BENNINGTON -- New Year's resolutions have a history dating back to ancient Babylon, when approximately 4,000 years ago folks tried to start the year fresh by repaying debts and returning borrowed items.
In the last 100 years, the tradition has gained popularity in the U.S. -- from about one in four in 1939, according to polling from the precursor of the Gallup Organization that year, to nearly half of those surveyed this year in statistics from The University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Psychology published earlier this month.
Locally, for whatever reason -- chalk it up to Yankee independence or else the poor success rate of such goals -- most of those queried said they had no plans to make any.
"I have not made any New Year's resolutions," said Bennington Town Manager Stu Hurd. "I'm afraid to."
Bennington Select Board member Christopher Oldham said his New Year's resolution was to lose weight, and get in shape. "That's me every single year," Oldham added, implying some lack of past success.
According to the Dec. 13 Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their resolution. Nearly half said they have "infrequent success," while a quarter said they never succeed and fail on their resolution each year.
Seventy-five percent said they maintain their resolutions through the first week of the year, while that number drops to 64 percent after the first month and 46 percent by the mid-year point. Losing weight, getting organized, and saving more perennially top the list of most popular resolutions. Experts say the best way to keep a resolution is to have manageable expectations and realistic goals.
Ralph Smith said his resolution was to "make lasting, fundamental change" in some area of his life. "For example, I don't want to just lose weight, but rather be healthier."
Bennington resident Mike Bethel said he hoped everyone could try to get along better. For a resolution, "I think I'm a pretty nice guy ... (but) try to be a nicer human being."
Fifteen minutes later, Bethel called back and added, "but it may take 2013 and 2014 to attain that goal."
A pair walking Main Street from Chicago, in the area visiting family, said they had not made any resolutions for the new year. "Resolutions were made to be broken," said Ben F. Originally hailing from Washington state, he did however have a football-related prediction for 2013.
"The Redskins will make it to the Super Bowl -- but they will lose."
While describing herself as "weary" of a single New Year's resolution, chairwoman of the Mount Anthony School Board Sean-Marie Oller said she was all for making goals for the year. In her position on the school board, "I would have to say a commitment to increased communication and understanding seem to rise to the top," Oller wrote in an emailed response. "As a school community we need to be out front in championing quality education and communicating what we do and where we need help from the community."
In a hopeful prediction, Oller said she would like to see increased public participation at school board meetings.
More local predictions for the new year?
"A zoning change for Johnson Controls," predicted Oldham. (Wishful thinking?)
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