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Opinions of Friday, 13 January 2017

Columnist: Annan, James

What is your New Year’s resolution?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘New Year’s resolution’ as a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop something bad from the first day of the year. Every fresh year marks the beginning of great expectation and 2017 is no exception.

Since the year has just begun, many would normally make their New Year’s resolution with the hope of sticking to it. And this is characterised by setting goals, vision, renewal of vows and a fresh start.

According to history, the ancient Babylonians were the first people to introduce New Year’s resolution dating 4,000 years back. The early Romans also made promises to their god ‘Janus’ each year, for whom the month of January is named. Meanwhile, it is quite intriguing to learn that the ancient Babylonian calendar began in mid-March and not January.

As part of their religious festival known as ‘Akitu’, the people of Babylon made vows to their gods at the beginning of each year that they would return any items they had borrowed and settle their debts.

In Ghana and other parts of the world, crossover or watch-night services on December 31 has become a solemn occasion, as many people keep vigil to welcome another year.

It is not surprising that most churches across the country record high attendance. This is because members who have not been regular put in an appearance at the last night service of the year in their numbers. As a consequence, many worshippers across the country offer thanksgiving, prayers and seek divine blessings for the forthcoming year. Essentially, the last night of the year offers many people an opportunity to make peace with their Maker. In reality, there is no achievement without goals hence the need to start off with a set of resolutions. A renowned founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, was right on point when he said that “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Habits & lifestyle

As stated by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” Frankly, New Year’s resolutions have become a common global practice in which a person resolves to change or resort to doing things the right way. Habits and lifestyles are building blocks that have the tendency of affecting one’s action, decision and choice in all spheres of human endeavours. A habit is a pattern of behaviour that is repeated instinctively, and it becomes typical of somebody.

Most people find it difficult to break bad habits as it becomes part of their routine behaviour. I have on several occasions interacted with a couple of people who gave a thousand excuses for their flawed habits.

Undoubtedly, it is an established fact that most of the New Year’s resolutions across the globe are generally geared towards getting rid of unhealthy habits and lifestyle.

One such alarming habit that leaves much to be desired is sexual immorality, especially among the youth. Notably among the examples of lustful acts are fornication, adultery, homosexuality and lesbianism, prostitution, masturbation and pornography.

There are also a number of people who are grappling with their physical well-being. For this group, some of their challenges may include gluttony, overweight, lack of exercise, unhealthy foods, too much sugar, smoking and oral hygiene. In fact, there are many more habits or lifestyles that draw us back such as extravagant lifestyle, alcoholism, drug addiction, anger, laziness, Internet addiction, poor time management, lack of self-discipline, gossips/ lies and quarrelsome behaviour.

As it is said, ‘It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break or control them’. If habits are not well managed, they will develop into unhealthy lifestyle.

The people you associate yourself with can influence your behaviour, so choose friends who exhibit healthy habits. “Successful people are simply those with successful habits” – Brian Tracy.

Sticking to your resolutions

Most resolutions do not thrive due to lack of commitment, self-discipline and misplaced priority. It is also estimated that more than 80 per cent hardly make it into the month of February without breaking their New Year’s resolution. Nonetheless, it is not impossible for the average person to accomplish their goals or resolutions through determination. I am optimistic because of the adage that, “Setting goals is the first step of turning the invisible into the visible”.

How are your New Year’s resolutions faring? Or have you abandoned your resolutions? It’s not too late to revisit it or start all over again. I hope readers who are struggling to stick to their resolution will find the following tips useful:

1. Be specific; vague resolutions are impossible to accomplish. 2. Reduce the time span and start with short-term goals. 3. Be positive about your resolutions. 4. Do it your way or style; do not copy others. 5. Be committed to your resolutions for the first 4 weeks. 6. Don’t reward or punish yourself excessively in the course of implementation. 7. Don’t overcommit yourself because it’s not feasible to change bad habits all at once. 8. Evaluate your progress or success periodically.

It is worth sticking to your resolutions and goals because nothing is impossible for those who exhibit the right habits and attitude. Even though we have a new government in power, Ghanaians should not expect change if we don’t change our ways.

Happy New Year!

ASP James Annan Prisons Headquarters

• The writer is an Assistant Superintendent of Prisons (ASP) at the Prisons Headquarters, Accra