Surrounded by tons of pieces of content around handling New Year’s resolutions, I was reminded of my first New Year’s eve party after moving to Germany. It was more than 11 years ago and I still vividly remember one particular scene: a fellow student asking me what my New Year’s resolutions were. It seemed something natural to her which would keep the small talk going, but I was baffled. I had never been asked this question before (let alone at a student party). I found it difficult to respond not because I didn’t have any plans or didn’t know what I would like to achieve in the following year, but because I couldn’t figure out how this could be a topic of such a conversation started by someone I hardly knew at all…
Looking back at this short story, I realize once again what a crucial role culture plays in shaping our behavior. Even when it comes to something as (in)significant as New Year’s resolutions. By the way, the word used in Bulgaria is ‘promises’… and New Year’s promises as I experienced them there were nothing more than illusory statements quickly forgotten and easily re-vamped twelve months later. While the latest seems a rather universal attribute of New Year’s resolutions around the world, I found out that in some countries the process of creating and talking about them is taken more seriously.
What has your experience with New Year’s resolutions been? Did your attitude towards them change after immersing yourself in another culture?
P.S. One of the reasons I dislike talking about New Year’s resolutions is that I consider building habits more important than an exercise of putting together a set of ‘promises’ every twelve months. I couldn’t express that better than Les Hayman, so I highly recommend his post “Build Rituals Rather Than Set Personal Goals”.