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"Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the future, and from the present to live better in the future." - William Wordsworth

Having just moved to Europe for three years, 2013 promises to be a year of new experiences, possibilities, and opportunities to shape the future. Timely that this move was at the beginning of a new year.

In multiple cultures, the New Year is seen as a time to reflect on the past, think about where we are, and dream of the potential to start anew towards achieving new personal, family, and professional goals.

Reflecting on the potential opportunities and resolutions for 2013, several questions came to mind. Why do we start the New Year on January 1? Where did this idea of setting goals / resolutions for the New Year come from? What are the most common resolutions set for the New Year? How does one achieve those New Year's resolutions?

Around 4000 years ago, the Babylonians were the first recorded observers of New Year traditions. For the Babylonians the start of the new year was late March, at the beginning of spring around the Vernal Equinox. Based on calendar timing, the season of spring makes total sense as it is considered the season of growth and fertility.

January 1st which we celebrate today in multiple cultures as the start of the New Year was a Roman idea chiseled into history by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. "January gets its name from Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. Janus was also the patron and protector of arches (Ianus in Latin), gates, doors, doorways, endings and beginnings.(1)" If you travel to Rome, you will see a statue of Janus on the bridge Ponte Fabricio which crosses the Tiber River to Tiber Island. The Romans even to this date believe that if you touch the head of Janus as you cross the river it will bring good fortune.

The custom of making New Year's resolutions was also a Roman tradition started by promises made to Janus on the last day of December "in the hopes that he would see their sincerity and help them attain their goals." (2)

In the United States, the concept of "New Year's Resolutions" has advanced enough that today multiple surveys are conducted on the changing annual individual goals for the new year. Following are the results from the Franklin Covey Company survey on the top 10 New Year solutions for both 2012 and 2013: (3)


  1. Become more physically fit
  2. Improve financial condition
  3. Improve health
  4. Lose weight
  5. Read more -Become more educated - NEW
  6. Improve work habits/career situation - NEW
  7. Travel more
  8. Improve family relationships
  9. Do more volunteer work
  10. Change overall attitude: be more positive


  1. Become more physically fit
  2. Improve financial condition
  3. Improve health
  4. Lose weight
  5. Read more
  6. Change overall attitude: be more positive
  7. Improve family relationships
  8. Travel more
  9. Do more volunteer work
  10. Improve other relationships (friends, co-workers, neighbors)

As the study authors pointed out, the 2013 results indicate "a renewed focus on education and career, signals that consumers may be feeling the USA economy is reviving sufficiently to invest in an education and venture out into the job market." (3) In other words, the USA 2013 list reflects new consumer optimism.

2013 can and should be a great year for all of us. Key is focusing on a minimal set of objectives that look forward, not backward. History is a good indicator of the life journey you are shaping. The moments of triumph and failure build on each other towards that next major objective in the race of life. It's not where you start in life, it is where you finish.

Want to make your 2013 resolutions count in advancing both your personal and professional life, then here are three simple rules:

  1. Keep the list short to your prioritized top 3.
  2. Write the goals down and place them in an area where they will be highly visible.
  3. Make it a priority to review the goals on a regular basis and make adjustments to get more aggressive if you are falling behind. Failure is not an option, if this is one of your most important top 3 goals for the year.

The same survey cited above on the top 10 New Year's resolutions provided some insight on the most frequently mentioned methods that are helpful in achieving targeted goals: (3)

  1. Sharing your goals with friends and asking for their support - 41% (of respondents)
  2. Tracking goals in a planner - 25%
  3. Keeping a journal - 18%

As the opening quote indicates, this is the time to set aggressive goals. To learn from the past and profit in the future. To understand that the present can be shaped by clear objectives to live better in the future. It is time to listen to Julius Caesar's famous words "Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered."

Make it a spectacular year in using those new year resolutions to drive forward in achieving your life's passions.

Happy New Year 2013 Image

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