Resolving to make a better you in 2015

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — For some people, thoughts of Jan. 1 and the coming year offer the chance for a clean slate and the opportunity to better themselves in some capacity through annual resolutions.

But that’s just for some people.

For others, the word “resolution” might as well have only four letters, as it’s viewed as a dirty word, one that is cringe-worthy and weighted heavily with feelings of trepidation and reminders of past failures and broken promises.

Whatever the case, there’s no denying that every 365 days, tradition dictates you should try to do better … whether it be in your eating habits, exercise routines, work goals or financial situation.

Why are resolutions traditional and where did they begin? In other words, who’s to thank … or blame … for the yearly declarations?

According to the research buffs at, the tradition of New Year’s resolutions dates all the way back to 153 B.C.

January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. According to mythology, Janus had two faces, with one face looking forward and one face looking backward. Janus’ faces allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future.

On Dec. 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the New Year, and this became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the New Year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.

From there, New Year’s resolutions were born.

According to a 2014 University of Scranton study, the top 10 resolutions Americans make each year are to lose weight, get organized, spend less and save more, enjoy life to the fullest, stay fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others, fall in love and spend more time with family.

The study states 45 percent of Americans usually make resolutions, with only 46 percent of those people holding tight to their promises past six months.

So what makes a resolution truly stick?

According to professionals at the University of Virginia, there’s a formula to making goals — or resolutions — stick, and that’s to make them SMART.

SMART is an acronym used in teaching effective goal setting, and encourages the more motivated among us to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Let’s take the No. 1 New Years resolution of losing weight.

Saying “I want to lose weight” isn’t SMART, but it is a starting point that with a few tweaks can become a goal with a little more staying power. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” experts urge goal-setters to be specific by saying how much you want to lose. Does 20 pounds sounds about right? OK, we’ll go with that.

Next is measurable, and this is usually answered with a “yes” or “no.” Because someone with the goal of losing weight can use a scale to measure progress, it is a measurable goal. Every ounce lost is measurable to achieving the goal of losing 20 pounds.

Next up? Achievable.

Writer Nia Vardalos once said, “my New Year’s resolution list usually starts with the desire to lose between 10 and 3,000 pounds.”

And while that’s funny, it’s undoubtable that many people feel like Vardalos and forget that it’s important to set a goal that you’ll be able to reach.

Losing 20 pounds for someone who weighs 110 pounds may not be a great idea, or something that person can safely achieve. Only you – and your doctor depending on the resolution – know whether or not the goal you’re setting is something that you’ll be able to reach.

SMART goals should also be relevant, that is, there should be a reason why you care about it and why you’ll work hard to reach it. Any summer beach trip or class reunion goers setting out to lose some extra pounds in 2015 know what the experts are talking about.

And finally, a SMART goal is always time-bound, as in, there is a deadline. Experts say instead of setting only a final deadline, it’s helpful to set shorter check-in points along the way for assessment and re-adjustment purposes.

While resolutions are largely viewed as an adult’s path to success – or burden to bear, depending on who’s doing the talking – some experts say resolutions are something children and even families can get in on successfully.

Christine Carter, author of “Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents,” said children ages 7-12 are at an ideal stage to learn how to make and keep resolutions, because they’re still young enough that their habits are fluid and more easily changed.

With parental involvement, healthy habits can be solidified early on, she said.

Family resolutions, such as a weekly game night or nightly dinners, also shouldn’t be overlooked.

Whatever you may decide to do — or not do — differently in 2015, remembering to keep it SMART may help … and if all else fails, blame early Rome for the tradition.