In case you’re still thinking about your New Year’s resolutions, here are a few tips from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, author of You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right and president of The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in NYC:
1. Trust the power of your words. Simply declaring to do things differently can have a real impact on our lives. This is an insight as old as Genesis. Recall the story of how the world was brought into reality by the declaration — “let there be light, and there was light”.
2. Be modest in your aspirations. You don’t have to fix everything at once, so pick one attainable goal and pursue it. When we grasp for too much, we end up with nothing at all. But, if we pick a goal to which we can really hold on, we need never let it go.
3. Just do it. Whether it’s getting to the gym, eating healthier, spending less money, or any of the other popular resolutions, start doing it and let your emotions just catch up with your practice. It really works.
4. Don’t go it alone. No different from communal worship or major building projects, when it comes to personal growth there are heights which we can attain only with the support of like-minded friends. Find a supportive community which encourages you to keep going even when you want to give up on your resolutions.
5. Distinguish a practice from its desired result. Eating healthier and working out are different from losing weight and looking “better.” You can only control the first two. Eating healthier and working out are both valuable in their own right. Focus on the value of the practice and whatever happens, you will feel better and be better.
6. Give yourself time off for good behavior. Taking an occasional break from our new practices can actually help us stay committed to them over time. Think of it as a Sabbath. But if you find that your time off exceeds one seventh of your time (like Sabbath), you need to get back to your resolution, pronto!
Also, ChristianHistory.net offers some background on the whole concept of resolutions:
Like other Christian festivals, the celebration of New Years Day in the West started before the church came into existence.
At first, the Romans celebrated the beginning of the new year on March 1, not January 1. Julius Caesar instituted New Year’s Day on January 1 to honor Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. The custom of “New Years resolutions” began in this earliest period, as the Romans made resolutions with a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others.
When Rome took on Christianity as its official faith, the Christians kept New Years Day. Only, they traded the vaguely moral emphasis for a practice of fasting and prayer aimed at living the New Year in the New Life of Christ. Soon, however, the new year celebration reverted to March 1, and this early emphasis on spiritual things dissolved.