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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.

South Pole Is Reached – 59 Years Ago Today

Mountain climber and Antarctic explorer Sir Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole by tractor on this day in 1958. Nine years later, he was among the first to scale Antarctica’s Mount Herschel at 10,941 feet. The son of a beekeeper, Hillary began climbing as a teenager in his native New Zealand. On May 29, 1953, he became the first explorer to reach the summit of 29,029-foot Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

He was accompanied by a Tibetan mountaineer, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hillary was knighted and received many other honors for his achievements in Nepal, particularly the Sherpas. In 2003, 50 years after his epic climb up Everest, Hillary was made an honorary citizen of Nepal.

Sir Edmund Hillary is known throughout the world for one thing. He went where no one else had gone and he loved to climb mountains. What mountains are you going to climb in 2017?

The Red Paper Clip

The red paper clip from Canada just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Do you know the story? Kyle McDonald was tired of life as usual, and he wanted more. So he decided to achieve his dream of home ownership the old-fashioned way – by trading a paper clip for a house. Actually, there were a few steps in between. Here’s the story.

In July of 2005, Kyle McDonald began a series of 14 strategic transactions. He started in Vancouver, trading a red paper clip to someone for their fish-shaped pen. The same day, he traded the pen for a hand-sculpted doorknob from Seattle. On July 25, he travelled to Amherst, Massachusetts with a friend to trade the doorknob for a Coleman stove. On September 16, he traded the stove for a neon Budweiser sign. On December 8, he traded the sign to Quebec comedian and radio personality Michel Barrette for one Ski-doo snowmobile.

Within a week, he traded the snowmobile for a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia. On January 7, 2006, he traded the second spot on the trip for a cube van. On February 22, he traded the cube van for a recording contract with Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario. On April 11, he traded the recording contract to Jody Gnant for a year’s rent in Phoenix. On April 26, he traded the one year’s rent in Phoenix for one afternoon with Alice Cooper. On May 26, he traded the afternoon with Alice Cooper for a KISS motorized snow globe. On June 2, he traded the snow globe to Corbin Bernsen for a role in the film Donna on Demand. And finally, on July 5, 2006, Kyle McDonald traded the movie role for a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

The 26-year-old took one year to complete his quest. He said, “It went from a hobby, where I played it on a whim, to the point where thousands of people were showing up on a website.” So what was the key to attaining his goal of a farmhouse? McDonald said simply, “Trade one paper clip for one fish pen.” That’s pretty clear. The story that garnered international media attention all came down to those eight words: “Trade one paper clip for one fish pen.”

Every great achievement begins with the fist step. When Jesus changed the life of a short tax collector named Zacchaeus, he didn’t say, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree, repent of all your sins, get baptized, follow me for a year, go to seminary, become a youth director, them move up to an associate pastor position, and then become a pastor, write a book, plant new churches, and raise millions of dollars for missionaries around the world.” Jesus said simply, “Come down.” That required one step. He didn’t offer Zack a five-year plan or even a five-day play. He just said to come down.

God has great plans for your life. Here’s where it begins. Take your paper clip, whatever that is. And give it over to God. The red paper clip represents what is small in your life, not what seems big. The important thing isn’t the size of your paper clip, but whose hands you place it in. Take that one first step. What will step two look like? Kyle McDonald didn’t know what step two would look like. He reflects back, ten years later, and says, “I would have never imagined Alice Cooper would be in the mix of getting a two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan.” If Kyle had demanded to know the outcome and every step in advance, he’d still be living in a red paper clip today, instead of the farmhouse. Every great journey begins with a first step. So give your paper clip to God. I can’t tell you what the journey will look like. But like Kyle McDonald, in ten years, you will look back and be utterly amazed.