MAIN STORY: New Year is a time for celebrations. It is also a time to reflect on the year gone by and to begin the journey anew. Some set high personal and professional resolutions; others make do with simple and easily attainable aspirations. What is interesting is that the New Year resolutions do not last long. In the maze of activities in life, people tend to forget their goals.

A week has passed since the New Year. Like in January 1 every year, people made New Year resolutions. Often they are about bringing positive change in oneself and others. Dieting, exercising, and cutting down on meat smoke and drinks topped the list of New Year resolutions this year.

From renowned politicians to celebrities worldwide, everyone set new goals. Most, however, had to do with their career development. US President Barack Obama said he will firmly tackle gun violence epidemic in the US.

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg has set up a public group called A Year of Running and has physically challenged himself to run in 2016. “I’m going to run 365 miles and I’d love for as many people in this community to join me as possible.” Last year, Mark Zuckerberg committed himself to read as many books as possible.

Finance Minister Namgay Dorji also has set a few New Year resolutions. One is to spend 24 percent budget from the fiscal year 2015-2016 for the ongoing projects. “As a finance minister, I will try to make sure that resources are mobilized properly throughout the dzongkhags.”

Labour Minister Ngeema Sangay Tsempo’s resolution is to plant 1,000 trees on a government land in his village so that this action will benefit the future generations.

Education Minister Mingbo Dukpa said he will visit as many schools as possible this year and try stay fit.

Foreign Minister Damchoe Dorji looks forward to bringing some vital institutional reforms and building diplomatic relations this year. “I hope to go for health checkups regularly and do routine exercises.”

Information and communication minister, DN Dhungyel, his New Year resolution would be to achieve the goals of 11th Five Year Plan through his ministry.

Economic affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, hopes to read as many books as possible for his personal growth this year. He also wants to travel more around the country to know the people and the country better. “My resolution is to work hard to fulfill the dreams of our Kings and the wishes of our people.”

Wangda Dorje, director of Lhaksam, said his New Year resolution is to advocate and create awareness on HIV or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is fast plaguing the Bhutanese society. “We want to create extensive awareness on target population, improve access to testing and treatment facilities, and provide behavioural change to people who are infected by the disease.”

Lhaksam this year started raising funds for the sustainability of the organization. With the funds, Lhaksam hopes to open more centres through which people with HIV/AIDS and others are given shelter and treatment. “I hope to retire from the organization one day and study religion and Sanskrit with my son who is studying at a university in Bodhgaya.”

Tandin Penjor, 13, said his New Year resolution to perform academically well. Sonam Dema, 15, said she wants to cut down on junk food and maintain her weight.

While for some it’s about weight; for others, it’s about habits. A private employee, Tshering, said her biggest challenge is getting up early and reaching office on time. “There’s no greater feeling than getting ready and reaching office on time. It’s an accomplishment on its own.”

Although Tshering has been making the same resolution every year, she has only ended up breaking it. “It takes will and determination to be able to stick to one’s resolution. I will try my best this year.”

But there are also those who do not believe in making New Year resolutions. Chairperson of National Council, Dr Sonam Kinga, said he has never made any New Year resolution so far. “I make resolutions every morning, promising to do something good each day. That’s all.”

Former Mr Bhutan, Tshering Dorji, said making resolutions is the last stop for vulnerable individual, an opportunity for them to convince themselves to resolve their long due problems. “My goal has always been to constantly improve myself so that I can be of more value to those who need love, guidance and help. That has always given me happiness and great sense of fulfillment. I have always believed in value over success.”

Lam Shenphen said making New Year resolutions can be helpful for some people. “We can think of it like making a vow – it infuses our efforts with more vigour. If we can first wish that our efforts not only benefit us but also benefit others and then dedicate any good result from our resolution to welfare or others then it will be perfect. Personally, though, I didn’t make a new year’s resolution.”

The tradition of making New Years resolutions dates all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome became the ancient symbol for resolutions because, with two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forwards to the future.

Here’s what NOT to do when making New Year resolutions:

Set unrealistic goals

Big, bold, sweeping resolutions are set-ups for failure. Be realistic about your life and articulate goals that you can live with and achieve.

Pledge to change in a vague way

Now that you’ve got a realistic goal or two, create a specific, detailed action plan. For example, rather than saying you’ll spend less, say that you’ll cut some money a week from your grocery bill or limit yourself to one latté a week.

Don’t bother tracking your progress

Not doing something (like spending or eating) is far more difficult than doing something. We do better when we can take action. Therefore, activate your goals by doing things like writing them down or using tools that will help you see your progress.

Focus on the positive

Don’t shame or label your self in a negative way — such as a ‘problem spender’ or ‘bad with money.’ Shaming and negativity backfire by inspiring self-doubt and guilt, which sabotages the resolve necessary to implement your plan. Focus instead on the positive characteristics you have that will aid you instead.

Expose yourself to temptation

If your downfall is the after work get-together at the local bar, suggest other activities like getting together at someone’s home. If shopping is the culprit, cut off those email blasts and avoid the mall. Our resolve diminishes the more we’re forced to say ‘no,’ so avoid situations where you have to choose. Similarly, wherever you can, set up automatic savings or contribution plans to avoid the temptation of spending.

Thinley Zangmo