Pope Francis says Mass for the Octave Day of Christmas, Jan. 1, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Denver Newsroom, Dec 29, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).
It’s that time of the year again when many people commit to working out every single day of the new year. New Year’s resolutions are a 4000-year-old tradition according to History.com, with the ancient Babylonians said to have been the first people to make such resolutions. According to the same report, a similar tradition was established in Rome in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar established January 1 as the start of a new year to honor the two-headed god Janus. Both traditions are rooted in the worship of pagan gods and were often focused on offering sacrifices and promising good conduct for the coming year in hopes of being in the gods’ good graces.
In today’s society, New Year’s resolutions rarely focus on making promises to God, (pagan) gods, or others. In fact, the top three categories of resolutions are health, self improvement, and money, according to a recent report from Finder. These resolutions can be anything from a commitment to losing weight to saving money in an investment or quitting a bad habit.
Yet, while nearly 50 percent of Americans plan on making New Year’s resolutions, the success rate of actually completing them is much, much lower, at around 8 percent, according to some estimates.
Should you make a New Year’s resolution? If so, how can you involve your faith in the process? What can you do to set yourself up to be one of the 8 percent that follows through on the goal you set for yourself? CNA has some ideas to kickstart your 2022 on a positive note!
What are your intentions?
When setting out to make a New Year’s resolution, it is important to check in with your intention—and involve God in the discernment process. What does He want you to do? How can you improve a habit or practice in your life that brings more glory to His Kingdom? For example, are you interested in working out every day as a matter of vanity and having a specific figure? Or, do you want to commit to working out to honor your body as a “temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God”? As you discern ways to improve yourself or your relationships, try asking Jesus how He wants you to grow and change instead of how you might want to do that on your own.
Set a small, measurable goal
Many people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions because the goal is far beyond their reach or requires a drastic change in their daily routine. Often people set a goal that takes them from not having a habit of any kind, to the upper limit of practicing the habit with perfection, which is sure to fail or at least be hard to maintain consistently. Take for example, a resolution to increase your prayer life in the new year. For someone who prays each Sunday at Mass, it is a small, measurable goal to increase your prayer by adding in an additional day during the week to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament or to pray in the quiet of your home. Similarly, if you already pray every day for 15 minutes, try increasing the amount of time to 20 or 25 minutes.
Check in regularly with a spiritual director or an accountability partner
In addition to checking your intentions and inviting Jesus to walk with you in your New Year’s resolutions, consider meeting with a spiritual director and/or accountability partner regularly. Knowing that you are going to share your successes (and your failures) with someone else will keep you motivated and often leads to higher success rates in completing your goal. Take for example, a renewed commitment to honoring the Sabbath—if you know you are going to tell a spiritual director or friend about the ways you honored the Lord on Sundays, you are more likely to do just that, and honor the Lord on Sundays!
When you fail to keep your commitment, begin again
Life will throw a curveball to your perfectly laid out plans—in this case, your New Year’s resolutions—and when, not if, it does, you might fail to keep your resolution. It is okay. Practice patience and forgiveness, and consider adjusting your goal or reaffirming your intention to get back on track. Let’s say you decide to give up eating meat on Fridays for more than just Lent, and someone in your office brings in a charcuterie board on a Friday and you forgot what day it was, so you imbibed. It is okay. Jesus will forgive you. Declare your mistakes to God (Psalm 32:5) and re-up your commitment to begin again (Isaiah 43:19). Jesus makes all things new!