Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Will Fail

Tomorrow is January 1, and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the new year and new opportunities. It’s that time again, America. It’s time for New Year’s resolutions. But Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, warns your resolutions are very unlikely to come true and may do more harm than good.

In her new book, Presence, Cuddy writes, “We’re really bad at setting reasonable goals. And when we don’t meet an unreasonable goal, we fill ourselves with feelings of anxiety and lower our self-worth.” Dr. Cuddy offers four common mistakes with New Year’s resolutions.

1. They deal with absolutes.

“People are making absolute statements about what they’re going to do, and that’s setting them up for failure immediately,” Cuddy says, “because they’re not always going to go to the gym three times a week.” Circumstances beyond a person’s control will inevitably come between him and his absolute goals. But Cuddy warns to avoid the other extreme, one of setting vague and distant goals, such as “I’m going to get a job,” because that lacks specificity.

2. They are framed by negativity.

People tend to focus on things they want to change about themselves and things they don’t like about themselves. Cuddy argues, “When you do this, you’re eliciting in yourself negative emotions. Some negative emotions are motivating, but for the most part, they’re not.” It is better to attain “healthy eating,” rather than “no junk food.”

3. They are focused on the outcome and not the process.

Cuddy writes, “If you’re focused on walking 100 miles, and you’re constantly focused on that number, it’s going to be pretty demoralizing most of the way. You’re going to feel like a failure for so much of that because the comparison is between where I am now versus where I want to be.” Our best long-term outcomes are produced by lifestyle changes, not setting goals that are way out there.

4. They are reliant on outside forces.

It is unwise to set a goal to get a promotion at work. That is dependent on outside forces over which we have no control. Cuddy advocates for “self-nudging,” a process of constantly setting small goals in lieu of large ones. As a personal example, she says one of her goals last year was “to fall in love with running,” rather than something like “to go running three days each week.” As a natural byproduct of this approach, her pace began to pick up. And she didn’t even have to shame herself into getting into better shape.

Goals are a good thing. The man who aims for nothing will always hit it. Nehemiah had a goal to build a wall. Joshua had a goal to enter the promised land. Noah had a goal to build a boat. Solomon had a goal to build a temple. Jesus has a goal to build the kingdom. So go ahead – set goals. But in the process, remember that God numbers your days. It is good to think about where you want to be in one year. But it is even better to do something about it today.

Cleaning Up the Mess

We used to have a cocker spaniel named Duffy. She was one happy mess. Every time a guest would come over to our house, she would lick them to death and then wet the floor. Duffy’s bladder was unable to control her joy.

We were always cleaning up after her. She slobbered horribly. When she would run or shake her head, slobber flew everywhere, and we’d clean it up.

But we loved her anyway. She was incredibly loving, loyal, and fun. And messy.

One day, due to a back problem that is common among Cockers, Duffy became paralyzed. She couldn’t walk or get to her food dish. We spent a king’s ransom on her back surgery, knowing it may not be successful. Then we just had to wait and see. We fed her by hand and carried her outside where she could at least enjoy the view.

One day, she began to move again, and she eventually recovered fully. But Duffy remained a mess. That was okay, because she was our mess. We loved that dog. We didn’t like the messes, but we were willing to clean them up because we loved Duffy more than we hated the mess.

The truth is, we are all a mess. You are a mess. But God loves you more than he hates your mess.

And as you enter the New Year, know this. God loves you enough to clean up after you.

Football and Church

Note the contrasts between the average football fan’s worship of a pigskin and the average Christian’s worship of God. Football fans pay a hefty sum to park their cars and walk a long distance to the stadium. The churchgoer expects free parking close to the building. Football contests are noisy with loud cheering and the enthusiasm of the fans. The churchgoer sits in grim silence, and objects to loud music. Football stadium seats are narrow, backless, and assigned. The churchgoer hates a hard pew and insists on a particular seat.

Football games always last well past three hours, and if they go into overtime, fans consider it a bonus. The churchgoer expects worship to take only an hour. If the service goes into overtime, the churchgoer displays great movements of agitation and frustration.

Actually, things don’t have to be that way. At my church, season tickets are free, and if you come early enough, you can sit in the same seat every week. Our seats are comfortable, the music is excellent, and the home team (Jesus) wins every time. And we try to keep it to an hour. By any measure, the best arena you will ever attend is the one down the street with the steeple.

With the new year dawning, find a place of worship. Thenew year starts on Sunday. Make it count.

Taste of Power

A first-grade boy was told by his mother to return home directly after school was dismissed, but he got home as much as 20 minutes late almost every day. His mother asked him, “You get out of school the same time every day. Why can’t you get home at the same time?”

He said, “It depends on the cars.”

“What do cars have to do with it?” his mother asked him.

The youngster explained, “The patrol boy who takes us across the street makes us wait until some cars come along so he can stop them.”

When I was in elementary school, I was a crossing guard for both of my fourth grade years. I loved the power. The whole universe would stop on my command. I felt in charge. I had the pole, the orange vest, and a whistle. And I knew how to use it.

It was a real rush, controlling when others could walk, drive, or stand still. But there was one problem. At the end of the day, I put my whistle back in the box and returned my snappy vest and pole. Then I had to walk home. And there was no one to help me.

I learned a hard lesson. It’s a lot easier to tell others how to walk than it is to get it right yourself. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:37).

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

‘Twas the Night Before Jesus Came

‘Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house, not a creature was praying, not one in the house. Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care, in hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed, not once ever kneeling or bowing a head. And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap, was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter, I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but angels proclaiming that Jesus was here. With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray, I knew in a moment this must be The Day!

The light of his face made me cover my head; it was Jesus, returning just like he had said. And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth, I cried when I saw him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which he held in his hand, was written the name of every saved man. He spoke not a word as he searched for my name; when he said, “It’s not here,” my head hung in shame!

The people whose names had been written with love, he gathered to take to his Father above. With those who were ready he rose without sound, while all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late. I had waited too long and this sealed my fate. I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight. Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear – the coming of Jesus is now drawing near. There’s only one life and when comes the last call, we’ll find that the Bible was true after all!

Texan in London

The story is told of the Texan who visited the Summer Olympics in London. He was taking a taxi tour of London as he was in a hurry to see as many sites as he could in a short amount of time. As they passed the Tower of London, the cabbie explained what it was and that construction started in 1346 and continued until its completion in 1412.

The Texan replied, “Shoot, a little ‘ol tower like that? In Houston, we’d have that thing up in two weeks!”

A few minutes later, they passed the House of Parliament. The driver explained that it was built from 1544 until 1618.

The Texan replied, “We built a bigger one than that in Dallas in less than a year!”

As they passed Westminster Abbey the cabbie was silent. The Texan asked, “Whoah! What’s that over there?”

The cabbie scratched his head and said, “Now that, I don’t know! It wasn’t there yesterday!”

The Bible says that Jesus has been building a mansion for you ever since he returned to heaven. That is 2,000 years of construction. Even for a Texan, that will be an unbelievable place. I hope to see you there some day!

Little Jack Horner

Do you remember this old nursery rhyme? It goes like this. “Little Jack Horner sat in the corner eating a Christmas pie; he put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, and said, ‘What a good boy am I!'”

Now, I never met Jack Horner personally, but I grew up with a lot of boys that were like him. You see, we have no evidence that Jack Horner planted the plum or pruned it on a regular basis. There is no evidence that he picked the plums when they were ripe. Nor is there evidence that he cooked or even served the pie. All Jack Horner did was eat it and take credit for it. He stuck his thumb in the pie, pulled out a plum, and pronounced, “What a good boy am I!”

There is a little Jack Horner in all of us. We are good at receiving the blessings of God. We enjoy his benefits. But we fall short in the area of giving credit.

God blesses us bountifully in so many ways. Then we pull out a plum, lick our thumb, and tell everyone how great we are.

Read your Bible. It was God who gave the Promised Land, his only son, and the gift of life. Remember that the next time you are tempted to say, “What a good boy am I.”

The Last Lunar Mission

The Apollo lunar landing program ended on this day in 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 7. In July of 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11.

From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the lunar rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

It’s hard to believe all that NASA accomplished in just ten years, from the time of Kennedy’s pronouncement at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to the final lunar landing. It has been nearly 45 years since that historic moment. Amazingly, most living Americans have no memory of man on the moon. In this era of modern technology, the generation that trains the rest of us in how to use a smart phone came after what is arguably the most significant technological achievement of mankind – going to the moon.

For those of us old enough to remember Neil Armstrong’s “giant step for mankind,” the Apollo program represents far more than winning the space race over the Russians. It represents everything that is great about the American spirit. Sadly, since that day in 1972, we have never been back to the moon.

So this is a good day to reflect on that incredible day – December 19, 1972.

The Boston Tea Party

The biggest tea party ever took place 245 years ago today. In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the Boston Tea Party, was done in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade.

The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about sixty members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at approximately $18,000.

What the colonists did 243 years ago remains at the heart of the American spirit today. They were all about fairness and democratic representation. As we enter a new year and a new presidential administration, these are unchartered waters. May God bless us with the same spirit and values of our founding fathers.