The Archbishop’s column in the most recent Catholic St. Louis magazine made me start to think about New Year’s resolutions. All sorts of research shows that most people fail at the resolutions that they make for the New Year and a poll back in 2013 showed that most people don’t even make resolutions anymore.

The Archbishop’s column points out something important for making resolutions and sticking with them: “Research shows that actually making a resolution — as opposed to simply desiring a change — increases the likelihood of change by a factor of 10. Research also shows that writing down your resolution or speaking it out loud — as opposed to simply making it internally — increases the likelihood of sticking to it. So a word — whether written or spoken — helps to make things happen.” The Archbishop connects this psychological research to the theological concept of the power of the Word. For example, he notes that in the Genesis creation story, God creates through the spoken Word. He speaks and things come to be. Also, in the Gospels, Jesus heals through his Word. In many miracle stories, Jesus merely speaks and people are healed.

After reading this column I thought about what I wanted to resolve to do in 2015 and began to do some reading on ways to make good resolutions, that is, resolutions I will be more likely to keep. So, although I’m probably the last person to be giving advice on making resolutions because I’ve been horribly bad about keeping them in the past, as we head into the last days of 2014, I’d like to suggest that we all think about our resolutions for 2015. What would you like to achieve in the next year? Finish your dissertation? (That’d be one of mine.) Lose weight or get healthy? (Also one of mine.) Find some way to increase your prayer life? (The Archbishop asks in his column for everyone to resolve to pray for peace.) Otherwise get your shit together? (Though as E Lawrence reminded us, nobody has their shit together.)

For making resolutions or goals I found these five rules for goal-setting helpful. Especially, consider what you are truly motivated to do and remember to set SMART goals/resolutions. That is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. So, for example, I think my resolution to finish my dissertation isn’t specific enough, but a resolution to finish the chapter I’m working on in January–or to generally work on my dissertation from one deadline to another–is. And don’t forget, as the Archbishop also suggests, that writing down your resolutions will improve your chances of keeping them.

In doing my research on how to make better resolutions, I found this interesting article that says that you shouldn’t wait until New Year’s to make your resolutions. Figure out what it is that you want to do and start today! There’s no reason to wait until New Year’s Day to start. On the flip side, there’s no reason to stress if you don’t start right away or even if you slip and fall away from your resolution since you can resolve to change at any point in time.

2014 is almost over and, although I’m at risk of sounding horribly Pelagian in all this, we can resolve to do what we can to make 2015 better for ourselves. What resolutions do you have for 2015? What have you done in the past that makes for successful resolutions?

3 thoughts

  1. We all are guilty of making new years resolutions and not follow through, I am guilty of that. I would attempt to start the year to resolve some of the goals I would like to achieve but by the middle to the year I am way off track. however, I do agree with your article in the power of the tongue that whatever you verbalize will happen. I will try this come 2015, should God’s will. I need to lose 40lbs. So I will see.

  2. As well as setting SMART goals, I find it helpful to make a pro/con list for both changing and not changing a habit. If you find out the pros of not changing and the cons of changing you can address them to assist yourself in moving towards your goal.

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