When, exactly, humans started making new year’s resolutions is unclear. The practice started off in religious roots, but is mostly non-religious today. Some sources say that ancient Babylonians were the first to make them, 4,000 years ago.
During a festival to welcome the new year, they would make promises to the gods that they would repay or return what they owed. These promises were, however, not given the title ‘New Year ‘s Resolutions, but the premise is similar.
Other sources say that the practice has been around for over 200 years. The first recorded resolutions’ list made at the beginning of the year dates back to 1671, according to Merriam Webster.
It was a diary entry by Scottish writer Anne Halkett. The page was titled ‘Resolutions’ and was written on January 2nd, with a number of pledges based on bible verses, such as “I will not offend any more”.
The first time the actual phrase ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ appeared in full was on January 1st, 1813, in a Boston Newspaper, so the consensus is that the practice has existed for at least 200 years.
Today, gyms are famously full at the beginning of every year, only to quickly dwindle down as people give up on getting fit. Despite studies showing that 80 per cent of resolutions are broken, we keep making them. Why?
Reverend Ken Aringo, a psychologist, says that the words “New Year”, being a sense of newness, through which we are driven to want to have newness in our own lives.
Psychologically, everyone else is also in that sense of newness, so he says that there is security in numbers, where one feels that they are not alone in it.
“It has been culturally done. It is a trend. Human beings copy each other. If one person is doing something, there is a way in which we get sucked up in it. You can call it peer pressure, societal pressure, or whatever it is,” says Aringo.
“So there is the herd mentality – there is a sense in which I’m not alone, so it will be exciting to know – how did yours go? How did mine go?”
It also feels good to compare where you have been with where one is and where one wants to be, and that period provides fertile ground to do so.
“When I see 2022 coming, I need to ask myself, ‘Has there been any progress made in 2021? Would there be something that I would love to see change or be done differently?’ It provides an opportunity to revisit what has not worked,” he says.
However, there are people who set resolutions because it is exciting to set them. They have romanticised goals, but they only stay on paper, never to see the light of day.
“There is also that little pressure of someone asking you what your resolutions are. You want to have something to report about. Nowadays it is called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out),” says Aringo.
Whatever the reason, most people don’t stick to their resolutions. Is there any point in making them then? Rev Aringo says yes.
“The only thing that remains relevant when it is old is wine!” he says with a laugh. “There is something called rebooting in computer language. It is very important. I want to ensure that I am actually renewing myself. The worthwhileness of making the resolution is the sense of renewal and also the satisfaction of knowing that you are in a process of transformation and growth. If I have the exact same resolutions today that I will have five years from now, something is wrong with me. That is why you should also assess your growth path.”
Aringo has been making and writing down New Year’s resolutions for over 20 years and is working on his 2022. He says that it is important to actually write them down, even if one does not execute them.
“If there is no inscription, there is no prescription. I learned that about 15 years ago from one of my very good mentors. Jotting them down on paper or a vision board, whatever it is, helps you keep tabs on yourself and to assess whether you are making progress.”
According to him, the best way to ensure that one follows through on one’s resolutions is to have an accountability partner.
We asked a section of Kenyans what they think about resolutions – Are they worthwhile? Do they make their own? Here is what they had to say.
No. They are not. Shun resolutions; make realistic goals with an execution plan. In my experience they never work, ever.
Failure to plan is planning to fail. That’s my saying. I have been deliberately doing goal setting for the last six years or more and I’m very impressed when I look back at the strides I have made. Some end up taking more than a year, but it’s never in vain.
Is there a difference between a resolution and a decision? I don’t set resolutions, but I did decide to stop taking alcohol and will be hitting three years sober. It was more of a decision after the new year drinking parties were over.
I think they are worthwhile in the sense that they make people feel like they have some sort of control in their lives while helping them believe that they can have a new slate where they can move to the next page, which translates into leaving the bad habits in the last page (last year), and embracing new ones (the new year). I’ve never stuck to any; at least not religiously past January, but I’ll keep making them.
Everyone asks me in the first few days of the New Year what my New Year’s resolutions are. My answer is steadfast and has remained the same for many years: nothing! Why? I feel we set ourselves up to fail when we set resolutions. The truth is, when we want to change something in our lives—whether it is required, or it is voluntary—we will only be able to do this when we are ready and committed, but not necessarily because the calendar tells us so.
I have tried making them, but always end up with quarterly goals instead of whole year resolutions! But of course, they’re worthwhile. It’s like a scorecard of sorts, ensuring you are on track with the set goals.
15. Benson Ngetha
Making resolutions is wishful thinking if you don’t put in the work. In my opinion, a resolution is simply something that you resolve to do or not to do. If I want to do something or I don’t want to do something. For example, I remember some years back I resolved to triple my income and by the end of that year I was earning that. What did I do? I checked on what I needed to do. Maybe I worked harder on my source of income so that I could achieve that resolution.
1. Ian Hicho
They are overrated. Well, it depends on you and whether or not you are willing to go with and achieve said resolutions but for the most part they are just noise. Whenever I’ve tried making them, f or the most part they didn’t work, so I don’t do resolutions. I wake up whenever, or whichever part of the year, decide to do something and do it.
8. E. Kori Maina
Yes, l think they are worthwhile as they give the upcoming year a limited number of goals to aim for, hence you have the opportunity to wake up knowing what to do for the day, which helps you get closer to your goals. But this only works if you are consistent at it.
I had roughly seven key goals/resolutions l wanted to achieve and l’m happy to say l managed at least 5 of them, ranging from career, finances and health. The biggest benefit has been knowing that putting in the work helps you get closer to where you’d ideally want to be.
9. Ruby Njonjo
I think New Year’s resolutions are just an exciting way to gas yourself up for a new year but don’t go far in my opinion. I prefer to do goal setting instead, strategically on my birthday, and work towards achieving them.
11. Maurice Muthiani
Yes they are. They are an anchoring point to everything you hope to achieve in the new year, like a road map leading you to your treasure island. Sadly for me, I never stick to any new year’s resolution that I set.
12. Stella Chepngeno
Yes, they are. Purposeful new year resolutions really help. You need to know how to do it the right way. I have had a great experience with them. I started being deliberate at the end of 2019. What I planned for 2020, I achieved and exceeded my expectations. In 2021 it has been the same.
13. Simon Gichohi
Yes, they are worthwhile. Last year I resolved that this year I would propose to my lady and it happened.