News and Tribune

January 2, 2014

MAY: Resolve no more

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

— Do you make resolutions for the new year? If you do, you are certainly not alone.

According to Forbes magazine, as many as 45 percent of Americans make promises of change for the coming year. For perspective, the Super Bowl, the most watched television event — the one that drives commercials and spending in unimaginable ways — draws only about a third of all Americans.

What are the most relentlessly promised resolutions? According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology published by the University of Scranton, the top 10 resolutions, in order, are losing weight, getting organized, spending less and saving more money, enjoying life to the fullest, staying fit and healthy, learning something new and exciting, quitting smoking, helping others achieve their dreams, falling in love and spending more time with the family.

But for all our good intentions, the same study reveals that only about 8 percent actually keep the resolution for more than six months. Why do so many fail at goal-setting and keeping? More importantly — are there keys for success shared by the 8 percent?

There is a unique website called Quirkology: The Curious Science of Everyday Life (quirkology.com). Throughout the entire year of 2007, they tracked more than 3,000 people attempting to keep resolutions ranging from losing weight, to visiting the gym, to quitting smoking and to drinking less.

During their experiment, large differences emerged between what made men and women successful in keeping their resolutions. Men were most successful when they set S.M.A.R.T goals — goals that were Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time limited.

The general goal of losing weight did not work for most men. They were more successful when they resolved to lose one pound a week for two months by going to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Women were more successful when they built a support group to walk with them through the goals. The ones who were successful told their family, friends and co-workers about their goals and reported on their progress. Many shared the information through social media outlets like Facebook. Their success was found in numbers.

Did you know that the Bible speaks to making resolutions to live a better life? In the book of Romans, Paul says that it is impossible to change on the outside unless we first change on the inside.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV).

How can we be different? How can we overcome the pesky bad habits that plague us? Is there a way that we can resolve to be transformed — to actually change our lives?

In Romans, Paul hints that there are four agents that are at work, trying to influence change in life. Over the next four weeks we are going to look at each of those agents in detail, with the hopes of moving beyond resolutions to living a transformed life.

First we change when we are motivated on a personal level — from within, our “self” if you will. The second agent at work for change in our lives is the network of people who influence us — sometimes people that we know, and sometimes society as a whole. We used to call this agent “peer pressure” — it is the presence of a social influence.  The third change agent is the structure around us — circumstances, media, physical structures. Finally there is a spiritual level which attempts to influence change.

Let this be the last year you resolve to change. Let this be the year that you are transformed.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com