In January we often find ourselves working on those New Year’s resolutions we come up with during the Christmas holidays, when, as we are surrounded by the comforts of family, friends, food, and leisure time, we confidently imagine how we can improve our everyday experiences. So we set down expectations and goals for ourselves for the New Year with the best of intentions. And then we return to our post-holiday work routines and somehow lose sight of some of those resolutions. We realize that it’s hard to make change.
In a recent article from Forbes.com, Kevin Kruse interviewed Dr. Paul Marciano, psychologist, a leading expert in behavior change, and author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work. Kruse articulated seven keys that Marciano stated are important to achieving goals: 1. Make goals specific. 2. Make progress toward goals measurable. 3. Be patient; path to the goal is often not a straight one. 4. Share goals with family and friends to create a social support network. 5. Schedule time to work on specific goals, otherwise time has a way of slipping away. 6. Accept small gains and setbacks: “something is better than nothing.” 7. Be resilient when faced with failure or slip up. It all seems so straightforward and simple, right? But why, according to Kruse’s sources, do only 8% of the people who make New Year’s Resolutions actually achieve them? Marciano would suggest it is because these individuals do not follow in some fashion these seven steps, and that those who have developed a discipline of following a pathway to achievement often accomplish or nearly accomplish their original goals.
In November after the Presidential Election, “77% of Americans perceived the nation as divided on the most important values,” as reported by Gallup. In the aftermath of the election, it seems that differences of opinion, philosophy, and approach to resolve the challenges of the world and the country intensified. Many campaign promises were made from both candidates, and now the challenge is to effectively come together in compromise and in unity to implement initiatives that will achieve positive change for our country.
At Archmere, with mid-term exams ending on Inauguration Day, our students transition from first to second semester. For freshman, this may be the first time they have experienced some of the pressure and anxiety that develops around preparing for a comprehensive exam, and I imagine that many of those apprehensive feelings do not go away for upperclassmen, who often challenge themselves with more advanced classes. Interestingly, our students do manage through the week, and mature with the experience of preparing for and taking exams.
January is also a busy time for the admissions staff, as we are interviewing and in the process of accepting eighth grade students into the Class of 2021. They, too, are maturing and have begun a new adventure, many of them moving from a school where they have been for a number of years to Archmere, where they will meet new teachers, make new friends, and make the place their home away from home for the next four years.
With 2017 nearly three weeks old, many of us are adapting our routines to include new resolutions and new goals. Some things may be going well, and other things not so well. What we soon realize is that change requires an intentional attitude and focused energy, perseverance and grit. It may require us to feel uneasy at times, defeated at times, and many other unpleasant emotions that need to be managed, so as not to derail us from accomplishing our goals.
As the Christmas Season in the Church drew to a close, on the Feast of Epiphany (January 8), we heard the Gospel accounts of the Wise Men making the long journey to see the infant Jesus. Only one day passed in this year’s Church calendar, when, on January 9, we heard the Gospel account of the Baptism of the Lord. A 30-year-old Jesus began his public ministry with his baptism in the Jordan River by his cousin, John. In thinking about those 30 years of growing up with his parents, what were the challenges that Jesus faced each year? What can we learn from his example of resolve that will help us meet our own challenges, fulfill our resolutions, and let go of some of the familiar to embrace the unknown?