New year is time to start fresh

Happy New Year.

Today is the first day of 2015. The new year holds the promise of so many things to come.

That’s one of the things I like best about starting a new year. It gives you an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, forget about anything bad and be hopeful for what is yet to come.

And it starts with a gala celebration: fireworks, Champagne toasts and a kiss at midnight followed by a parade in the morning. At least that’s how it works at my house.

Maybe that’s why so many people make New Year’s resolutions. Today is the day to start the year off on a positive note.

According to the History Channel, the practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. Reportedly, they would vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.

Sounds like a good idea to me. I hereby promise to return any farm equipment I borrowed in the past year.

That’s one resolution I know I won’t break because I didn’t borrow any farm equipment — at least not that I can recall.

Breaking New Year’s resolutions is pretty common. A 2007 study of more than 3,000 people by British psychologist Richard Wiseman showed that 88 percent of all resolutions end in failure.

Why? That is hard to say. Could be because people are creatures of habit, and habits — good or bad — are hard to break. It also could be because the resolutions aren’t specific enough.

One thing I learned in a recent leadership course I took was that when setting goals — or resolutions — they need to be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Most New Year’s resolutions read like a list of goals from the self-help aisle of the local book store. People vow to better themselves by losing weight, exercising more, eating better, quitting smoking, getting a better job, spending more time with the family, starting a family, giving more to charity, etc.

While admirable goals, indeed, they aren’t SMART. They can, however, be tailored and modified to make sure they follow the criteria.

After consulting with Michael Kitchens, assistant professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., the website How Stuff Works states that a long list of to-dos without a timetable can prove to be frustrating. When faced with a list of 20 things you want to accomplish, how do you know where to start? That’s why he also suggest setting goals/resolutions that are specific.

I know when I find myself with piles of projects on my desk, I find it much easier to prioritize and tackle them one at a time. That would probably work for resolutions as well.

And he also recommends not making too many resolutions, otherwise they become unmanageable.

The key to keeping a New Year’s resolution also may be to share it with others. It holds you accountable for your actions.

So, while I don’t usually make resolutions — for the simple reason that my resolutions are typically for things I should be doing year-round anyways — I will make one this year.

I resolve to try my best to live by the motto that permeates the city: “Be Kind, Be Boulder.”

I still haven’t quite figured out all the specifics of what that means yet, or how to translate that into daily actions, but the year is young. Check back with me in a couple of weeks. I should be able to have a short list by then.

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