So I’ve been wondering… who had the brilliance (or was it insanity?) to create the notion of New Year’s resolutions and why do we humans continue to torture ourselves year after year by making vows we know we won’t keep past National Hugging DayTM – if even that long?
An intriguing article by Margarita Tartakovsk suggests that this tradition dates back to Julius Cesar and is inherent to our humanity. Tartakovsk’s article quotes Nona Jordan saying: “The fact that people keep making resolutions even when they don’t always follow through ultimately means that they have hope and a certain level of belief in their ability to change and be more of who they really want to be.”
Ah… so it’s about hope!
Wikipedia – the definitive source for all truth – defines hope as “a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life.” The Wiki entry on hope illuminates a story from Greek mythology. To summarize: when Pandora opened her proverbial box, releasing a flood of evils into our world, she refrained from releasing hopebecause she knew it was by far the worst of the worst. Nietzsche suggested that hope was introduced by Zeus because he knew, in his infinite wisdom, that human kind enjoyed perpetual self-torment and that, in 2010, most of us would continue to ring in the new year by vowing to exercise more, eat better, or reduce consumption of our vice of choice, be it alcohol, caffeine, tobacco or what have you. (Those really are the top three resolutions according to Miller & Marlatt, as cited by John M Grohol.)
So where am I headed with this?
I find it interesting that most of my exploration of human behavior comes back to a single, four-letter construct. My mentor and friend (and dissertation chair) is becoming increasingly interested in the study of hope and I’m beginning to understand why. We crazy beings tend to behave in all sorts of irrational ways… or do we? Perhaps our various behaviors all stem from the same motivations. So, as we raise our glasses to toast the new year and proclaim our resolutions once again, lets offer up a bit of hope that 2011 will bring many opportunities for us to inch toward becoming the people we desire to be.