Resolving Not To Resolve

Resolving Not To Resolve


Early 20th-century New Year's resolution postcards
Early 20th-century New Year’s resolution postcards

Have you already broken your New Year’s resolutions? I confess that I haven’t! Of course, that’s simply because I never made any. I used to make resolutions when I was younger, but then I realized I lacked the “want to” to follow through. The carton below represents my current way of dealing with those who ask if I’ve made any resolutions.

Hobbs pic

Still, after seeing so many mentions of resolutions in social media, some posted by my fellow Austen Authors, I began to wonder why the tradition began and when? Here’s some of what I learned.

It seems the Babylonians made promises to their gods in March of each year. BabylonOddly, their resolutions had to do with returning borrowed objects and paying their debts. Now, those are resolutions I could get behind! And, with any luck, the neighbor who borrows all our tools would be reminded to return them at least once a year!

Then came the Romans, who began each year by making promises to the god Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards towards the old year and forwards into the new. Their resolutions had a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others. This seems odd to me since they spent so much time conquering and plundering so many countries, but who am I to judge.


Then, when the Roman Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century, these moral intentions were replaced by prayers and fasting. Christians chose to observe the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1st in place of the revelry indulged in by those who did not share the faith.

Supposedly, medieval knights had their own version of the New Year’s resolution called The Vow of the Peacock or of The Pheasant. One by one, during the last feast of the Christmas week, they would place their hands on a live or roasted peacock, brought in with great pomp in a large vessel of gold or silver by a bevy of ladies. It was presented to each in turn, and each madePeacock vow his vow to recommit themselves, for the next twelve months, to the ideals of chivalry. Afterward the bird was set upon the table to be divided amongst all present. The flesh of the peacock (or of the pheasant) according to the old romances, was the peculiar diet of valiant knights and heart-stricken lovers. Charles Dickens wrote about these oaths in a Victorian periodical he founded, All the Year Round.

The tradition has other religious parallels. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Jews reflect upon their wrongdoings and both seek and offer forgiveness. Christians act similarly during Lent, although the motive is more of sacrifice than of responsibility. In fact, the practice of New Year’s resolutions came, in part, from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect annually upon how one can improve oneself.

I searched for lists of the most common resolutions, lists of which resolutions were most often broken and the length of time most resolutions were kept. Here they are in order:

Top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2015

  1. Lose weight and get fit
  2. Get organized
  3. Get out of debt and save money
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Eat healthier and diet
  6. Learn something new
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others achieve their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with family

Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Lose weight and get fit
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Learn something new
  4. Eat healthier and diet
  5. Get out of debt and save money
  6. Spend more time with family
  7. Travel to new places
  8. Be less stressed
  9. Volunteer
  10. Drink Less

Length most resolutions are kept (enough said)

  1. One week – 75%
  2. Two weeks – 71%
  3. One month – 64%
  4. Six months – 46%


Finally, I saw this meme and thought these resolutions had a lot of merit even if vacuum is misspelled, so I am sharing it with you!

My dogs recs

Now, since I confessed that I stink at keeping resolutions, I wondered about you? Am I the only one? Does something have you buffaloed? For me it was and is exercising more.Exercise

If there’s something that has you intimidated, would you be willing to admit it? Remember confession is good for the soul. And, for those who obviously have their act together because they keep their resolutions, here is your chance to brag in the comments! I hope you will. 

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19 Responses to Resolving Not To Resolve

  1. Brenda, thank you for sharing the history of NYE Resolutions. I don’t make any resolutions. I do agree we need to evaluate where we are in order not to fall into a rut that turns into an open grave….

    • You are welcome and I agree with trying to improve ourselves. I just don’t think resolutions do much for me and apparently you are of the same mind. Thanks for taking time out of your day to comment. I appreciate it so much.

  2. Interesting post. I didn’t realize making “New Year’s resolutions” had been around so long. If I thought about it, I would have figured it was a modern advertising gimmick to get people to spend money because, you know, you won’t be happy until… you lose weight, quit smoking, pay off your bills, or eat healthier… etc. Baloney. Happiness is in you, not in people or things. Thanks for sharing!

    • I could not agree more, Linda. I thought it was a modern invention meant to make us miserable enough to spend more money after Christmas. I love the old saying “You are as happy as you make up your mind to be” or something akin to that. Thanks for taking time to comment.

  3. No Bragging, though I love the “dog’s” list. If I have any determination, not resolution, it is to finally finish my long story, Darcy’s Melody. It’s finally very probable since I finished the rough draft. However, as long as I keep chipping away, I won’t be disappointed, no matter what. I love the idea of “hope.” Thanks Brenda!

    • You have every right to brag, Jen, for I know how diligently you have worked on Darcy’s Melody. It won’t be long now and you will be working on your next long story with all the experience you learned from the first one! I can’t wait!

  4. Oh Brenda I should probably have gone with most of your top ten but………. Love the cartoon about the leotard, that would be me I think. I resolve to make a New Year resolution next year!!!? Thanks for this post, I dearly love to laugh! ?

    • Oh my, Glynis! I never thought to inspire someone to MAKE a resolution. Heh heh And, I am glad I made you smile with the leotard. I identify with that lady so much! Thanks for leaving your thoughts on resolutions. I had to smile when I noticed that the top 10 were mostly the top 10 NOT KEPT! 🙂

  5. This gave me a LOL moment. I have seen that cartoon about putting on the leotard before but, frankly, when I used to exercise, many years ago, I wore sweat pants and a T-shirt to cover up as much as possible.

    I don’t think I have ever made a resolution…too many people talk about how they break them quickly in my circle. I did resolve/determine to finish the books on my kindle that I started and put down when a good review popped up on the Internet and I couldn’t wait to read that book, i.e., put down the 6th Outlander book which is just so long. I did finish it and several others. Don’t worry – I have NEVER put down one of your books to read something else that caught me eye.

    Thanks for the morning’s entertainment.

    • I am proud to have made you laugh Sheila. I confess,too, that the only leotard I ever wore was in a dance class when I was about four, and that is the only time one ever fit me. 🙂 I am also glad to know that you are another person who doesn’t do resolutions. I strive to improve, but in the back of my head is this little imp telling me not to tell anyone because I won’t follow through. I listen to it! I am relieved to hear that you don’t put down my books to go onto other things. I try very hard to make them too exciting to put down and your comment made me smile. Thanks for sharing!

    • Debbie you are more knowledgeable about the resolutions that I was before I studied the subject. Like others, I thought they were a ‘modern’ invention. So glad you liked the post and thanks for taking time to comment. I appreciate it.

  6. Like you Brenda I’ve not done resolutions in years. I guess I’m perfect just the way I am. Lol. I feel that it’s ok to decide anytime to try to better yourself, you don’t need New Years to do it. Love your post!

    • I am so glad that someone is like me! I do make my versions of resolutions from time to time, but I confess that I still don’t get very far with them. Sigh. I must be perfect! So happy that you liked the post, too.

  7. Brenda, Thank you for this fascinating look at resolutions. I must share it on my Facebook page. I had no idea of the history of the custom, but I imagine it makes sense. As long as we can view ourselves objectively, we will see the need for a little tweaking. Doing it annually makes sense—that way the guilt of broken resolutions is only felt once a year. (Not) 🙂

    • I am honored that you want to share it Barbara and go right ahead! I agree that feeling defeated once a year is better than all year long! Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. Thanks for this great post, Brenda, I had no idea that New Year resolutions had such a long and fascinating history. I thought it was a modern thing, you know, sigh at the January TV adds about healthy living and gym memberships, struggle into your leotards and then give up a fortnight later LOLOL Loved that leotard cartoon!! And the dog’s New Year resolutions are priceless. Yep, I could live with most of them, I’m already fairly indifferent to vacuum cleaners 😀

    • I am glad you liked the post, Joana! I had no idea either of the history behind resolutions until I looked it up. And the leotard cartoon is me!!!! Heh heh. I loved the look at resolutions from the dog’s view because I can keep most of those. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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