For those of us that aren’t facing any major life crises we’re probably finding ourselves looking optimistically to the New Year. Oprah said New Years is another chance for us to get it right. Lots of people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits. It's a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make, and a time to resolve to follow through on those changes. Eric Zorn said, “Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.” I’d venture to say that more than half of you listening are resolved to make some big changes or resolutions.
What New Year’s resolutions did you make? Would you say it’s time to turn your life around?
It’s been said that New Year’s resolutions are like babies: They’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain. Each January, roughly 1 in 3 Americans resolve to better themselves in some way. A much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions. You can probably guess what the top resolutions tend to be: to lose weight & get fit. That's the #1 resolution. So get ready to be hit with tons of ads for diet products! The other top commitments are to save money & pay off my credit cards, not worry so much, quit drinking & smoking, spend more time with family & friends; help others, and read more. And millions of people will resolve stop some kind of addicted behavior.
But sadly, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, it is also a time when these people set themselves up for failure and disappointment. The publication cited a study in which 60% of resolvers admitted they’d failed to make a change last for six months. But that means that 40% were successful—or either liars!
What about you? Are you a fan of resolutions because you too feel the pressure to change something about you? If you're anything like me, you probably feel overwhelmed by all the changes you'd like to see in your life. In looking back, it seems like the more I resolved to change, the more dissatisfied I was with my results. Therefore, I usually didn’t follow through.
Let’s talk about why don’t New Year’s resolutions don’t work. My answer is: For the same reason willpower doesn’t usually work. We may stick to our resolutions short term, but our human nature is to return to our vices. The temptations are just too great. The assumption is that by exerting willpower and trying hard in our own strength, we can change. I used to think I could quit my bad habits with mere willpower, but I was wrong. Perhaps you’ve promised yourself you’ll lose 10 pounds & exercise more, or read the Bible more, or relax & talk to your kids when you get home from work, or quit spending so many hours on Facebook, or stop obsessing about food and exercise.
The problem is even though willpower can produce short-term change, it also creates constant internal stress because the root cause hasn’t been dealt with. And when you do fall, those nasty feelings of shame rise back to the surface again. The change doesn’t feel natural, so eventually you give up and quickly revert back to old patterns. Sound familiar? But I still say—give yourself credit for making an effort to make a U-turn. Regardless of how successful or unsuccessful you were in making changes, you deserve an A for trying.
So we’ve just established that willpower will probably not work. What will work then? God, the Creator of all things, reveals this great secret in the Bible: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Rom. 12:2) If you want to change your actions, you have to start by changing your mind, by renewing your mind. We do that through bible study. Goal setting begins first in the mind and then leads to action. If you can control the focus of your mind, you can control your actions—that applies to everything in life.
To listen to this message in its entirety, you may download the podcast on 1/1/14 at Every Body Matters on BlogTalkRadio