Do you make New Year’s resolutions? About half the folks in America do. But how many of us see our goals to completion?

The answer is a surprising 8%, but today we’ll offer some commitment guidelines that may help raise that lowly single digit.

First, though, let’s look at the history of formal intentions, which goes back 4,000 years to the Babylonians, who celebrated a 12-day, mid-March crop-planting ritual called Akitu.

Citizens back then reaffirmed pledges to their god, crowned a new king (or renewed their loyalty to the reigning one), paid off debts, and promised to return borrowed farm equipment — always a good idea in a primarily agrarian society.

Things changed a couple of millennia later when reform-minded Roman Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar in 46 BC.

When doing so, he declared that Jan. 1 would now officially introduce the new year, and thus Caesar reset the long-established parameters. (January was named for the two-faced Roman god Janus, who looks backward into the previous year and ahead into the one about to unfold.)

Here in America, early Christians saw the start of the new year as a time to reflect about past mistakes and vow to eliminate them in the future. Today, the nature of those aspirations has changed, and promises made now mainly concern self-improvement (which could be why they are so hard to keep!).

Currently, the five most common resolutions include:


1. Diet, weight loss, and exercise

2. Reading more books

3. Learning something new (a foreign language, for example)

4. Saving money

5. Being a kinder, more patient person


One additional popular January resolution is to drink less alcohol, pledges undoubtedly often made following a bit too much imbibing in celebration of the holiday season just passed.

What exactly is a resolution? It’s a firm decision to do or not do something, and it’s often about finding a solution to a problem. It’s not about making majestic, wide-ranging changes; it’s a time to correct one’s behavior.

Do you want to make a personal list for 2024? If so, here are some hints for making realistic commitments — with an emphasis on realistic.


1. Avoid using such negative terms as “quitting” or “stopping.”

2. Set aside adequate time to pause and reflect before creating pledges.

3. Keep everything simple by choosing only one or two goals.

4. Pick a goal or goals you truly think will make you feel better.

5. Make choices that are specific and measurable.

6. Plan for a month at a time, not a lifetime.

7. Confide in someone about your goal; it may help you keep your intentions.

8. If you slip up occasionally, don’t worry about it; however, if you err repeatedly, consider a less ambitious plan.


Over 90% of resolution participants don’t make it to their finish line. The most common day for people to throw in their metaphorical towels is Jan. 19, which some cynics have labeled Quitter’s Day.

Take note. You have been warned!


Although Randal C. Hill’s heart lives in the past, the rest of him resides in Bandon, Ore. He can be reached at

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