Are you implementing any resolutions? A new year marks a time to change ourselves and/or the world for the better. Such actions are not far off from repentance and an ongoing task for Christians, especially in Advent and Lent. I imagine God cheering us on in our resolutions, spiritually or secularly conceived.

Friend and colleague Don Larsen recently shared some research on how to change in his church’s January newsletter which I pass on to you. He references the work of Richard Wiseman who teaches psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the England. In 2007 Wiseman surveyed about 3000 of his fellow Brits regarding the resolutions they made for that year. A whopping 88% of people failed to keep their resolutions.

Wiseman was more curious about the successful 12% than he was in ferreting out the reasons why the 88% couldn’t cut it. What were the 12% doing that was so different from the 88%? He observed that the Few tended to resolve just one thing and to frame that single resolve as a goal. Then Wiseman claims their success all came down to five simple principles:

  1. They broke the goal down into a series of smaller steps;
  2. They told friends and family of their goal, thereby building a community of accountability and support;
  3. They regularly reminded themselves of the benefits of obtaining the goal;
  4. They gave themselves a small reward each time they obtained a small step;
  5. They mapped out their progress on a spreadsheet or the refrigerator door or in a journal so they always knew exactly where they were in reaching the goal.

I share Wiseman’s work on New Year’s resolutions for you because I’d love for you to succeed. And I know that God is always about the work of transformation. So may the good professor’s observations be of use to you.

“But more importantly,” Don Larsen concludes in his message, “the whole exercise reminds us of the God who makes promises, keeps promises, and becomes Promise for us and for our salvation. Jesus, the Resolve of God, is the Promise-made-flesh we can count on – not only for 2014, but to the end of the age.”

My resolution for this New Year comes on the heels of Christmas and Epiphany in the story of the Magi’s journey to Bethlehem. For me, that is to recover a deeper sense of awe and wonder in daily life. So there, I’ve told you! (step 2). A journal will work better than a spreadsheet but I’m a bit puzzled about how I’ll know I have reached my goal. Still wondering about wondering….

Faithfully, Ross