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This Article was first published in the New Vision

New Year resolution is a commitment that one makes to do well at the start of the New Year. In the resolution, one sets goals and makes plans to achieve them for a better future. New Year resolutions traditions were not celebrated on January 1.

Ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first to make New Year resolutions, 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honour of the New Year although their year began in mid-March, when crops were planted. During a 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, they crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the fore-runners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favour on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favour — a place no one wanted to be.

A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1 as beginning of the New Year 46 BC. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.

For early Christians, the first day of the New Year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future.

In 1740, the English clergyman, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the covenant renewal service, most held on New Year’s eve or New Year’s day. Also known as watch night services, they included readings from scriptures and hymn singing and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming

of the new year. Now popular within evangelical Protestant churches, especially African-American denominations and congregations, watch night services held on New Year’s eve are often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.

Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to gods, people make resolutions to themselves and focus on self-improvement (which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on). Recent research shows that while 45% of Americans say they usually make resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving their goals. Uganda is no exception and the same is true for many people. That dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon.

In this article, I will endeavour to explain how we can set and achieve our annual goals in the contemporary self-development realm.

Since the secular nature of this practice has made it more of a personal development initiative,
a new year symbolises a reset button in each of our lives. It’s at the beginning of each year that we reflect on the resolutions we set the previous year(s), we reminisce on the achievements, lessons learnt and then set a strategic direction for the year ahead. Below are ways we can set and achieve our goals:


As the year begins, give yourself time to reflect on your overall vision and long-term goals out of which you can set the one-year goals. As leaders sit down and set organisational goals and strategic plans, so must we sit down individually to set personal goals with a high degree of clarity.


Set specific goals for each area of your life. This will help you achieve balance in your life and track achievements. Areas of our lives may include health, career, relationship and family, business, personal development, spiritual and entertainment.


In setting the above goals ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to be? What do I want to have? Where I want to go? What do I want to have? Under each of these, write three to five ideas and ask questions which will help open your mind and gain clarity of your goals, mission and purpose.


Once you have attained clarity of your goals create an action plan; identify the actions, resources you need to achieve each goal and anticipate how you will be able to get what you require to achieve the goals. Have a proposed time line for each of the activities, in effect create a could-do list.


Categorise them into result-oriented and process-oriented goals whereas a result-oriented goal is the outcome, a process-oriented goal helps you to achieve the outcome. For example, if the result is to read 12 books a year, the process of doing so may involve reading at least 10 pages four times a week. The process helps you to track your performance in advance.


When working towards a goal, things are bound to get tough. When facing adversity hold yourself accountable. Telling your family, friend or mentor — an accountability buddy; about your goals may give you the responsibility, support and push. If you remain accountable in your everyday life, you will also surround yourself with constant encouragement from those who are following your progress.


When starting something new, it is crucial to learn from those with experience. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of, as freshening up your skills may be the thing that sets you apart. Seeking advice may come in many ways: from asking a friend to inquiries from a life coach or searching online. These will only get you one step closer to achieving your goals.


You know your ‘what’ but not your ‘why’. The biggest reason why most New Year resolutions fail: you know what you want but not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example: Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to? Otherwise, unprecedented as the last two years have been, the rationale for effective goal setting has never been as important as now, because once you fail to set them, achieving becomes impossible.

The 365 days symbolise 365 opportunities to achieving the truest versions of ourselves, let’s roll up our sleeves.

I wish you all a blessed new year.

© 2024 Rose Namayanja Foundation

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