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Blame It On The Babylonians!
~Resolutions from the Past and for the Future!~
By Patricia Yevics
Director, Law Office Management
Maryland State Bar Association, Inc.
Where did the idea of resolutions start? Is the making of resolutions
just some type of world-wide conspiracy by the self-help community? Not
According to some very limited research on my part, the Babylonians
celebrated New Year’s Day over 4,000 years ago (although their celebration
was in March rather than in January, coinciding with the spring planting
of crops). Their celebration lasted 11 days. Today’s resolutions are a
reflection of the Babylonians’ belief that what a person did on the first
day of the New Year would have an effect throughout the entire year. If
you acted badly on the first day of the year, your crops would fail, but
if you acted well, you would have a prosperous year. And according to
historian Charles Panati, the two most apparently popular resolutions by
the Babylonians were to pay off outstanding debts and to return all
borrowed farm tools and household utensils. (For an even more detailed
history of New Year’s celebrations, go to
The Romans (who go back even further than the Babylonians) also paid
homage to the beginning of a new year. The god Janus, who was depicted
with two faces, was placed on the calendar. One face was to look back at
the past year and the other to look forward to the future. He became the
symbol for the New Year and its resolutions.
According to Gary Ryan Blair (on the website
www.goalsguy.com), the most
common resolutions that people make (and ultimately break) are to:
1. Lose weight
2. Stop smoking
3. Stick to a budget
4. Save or earn more money
5. Find a better job
6. Become more organized
7. Exercise more
8. Be more patient at work/with others
9. Eat better
10. Become a better person
The problem with those resolutions is that they are doomed to failure.
Accomplishing any of them would be a Herculean task. They are just too
grand in scope. The key to succeeding in keeping resolutions is to keep
them realistic. If you have made or are considering making any of these
resolutions, stop doing it! The goal in making resolutions is to
either create a new good habit or to replace an existing bad habit with a
good one. It is about the decision to make better choices.
Regardless of which generation you belong to, time is a fleeting thing. It
is one thing that we cannot recover, and there is never enough of it. As
we age, we realize that it goes faster and faster. I could hardly believe
that it was time to write my resolution article, or that this is my 11th
column on resolutions. This year, my resolutions will be about how to use
time more wisely.
I’m not trying to find
answers anymore. I’m trying to live what I know.
yourself up. You may be okay just the way you are. While I think it
is important to try to change unproductive or even destructive
behaviors, it may be time to stop trying to change some habits that are
just not that bad and do not cause any real problems in your life. Use
the time and energy on more important things. The fact that the top of
my desk at home is not that neat does not make me a bad or even a
Never try to teach a
pig to sing. It makes you look silly and really annoys the pig.
Stop trying to
change other people. We are only responsible for our own behavior. We
cannot make people conform to our standards. You will simply have to
live with people the way they are. If that is not possible, then you
and not the other person need to make a decision about what to do. On a
professional level, you can require employees to adhere to certain
rules, but you cannot force them to like the idea. If an employee
refuses to follow a certain procedure, then you will need to make a
decision about his/her employment.
Time is the coin of
your life. It is the only coin you have , and only you can determine how
it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
It is never too late
to become what you might have been.
Never stop changing.
Last year, National Public Radio did a wonderful series on centenarians
called If I Lived to Be 100. In the yearlong series, Neenah Ellis
interviewed people who had all lived to be over 100. At the end of the
series, she noted that one similarity she found in each of these people
was their desire to talk about the future. They only talked about the
past because the reporter wanted information. These were amazing people
who talked about future goals, despite being 100 years old.
The more we look to the future, the more future we have. (For more
information, go to
Be kind, for everyone
you meet is fighting a great battle.
Philo of Alexandria
Being kind saves
time and will make you more profitable. How? Well, it takes just as
much time to be kind as it does to be nasty, and being kind will make
you feel much better and much less stressed and agitated than will being
nasty. And when we feel good, we are more productive and will work
better. This will make our employees and our clients happier. This will
ultimately result in better work habits and happier clients. Happier
clients are paying clients. (For information on how making someone’s day
can change the world, go to
You’ll never plough a
field by turning it over in your mind
well-run practices are not that way by accident. Take a good hard
look at your office procedures to make certain that work is being done
as efficiently as possible. Make certain that all staff know what is
expected and that all are performing effectively. If you need to set new
policies, start as soon as possible.
One policy all solo and small firm practitioners should have is a
billing and collection policy. It should be written. All staff should
know it and you should share it with all new clients. (For information
on policies including billing and collection policies, go to
My riches consist not
in the extent of my possessions ,but in the fewness of my wants.
Take a good hard
look at your finances. What would happen if you could no longer
work? What would happen if someone in your family had a serious illness?
What would happen if your home or office were completely destroyed? Do
you have the financial resources to handle a disaster? Share this
information with your spouse and family. There is a very good site at
lists very simple and practical suggestions on improving your financial
situation. Instead of making a resolution to save more money, make a
resolution to buy one less espresso or cup of coffee each day (which
could actually add up to $1,000 a year).
Finally, two very important ones from previous years:
Start small. Unless you are grossly unhealthy, it is possible to get
start getting healthy by making just a few small changes. If you just
cut out one doughnut or one bagel with cream cheese every day for a week
you would lose a pound. Commit to cutting out 500 calories a day and you
will lose a pound a week. You will feel better and be able to accomplish
Get Happy. A
recent report by the American Medical Association indicated that people
with positive and optimistic attitudes lived longer and healthier than
people with negative or pessimistic attitudes. There is a direct
correlation between laughing and staying healthy. For a great resource
on laughter and health go to
sobel/humor.html, or if you are more traditional, try the books
Anatomy of an Illness, by Norman Cousins, and The Healing
Power of Humor, by Allen Klein.
Again, I want to wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and look
forward to seeing all of you at Solo Day at the MSBA Annual Meeting on
June 18, 2004. It will change your life.