First and foremost, I want to thank you, our readers for an outstanding start to Beyond the Hype. Thirty-five posts later, we have reached the eyes of thousands of truly neat people across 30 countries with our provocative stories and insights.
Normally, I don’t partake in the New Year’s resolution ritual, as I prefer to Visioneer my future. Projecting into next year, my vision is to end my 2022 on Lake Como (see above & below) relaxing with a beautiful British actress after writing and publishing 104 posts with our words touching every inch of the globe. Additionally, our book “Beyond the Hype: The Art of Thinking for Yourself” will have sold 50,000+ copies and my novel “The Violence of Knowledge” will be optioned for Netflix. We have big dreams for 2022.
The good news is that I have drafts completed for both books. Edits will follow and we expect to publish both manuscripts by the end of the first quarter. The rest of our success hinges on our everyday hustle and fine people like you.
Years ago, a pastor told me to do all I can, with all I have, and the rest is up to God. His words stuck with me. So I begin my years with big visions marked by goals that exhaust my resources. The rest is up to God. Whatever the outcome from my 2022, I am always a better man for the hard-fought journey.
Putting aside my Visioneering approach to change, I could not help wondering about our culture and the ritual of New Year’s resolutions. Where did the practice originate? And how are we doing with our resolutions? Time for a deep dive into the past.
To my surprise, the ritual began in Roman times. In Roman mythology, Janus the two-faced deity, was the god of doors, gates, and transitions. Janus represented the middle ground between both concrete and abstract dualities such as life/death, beginning/end, youth/adulthood, rural/urban, war/peace, and barbarism/civilization.
Janus was also known as the initiator of human life, transformations between stages of life, and shifts from one historical era to another. Ancient Romans believed Janus ruled over life events such as weddings, births, and deaths and seasonal events such as planting, harvests, seasonal changes, and the new year. If you needed a good beginning, Janus was your god.
At BTH, we drew inspiration from the two-faced deity who looked forward and backward simultaneously, symbolizing knowledge of the past and the future. As applied historians, the wisdom to understand yesterday and project history’s lesson forward is in our wheelhouse.
With the origin of the New Year’s ritual nailed down, I moved on to look at the survey of research around New Year’s change attempts. I found Professor John C. Norcross, the author of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions as the lone authority on New Year’s Resolutions from a paper written for the Journal of Substance Abuse in 1989. His paper The Resolution Solution: Longitudinal Examination of New Year’s Change Attempts tracks 200 participants across 2 years. A reasonable study in concept, but the limited sample size and robustness of the data provide scant proof of solid conclusions.
But, yet, Professor Norcross is quoted again and again this time of the year. PBS North Carolina – The Science Behind Habits and New Year’s Resolutions by Frank Graff (revised December 4, 2021). A landmark 1988 study out of the University of Scranton found that while 77 percent of people who committed to a New Year’s resolution stuck to it for a week, only 19 percent of those who made resolutions kept them two years later.”
Others write about change. Most recently Katy Milkman, professor of operations, information, and decisions at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who authored “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”. In her book, Ms. Milkman notes in a 6,000 member study of 24 Hour Fitness gyms around the United States, that members were 10% to 14% more likely to exercise with one of her strategies employed. Broad and robust, the study tackles bigger data with ease, however, the marginal 10-14% improvement barely moves my needle.
Many extremely bright and highly professional social scientists toil away at modeling, coaching, and predicting future human action to no avail. Even big techs’ sophisticated algorithms get predictions more wrong than right. How do I know? Simple. If I or anyone else had “the answer” for effecting change in human behavior, everyone would be changing. At best, we get results similar to Ms. Milkman’s work.
“One of the key things I feel like I’ve learned in the last decade of studying this is that goal failure is the norm,” Milkman said in a CNN interview. “The whole ball game is figuring out how we recover from failure, keep trying and getting better.”
According to a survey by Statista, only four percent of people who made New Year’s resolutions in 2018 said they kept them. (See below)
Do you want to change something about yourself in the new year? If you want it bad enough, you will find a “way” that worked for you in the past. And you will repeat it. Success breeds success, like nothing else.
As for me, my vision remains steadfast. I want to end my 2022 on Lake Como relaxing with a beautiful British actress after writing and publishing 104 posts with our words touching every inch of the globe. And, only after we publish two books, that sell.
Until next time. Happy New Year!