New Year's Resolutions

It's a new year. A blank slate. Time to take a look at your life and think about what you'd like to change and – this is overlooked far too often – what you want to stay the same.

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The odds are that you did this yesterday, before the champagne and fireworks: it's a tradition in a lot of countries: you sit down on New Year's Eve to think about things you'd like to do – or stop doing – in the new year. Then, you make a promise to yourself.

The promises you make to yourself are called resolutions. And, if you're lucky – and have more than a little willpower – the odds are that you'll keep your resolutions.

Most of us, though, don't keep our resolutions. We just wait for three hundred and sixty four days and make the same resolutions all over again!

Did you make any resolutions this year? Have you ever made the same resolution two years in a row? What's one resolution you're proud of keeping? (I actually jogged ten kilometers last year, after promising myself I would!)

New Year party

Vocabulary from the text:

Slate: Imagine a classroom in 1950. What's in front of the classroom? Is there a big black board that the teacher can write on with chalk? That's the blackboard, in American English, and the stone that it's made out of is slate. There are slate roofs on some buildings, too! "A blank slate" is a phrase meaning that something is still undone. We say the new year is a blank slate, because it hasn't even started yet! What will happen in 2009 is completely up to you!

Overlook: Think of New York City. What do you think of? Skyscrapers? The statue of liberty? Maybe a favorite movie? Did you know that the city also has a rat problem? Most visitors don't even notice that the rats are there, we're too busy seeing the skyscrapers, the statue of liberty and Central Park. When you don't see something that is there, like the rats in New York, you overlook it. Sometimes it's good for a thing to be overlooked. Sometimes, a person can feel overlooked, and that's never good.

The odds are: If you throw something into the air, will it come back down? Of course it will. But what if you throw a bird into the air? Will it come back down or fly away? The odds are that it will fly away. The odds are is a phrase meaning that something will probably happen. If you practice English every day, the odds are that your English will get better. If you don't practice English, the odds are it won't!

New Year's Eve: In the United States, Canada, and every European country I'm aware of, the thirty-first of December is a holiday. The name of the holiday, in English, is New Year's Eve. ('Eve' means the day before. Like "Christmas Eve" is the day before Christmas.)

Resolution: Did you make some promises to yourself yesterday? (I promised myself that 2009 would be the year that I made a website to help people practice their English.) The word for a promise to yourself—especially on New Year's Eve—is a resolution. When you make a resolution to do something, we say you resolve to do it. People make many kinds of resolutions. I've resolved to get in shape, and my sister once resolved to get a husband! (She did that year, too!) What kind of things do you resolve to do?

Willpower: The year I resolved to get in shape, I wasn't sure I could. I just like the Internet and video games too much to be sure that I would go outside and jog. Nobody—including me—believed that I could make myself turn off the TV and go for a run. But I surprised us all when I proved that I could make myself do something I didn't want to do. I had more willpower than anyone thought. Willpower refers to your 'inner strength.' It's your ability to focus on a goal and reach it, even if it's not easy. Willpower is important to anyone trying to perfect his English.

Keep a resolution: Making resolutions is easy. Every year I make between six and ten resolutions. But, when I look back at 2008, I think that jogging was the only thing that I both resolved to do and actually did. That was the only resolution that I kept. To keep a resolution means to actually do what you promised to do. You can also keep a promise, or, if you don't promise, keep your word.

This lesson was written by Toby, an American English teacher that lives in Germany. Toby is the creator of Bite Sized English.

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