Harriet Phelps

By Dr Harriet A. Phelps
Doctorate of Psychology, retired
Marriage and Family Specialty

Happy New Year!  Many of us have already begun procrastinate making those New Year’s resolutions. As we look back we know that we have not managed to complete last year’s, remembering with disgust.

Resolution means simply to resolve. The tradition started 4,000 years ago with the Babylonians, the first to record celebrations honoring the coming New Year.  The festival was held in March and known as Akitu which celebrated the new King or reaffirmed loyalty to the current one. Celebrations consisted of promises to pay debt or the return of borrowed objects. If word was kept the King bestowed favor or not.

Julius Caesar reformed the calendar to begin Jan. 1 circa 46 B.C. It was a time to reflect back on the previous year or forward to the New Year. It was early Christians that began the traditions to think about past mistakes and resolve to do better in the future.  Past traditions set the practice of making promises to keep only to ourselves and then focus on self improvement.

Research indicates approximately 45% of Americans say they make them but only 8% are successful in achieving the goals set. So why do we use a tradition that brings discouragement and lowers our self confidence? I personally have resolved not to set resolutions and work on the changes I need to make for health and wellness. I have resolved that if I was going to make a change then I would not have to confront the same thing next year. So, how do we make those changes?

1. Goal setting. Take a quiet moment to reflect what it is that you would really like to accomplish.  It is the first step of problem resolution.  Identify the          problem honestly by taking a personal inventory.  his is reflective not critical.  Guilt is only good for two seconds and a change.  Most experiences, not failure, of goal setting are not specific enough or clearly understood.  Ask where the goals are coming from. Why is this goal pertinent to me? How does achieving this goal influencing me?  Choose to do just one thing.

  1. Tailor tasks that align with who you are and where you wish to be. There are no mistakes or failures only learning experiences. Change causes fear for all of us.  Look ahead only one day at a time. The greatest lesson we could learn is,” I’ll not do that again” then move on.
  2. Feelings of discouragement. Do not give up. Go back to number one and revisit the why.  We become impatient when we do not see signs of progress.  Think about how you will know.  It may not be the number of pounds lost but the eating changes that are healthier.
  3. You may not be ready to make this particular change. Consider what, when, where, and why. You may need to research what could help you accomplish what you want or seek out someone for support. Approve that you are not ready for the task and choose another to work on and do not stress.

Habits are hard to break.  A habit is a behavior that we have done repeatedly and has become unconscious.  We do something automatically no longer thinking about how or why.  When we have not sufficiently repeated a behavior enough we will fall back on old patterns.  In the 60’s the 21/90 rule was established.  Mainly, it takes 21 days to change a habit by repetition and 90 to begin doing it automatically.  Studies estimate it is more like 66 days and up to six months.  Learning a new behavior is an individual experience and takes repetition and practice.  Time and place are key, reminders help, and find the cue that triggers old behaviors.

Remember to do just one thing.  Happy New Year!

As always, be awesome.

Harriet Phelps is a volunteer with the Be Awesome Youth Coalition.



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