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Boomer Bytes #51: Resolutions

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.


By Steve Canipe

Jan. 2, 2015. OK, Christmas is over and the New Year has been rung in. Now for some the obligatory resolutions list has to be written. The idea behind making resolutions–promises to keep in the new year—is currently mostly a secular one. The practice originally had its origin in religious observances of the Babylonians. They promised their gods that they would return any borrowed item and pay off any debts.


Through the years the idea of making promises around the beginning of a new year has been more or less commonly followed. The Romans at the beginning of their new year made pledges to the god Janus (for whom January is named). During medieval times, it was common for knights, after Christmas, to take the “peacock vow” and pledge to be chivalrous in the coming year. See Slate article.

Christians during the watchnight services would often make vows for the year ahead. John Wesley around 1740 started these services in the Methodist Church. Also found in the Wikipedia article cited earlier was the following information: During the Jewish holidays beginning with Rosh Hashanah and continuing to Yom Kippur, a person should reflect on the wrongs that one has done over the past year and then seek and offer forgiveness to others. A similar thought pervaded the activities during the Catholic period of Lent, although the idea is more about sacrifice than responsibility. Actually the current idea behind New Year’s resolutions came at least partly from Lenten sacrifices.

At the end of the Great Depression, about 25 percent of Americans made resolutions. The number of individuals usually making resolutions has increased to be about 40-45 percent today. Some statistical facts about the practice of resolutions can be found at www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics. The data are from the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The results show that 38 percent absolutely never make resolutions. Of those who do make resolutions only about 8 percent are actually successful in attaining their resolutions. During the year of 2014 the top 10 resolutions were:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Getting Organized
  3. Spend Less, Save More
  4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  5. Staying Fit and Healthy
  6. Learn Something Exciting
  7. Quit Smoking
  8. Help Others in Their Dreams
  9. Fall in Love
  10. Spend More Time with Family

What resolutions did you make for 2014 and did you achieve them at all? I will be asking you to report on your successes for 2014 and what you are planning for 2015 at the end of this week’s column.

I am firmly in that 17 percent figure that infrequently makes resolutions. While I don’t do the formal listing of things that I want to accomplish or achieve, I do give it some thought in a reflective fashion. This may well be what many of those who don’t make resolutions do – think about things they would like to improve on during the coming year.

As I looked at the top 10, which were identified as being reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, I saw a number of things that most of us Boomers are probably interested in having happen. I know that I am especially interested in five identified on the list: 1) getting more organized; 2) enjoying life to the fullest; 3) staying fit and healthy; 4) learning something exciting; and 5) spending more time with family.

Do these things take some planning—yes they do, but as we are getting older maybe we should spend some more time planning for things to happen. Perhaps we can no longer expect a serendipity experience where things just occur. But according to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal (http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703478704574612052322122442), we may be doing the resolutions thing all wrong. Trying to do so many things at one time, especially if you are trying to break a habit like over eating, stop smoking, stop drinking, or get organized you are fighting the brain or at least research about it. The brain can only focus on a minimal number of activities at a time (good bye multitasking!!).

The Wall Street Journal reported on a British study from 2007 that showed 88 percent of respondents failed to keep their resolutions. These data are pretty much in concert with those in the Journal of Clinical Psychology article noted earlier. There are some ways, which have been noted, to beat the odds of failing to keep your resolutions. A number of sites report on these but they are generally all common sense things.

One of the best things that is noted is not to set unrealistic goals, like “I’m going to lose 20 pounds in January.” Unless sickness happens or you are terribly obese or go on a doctor-controlled regimen, it is just not going to happen. Losing even an average of two pounds a week is next to impossible for most people; especially if at the same time one is trying to maintain any semblance of sanity. Reasonable expectations are keys in helping attain the weight loss goal.

A second thing to do is once you have a reasonable goal in mind decide on reasonable waypoints to check on progress. Keeping the losing weight idea going and it is the number one resolution, most weight-watchers will tell you not to weigh every day but to do it only once a week. This helps remove the natural daily fluctuations from creating negative reinforcement and also helps in removing the “I can’t” mentality.

Finally remember to reward yourself when you are achieving the waypoints that have been set. This is a positive way to give feedback to the brain that “I know I can” and be a positive influence in helping achieve other measuring points. You might even splurge on a chocolate candy bar or an ice cream sundae—one time only!!

Some experts suggest making yourself accountable to someone other than yourself for achievement of your set goal. It could be a spouse, child, or other family member or even a co-worker. I remember when I was much younger, a colleague and I took it upon ourselves to lose some weight. The idea was not really a resolution for the new year but was decided on during the year. We actually created a little side-bet as to who could lose the most. I really don’t remember what the winner of the bet was to get so that was not as important to me as the competition to beat him at losing weight…which I did but not by much!! Maybe this is a male thing but the common Weight Watchers weigh-ins might be a close female equivalent – not sure.

With all the hype around resolutions, it should come as little shock that advertising around resolutions should be happening. I did a quick online search about resolutions in Boone using the search terms “new year resolutions in boone nc” There were several items from restaurants to exercise places that popped up. Is this the place we have gotten to with resolutions – just another marketing ploy? Maybe or maybe not but a web search will turn up the same ads I saw..

While I don’t normally make resolutions and am not going to do so this year, I do have a series of hopes/wishes for the New Year. I will do what I can to make sure they happen, although I will definitely need a lot of help and support from others…from each of you who are reading this.

What I hope is for people to get along and not automatically jump to bad thoughts about each other. This is true if we are talking about political parties, different races, our spouses. I hope that we can find a way to solve real problems that we have – whether we are talking about education, taxes, gun control, birth choices. In my opinion, we need to be open to listening to the other person and trying to understand where he/she is coming from with their ideas.

A recent re-posting of a note on Facebook by a friend from Texas opined that “#Police Lives Matter,” my comment was “I certainly agree with this sentiment but I would further add that all lives matter. I am afraid this particular situation has become but one more divisive issue. So much today has become an “us vs. them” and if you do that, then anyone not “us” is an enemy deserving disrespect. I believe people can disagree without being disagreeable — for example I believe people from the University of Texas can want to beat Texas A&M people in sports without hating the other team and the young people playing on them….( or in my neck of the woods same thing with Duke and UNC)– this is what I am talking about. We can support police, military, gun rights, abortion, immigration, and every other hot button issue without hating the people who believe differently from us…at least I sincerely hope we can.” I intend to make this thought a goal of mine for the coming year.

With that thought I will close this column; first in the New Year of 2015. Wishing each of you a wonderful 2015 and the best life has to offer.

I am asking you to share your resolutions from 2014 that you kept or did not; new resolutions you’ve made for 2015 and any other thoughts you might have on the ideas in this column. Please post below or send me an email at BoomerBytes@yahoo.com.