(MS) — The dawn of a new year is a time when many people take inventory of the previous 12 months and begin thinking about ways they can improve their lives in the coming year. Such looking ahead can provide inspiration and motivation.
Resolving to make changes at the beginning of a new year is a tradition for many people. Even when people veer off course from their resolutions, many pick themselves up, dust themselves off and try again year after year.
The custom of making resolutions is celebrated in many areas of the world. But how did the custom begin?
History.com states that the origins of New Year’s resolutions can be traced to the ancient Babylonians, who purportedly made promises to the gods to earn good favor for the coming year. These resolutions were personal promises of growth and redemption and were made in conjunction with the start of a new year which, at the time, began in mid-March and not January.
Common resolutions revolved around getting out of debt or returning borrowed items. The Babylonians tried to fulfill these resolutions so that the pagan gods would bestow favor on them, including a rich harvest, for the coming year.
The Romans were the first to change the calendar to have the new year begin on Jan. 1. January was named for the Roman god Janus, who had dual faces. Romans believed that Janus could not only look back into the previous year, but also look forward to the next one. So Romans made promises to Janus to do good deeds in the months to come and learn from past mistakes.
Early Christians also embraced resolutions as chances to repent and redeem themselves through positive actions. Although there are still some religious ties to resolutions, New Year’s resolutions are still largely practiced today. And unlike making promises to God or pagan gods, resolutions are now most often personal promises focusing on self-improvement.
The largest percentage of resolutions made today, according to Statistics Brain, involve self-improvement or education-related goals.
Sharing one’s resolutions with a third party can help people stay motivated as they pursue their goals.
Resolutions have been made for thousands of years, and millions of people still make them today.