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Making promises for important life changes is a goal for many, and people make them now more than during any other time of the year.

THE changing of the year gives rise to many hopes and expectations, as it is a chance to start afresh. This is why many people make resolutions for the year to come, with the goal of changing habits or creating new ones. Some settle for not taking up new vices, while others make no such decisions.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is an old one. Romans had a habit of making promises to the Janus god, after whom January has been named. Knights in medieval societies took a “peacock vow” to attest their pledge to chivalry at the end of each Christmas season.

These resolutions often relate to health, or recurring habits. Smoking is a common vice that people wish to discontinue, and as the year changes many hope this to be a catalyst for kicking the habit. Antti, 24, humorously quips that his resolution for the year is to not quit smoking.

While many make promises for improvements in the beginning of the new year, it is another thing to actually keep them. “I did not make a resolution this year,” says Iia, 24. “My resolutions have often been health-related, and they don’t stick.” Suvi did not make any promises either. “Unfortunately I did not make a resolution. If I had it would have been not to make any resolutions.”

The most common problems in keeping these promises often have to do with standards that have been set too high. Sometimes the resolutions are simply too vague. Promises to exercise more or be more social encompass a whole range of meanings, where simply going to the gym once a month is an improvement on previous habits.

Setting goals with clear objectives and a sound plan are practical ways of going about resolutions, but losing weight in a short amount of time is much less healthy and desirable than settling on a more healthy diet and applying exercise routines over a longer period of time, which will yield long-time results and be easier to follow.

People often make resolutions together with family members or friends, which may be motivation for some, but a drag for others. If getting yourself to the gym is the hardest part, then having someone to drag you along may be the way to go – but take into consideration personal exercise methods are always a safe option if motivation is not a problem. It is also good to keep in mind that making resolutions is about personal needs instead of listening to other people’s advice. Sometimes making your resolutions public is a way to motivate their achievement.

Another problem in setting goals is to set too many at a time, which makes it difficult to prioritise most important life changes. Resolutions such as taking up a new hobby, reading more books or saving money may be at odds with each other, and consume time. In order to fully achieve certain goals, the most important ones are the ones to invest time and resources in. Motivations for taking up a certain hobby should be personal, and correspond to actual preferences instead of other factors.

YLE recently reported that personal trainers don’t recommend using the New Year as a motive for taking up exercise. Personal trainer Juha Karhu was quoted as saying that New Year’s resolutions are spur of the moment decisions, whereas exercise is a long-term and thorough commitment.

As your resolutions are set to last throughout the year, making one that matters may be as tricky as holding on to it.

Annika Rautakoura