media Corporation, Canada's second largest newspaper publishing company. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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