Blame the Babylonians. The seemingly endless barrage of ads exhorting us to get healthy, save money, and generally improve ourselves took root at least 4,000 years ago when new year's festivities lasted up to 12 days and took place in March. Records indicate that at those new year's festivities, citizens celebrated the planting of crops, pledged allegiance to rulers, and made promises to settle debts.
According to the article "The History of New Year's Resolutions" by Sarah Pruitt in History magazine, the tradition resurfaces in the record again with the Romans, who are responsible for moving the celebration to January to honor the two-faced god Janus.
Pruitt writes that "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."
We may have moved past planting rituals and public sacrifices, but we seem wedded to the idea of resolutions. People feel compelled to evaluate their past mistakes over the year and strive to do better in the future. Writing for Psychology Today, Theo Tsaousides, Ph.D., argues that this is because new year's resolutions are less about tradition and more about the human need to set goals.
Tsaousides explains that this may be simply because setting goals makes us feel good. "Being actively engaged in the pursuit of a goal activates the brain's pleasure centers, independent of the outcome. It seems that we derive more pleasure from chasing our dreams than from achieving them."
But even more importantly, he says, goals provide us with direction. "They give you a destination and enable you to plan your course into your future. Without goals you risk wasting your resources…and being unprepared when opportunities arise."
Volunteer leaders and headquarters staff at ASIS International were certainly dedicated to goal setting, starting new ventures, and being prepared for opportunities in 2017. As 2018 dawns, the fruits of these goals are starting to materialize.
January sees the launch of phase one of ASIS's new website. The launch is the first part in a multiyear website development project focused on improved and personalized content access, user-centric search and commerce, online community, and integrated systems for learning and certification.
These milestones definitely make those who worked on them feel good, and, as projects evolve, they will generate even more goals. So, maybe the Babylonians were onto something.