JANUARY 4, 2011

The holidays have come and gone and the New Year is upon us. For most people this means New Year’s resolutions.  To be fully honest, I have never made a New Year’s resolution.  Much like Lent, I’ll come up with some sort of answer when asked, but there has never been a concrete resolution that I have cared about or stuck with.        

The history of New Year’s resolutions is pretty interesting.  They started in Rome in 153 B.C.  This is when the Roman’s placed the god, Janus, at the head of the calendar.  Janus had two faces looking in opposite directions; one that looked back at the past and one that looked into the future.  Eventually, Janus came to represent resolutions when the Romans would ask forgiveness from their enemies and exchange gifts with their loved ones.  The name January is derived from Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings.  

I have no problems with resolutions in theory.  The desire to reform a bad habit or improve one’s self is a great goal.  Improve my relationships, eat better, be more environmentally conscious, et cetera... All of these resolutions are based on good intentions but lack any sort of definition.  Without a concrete plan, the chance of success is pretty slim.  Most research has shown that anywhere from 70-80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by Valentine’s Day. 

This all sounds pretty dismal, but there are many ways to improve your chances of success.  The keys to successful New Year’s resolutions are no different than the keys to success for any other goal.  Although I’ve never made New Year’s resolutions, I have plenty of experience with goal setting from my 20+ years of competitive swimming. 

January 1 is actually an arbitrary date to start the New Year.  There is no agricultural significance nor any astrological one.  January 1 is simply the date that the Roman senate chose to start the year back in 153 B.C.  If you don’t have a resolution, no worries.  You can set new goals (and stick to them) any time of the year, not just January 1. 

To help any goal or resolution stick, be honest with yourself and have a plan.  Set up “stepping stone” goals along the way to your bigger goal.  Share your goals with the people around you.  Verbalizing your goals not only helps solidify what you actually want, but it will help your loved ones keep you on track.  At the beginning of the swim season my team has meetings about the upcoming year and our goals as a team.  This helps us hold each other accountable throughout the year, especially through the challenging times.           

Even though I have never made a New Year’s resolution, per se, I understand the desire to start the New Year off right.  I have plenty of goals in 2011 that will ultimately help me towards my goals in 2012.  I don’t like to be too specific with my goals publicly but I share them with those close to me.  (I’ve seen how things can get out of hand when the media gets a hold of an athlete’s goals.)  I am very thankful for everyone out there who supports me on the path towards my goals.  Happy 2011!