It was not a planned layover when Rudolf, Yukon Cornelius, and Hermie the elf landed on the Island of misfit toys. A colony of sorts for unwanted and unloved toys, our trio of unlikely friends felt welcome there.
I wonder if the next island over was a waste heap for unwanted and broken New Year's resolutions. Experts have deduced that the average lifespan of attempts to 'turn over a new leaf' is 2-3 weeks.
It is estimated that approximately one half of the American population make resolutions in a given year. Among the more prominent habits to improve are weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking, debt reduction, and money management. These all seem worthy goals, which raises a couple of questions in my mind.
First, why are there not more people making New Year's resolutions? Could it be that half the nation realizes that perfection cannot be improved? The reason could be that it seems masochistic to set oneself up for certain failure; or could it be that it is seen as child's play, just a fun ritual to celebrate the turning of the calendar?
Second, why do resolutions so quickly fall to their doom? It is true that some people either set the new standard too high, or create a list of changes that together seem so overwhelming. Another source of quick discouragement is that we live in a culture that has conditioned us to be impatient. From instant coffee to instant messenger, we have been weakened -- and spoiled -- by instant gratification. As a result, failing to see immediate benefits from our changed habit zaps our motivation and willpower.
That notion leads to a deeper struggle. Too often we have a heart for personal betterment, but the mind does not want to cooperate. We want to look better and feel better, but apparently the desire to do so is not stronger than the yearning for unhealthy foods. The battle is lost in the mind.
A word that is all but lost in our vocabulary today, even within the Christian culture, is "repent." It refers to a change of mind about a thing. The psyche is a powerful instrument that informs human behavior. Our beliefs, those deeply internal convictions, motivate us to act.
A few days ago I heard the tornado siren blaring in our community. Unalarmed, I continued to work at my desk, knowing that testing the alert system usually takes place around that time on that specific day of the week. In my mind, I did not believe there was a genuine threat of dangerous weather, so I did not change my behavior.
When the desires of the heart and the convictions of the mind agree, then behavioral change is more likely to withstand the test of time. So, how can we make that happen?
First, determine the real purpose and the benefits of the change. Is the result worth the battle? Are you prepared to work for it, making the necessary concessions and sacrifices to reach the goal? Revisit your purpose for encouragement when the willpower is weakening.
Second, set a goal that is reasonable and reachable. In his groundbreaking book (from the film What About Bob), Dr. Leo Marvin outlined the process of taking "baby steps" so that the ultimate goal seems less overwhelming. Rather than a goal of losing 20 pounds to reach your ideal weight, begin with a 5 pound goal. Rather than doing a thing for an entire year, begin with a goal of three months.
Finally, understand that in most cases, improvement of self benefits others as well: family, friends, school, church, workplace, and community. So, go ahead and make a thoughtful, reasonable resolution, and then courageously work to make it happen. You can do it.
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.