Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Obligatory New Year's Resolution Post

I think January is an interesting month because of new year’s resolutions. People resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, read more, etc. The number of people buying gym memberships surges. As a frequent gym adherent, I have personally observed the increase. Unfortunately, the research on new year’s resolutions is fairly grim, it seems that people rarely achieve the goals they set. One study found that intentions only account for 20% of behavior (Orbell & Sheeran, 1998). 
Some interesting research has found that achieving your resolutions depends on the interaction of two factors (Koestner, Lekes, Powers, & Chicoine, 2002). One is called self-concordance. This means that your resolutions must coincide with your personal interests and values. If you do not really care about your health, you probably will not be able to get more healthy.
The second factor is your implementation intentions. Having implementation intentions involves considering various situations and planning one’s intended actions. So you would consider how you might still go running on a treadmill if it is raining outside. One might also plan a weekend workout if one is missed during the week. 
In Mark 14, Jesus tells his disciples that they will all fall away. Then all of Jesus’ disciples make resolutions to Jesus’ face that they would die before they would deny him. The rest of the story shows that Jesus was right. They did fall away. So did they lie? Were they just trying to make Jesus feel better? In light of the research mentioned earlier, may be they did intend to follow through. However, they did not adequately consider the weight of the situations they were about to encounter.
I think there are two lessons to be learned by this story. First, we need to be careful when we judge someone for not following through on their intentions. It might not be that they lied about the intention, but instead they just did not adequately consider the possible outcomes. 
Second, I think we need to be very honest in looking at possible situations that may derail our intended behavior. Relying on our fictitious “willpower” is rarely sufficient or sustainable. Instead, we must make a realistic assessment and use God-given insight to make a realistic plan. 
Now I am headed out to the gym, Happy New Year!

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