Why Relationship Goals Make the Best New Year’s Resolutions

In less than 72 hours, January 2016 will be over. Did you make it through the month? Are you sticking with your New Year’s Resolutions?

Perhaps you’re still going strong. You woke up this morning feeling good about your grit and determination. You smiled at yourself in the mirror while you flossed your teeth for the 29th day in a row. Congratulations! You are amazing!

Perhaps you made the classic blunder of setting your goals too high, and now you’re discouraged. Your gym membership has been neglected, or worse, your running shoes are still in the box.  Don’t worry. You’re just as amazing as the other guy! It could be that you just need some extra portions of people, perspective, and pragmatism. And we at FHSS are here to provide you with just that.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Trying again can seem daunting, but if you’re struggling to keep your resolutions, it may help if you start over. One of the most difficult things about NOT achieving your goals is that it becomes more painful to set new ones. Sometimes the first step toward progress is admitting that you made a mistake.


If you make a mistake on the first calculation on a math problem, it won’t matter how well you do the rest. Until you fix the original error, moving on won’t improve the situation. And such it is for obtaining a goal. If you set the wrong type of goal, whether it be too lofty, superficial, or ambiguous, you are much less likely to achieve it.

So let’s find out what kind of goals are the best ones to set.

Setting Proper Goals

What kind of goals, when achieved, will make a person happy? To answer that question, we can simply place any kind of goal, whether it be mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual, into one of two categories:

  1. Endogenous goals (relationship based)
  2. Exogenous Goals (material based)

Setting and achieving both of these kinds of goals can be beneficial. However, only one of them will bring prolonged happiness. Goals that help you improve relationships with friends, family, your significant other, and God are most likely to endure. This video from BYU’s Wheatley Institution sums it all up:

Haters Gonna Hate

There are people out there who would discourage you from setting any kind of goal. It’s not uncommon for people to hear that New Year’s Resolutions are bogus. Once in a while, a hater or two might try to discourage you from participating in the New Year’s tradition. A few familiar phrases include:

  1. If you’re going to set a goal, you shouldn’t wait until the first of the year, or for some sort of lame tradition. You should set the goal NOW.
  2. Most people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions. So why bother?
  3. In the end, they will just make you feel worse about yourself because you won’t keep them.

You’ve probably heard these phrases, or something similar to them before. Perhaps someone persuaded you to NOT set a goal. But think about it. If we listen to those people, we allow ourselves to be persuaded to give up before even trying.

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To avoid being confounded by New Year’s Resolution haters, here are a few rebuttals to use when you hear this kind of talk:

  1. Well, maybe I just don’t think to set goals very often. New Years helps me remember how important it is. And besides, most other holidays, we decide we’re just going to over-eat, take time off of work, or light fireworks. Why can’t we have a tradition where we at least TRY to improve ourselves?
  2. I, my friend, am not “most people.”
  3. But, if I do keep them, then I’ll feel better about myself. And I can learn from my mistakes and failures.

Team Up

If you want to achieve a goal that has more to do with material things, then find a partner to join you in achieving it.  Whether you already know someone well, or would like to know them better, setting a common goal will improve your relationship. If you want to make exercise a part of your daily life, decide on a time and place you can work out together. If you want to read more, start a small book club. There are numerous ways to team up for achievement.

Teaming up to achieve a goal increases your likelihood of succeeding for at least four reasons:

  1. You are held accountable to another person. Their dependence on you can motivate you to be dependable and reach new heights.
  2. Wanting to spend time with your partner will increase your drive to spend time on achieving the goal.
  3. You can celebrate each other’s successes.
  4. Competition can raise incentive to work hard and be diligent.

Brooklyn Bridge

What’s even more beautiful about this type of goal is that it makes exogenous (material based) goals the means to an end that is endogenous (relationship based). As you work with a partner to reach a common goal, you can develop and strengthen your relationship with them. It’s a win-win situation. You will spend time and communicate with someone you love and care for. You will have chances to validate their excitement for successes or discuss their concerns about roadblocks in road to achievement.

Start with the right end in mind. Put priority on relationship-based goals. Cultivate love for God and your fellow man, and in the process, you may just find that everything else falls right into place.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?


Have You Thought About Divorce? Read This.


Why do people start thinking about divorce? Do thoughts of divorce always lead to divorce? Findings from The National Divorce Decision-Making Project give insight to these questions and others regarding the threshold of what the researchers labeled “divorce ideations” and the patterns that emerge. Their goal is “to increase awareness of the negative impact of divorce, and encourage discussion and debate about the effect of divorce on our culture, as well as the cost to taxpayers.” The project is a collaboration among researchers at six universities including Brigham Young University. Alan J. Hawkins (director) and Sage E. Allen are the researchers from BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

As stated in the project report, “Divorce is a scary thing to think about so we tend to assume there is a high personal tolerance of marital problems before people start having such thoughts. But maybe in a culture with high divorce rates and widespread concerns about the fragility of marriage, it is hard not to have some thoughts about divorce when problems and disappointments exist in the marriage.”

The report states that one in four spouses in the survey had had thoughts about divorce in the last six months. Divorce ideation was not found to be especially common in one demographic subgroup over another. For example, women reported having ideations only slightly more than men (27% vs. 22%), parents with minor children were a little higher than those without (27% vs. 21%), and there was almost no difference between those who said religion was an important part of their lives and those who said it was not (24% vs. 25%).

argument-238529_1920Research was conducted through a national survey of 3,000 individuals. Participants were married people ages 25-50 who had been married for at least one year. Survey participants who reported having recent divorce ideations were asked about the frequency of these thoughts. The majority (70%) reported that they were not frequent. They were also asked about the level of seriousness in their thoughts. Using both qualitative and quantitative responses, a statistical analysis suggested to the researchers that fifty-three percent of those thinking about divorce recently were soft thinkers, or not serious, and forty-seven percent were serious thinkers.

The researchers stated, “While thoughts about divorce are common, both recently and in the past, it is clear that most people are committed to their marriages, patient with their problems, and often able to work through their challenges.”

Survey participants were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “I would feel like a failure if my marriage were to end.” Over half of the participants (55%) agreed. The percentage of disagreement was much lower (25%) and the remaining (20%) were caught between the two options.

Those who reported recent divorce ideations were asked to identify the marital problems they were experiencing from a list of sixteen potential problems. This list included more intense problems (infidelity, alcohol/drug abuse, physical or emotional abuse), moderately intense problems (mental health problems, arguing too much, sexual relationship problems, handling money), and less intense problems (personal habits, working too much, dividing domestic labor, unable to talk together, losing romantic feelings, not committed enough). As expected, the majority of those who reported experiencing the less intense problems also reported that they had only thought about divorce a few times. Interestingly, a less expected trend was also discovered. “Of those who were thinking a lot about divorce, most had at least one of the more intense problems. But even among those reporting at least one of the more intense problems, a majority said that they had only thought about divorce a few times recently.”

The researchers clarified some of their findings:

Does this mean that soft thinkers are not at risk for divorce? Probably not. Thoughts are different from actions but they clearly can influence them over time. Even soft, occasional thoughts about divorce can color perceptions of a relationship, shaping feelings in more negative ways that can make marriages less satisfying and more fragile … [but] we also know that many people go through tough times in their marriage and not only survive but thrive. In fact, our survey found that more than one in four respondents (28%) had thought their marriage was in serious trouble at some point in the past but not recently. And nearly 90% of them said they were glad they were still married; less than 1% were not glad to be together.

Survey participants were asked about what had helped their marriage improve from times of serious trouble. A high number of participants reported that they or their spouse had adjusted their attitude. They also reported highly that they or their spouse had worked at fixing problems and improving the relationship.


The researchers are optimistic about their findings: “Our study suggests that thoughts about divorce don’t have to be a sign of impending marital doom. And maybe thoughts about divorce can even be the motivation needed to take some action to try to strengthen or repair a relationship.”

The project was also sponsored by BYU’s Family Studies Center.

More information is provided in the full report. Read it here: https://familystudiescenter.byu.edu/Documents/Reports/What%20are%20they%20thinking%20FINAL%20digital.pdf

What tips would you provide to someone who is thinking about divorce?

Mikle South to Present at Autism Best Practices Conference

An upcoming event aims to bridge the gap between the labs and offices of those helping autistic people. The second annual  Conference on Autism will bring together researchers and front-line treatment professionals for a day of sharing and discussion. “Moving research from laboratory studies to practical, everyday solutions can be difficult,” says Mikle South, associate professor Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Brigham Young University in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, and one of the conference presenters. “Sometimes, researchers do not present their findings in understandable terms. Sometimes, those on the front lines of treatment do not have time to follow important new findings.”

Autism conference screenshot

The workshop includes presentations from a number of disciplines relate to autism spectrum disorders including medicine, psychology, speech and language, social work, and various school-based and home-based treatment professionals. Topics include the most recent advances in teaching preschoolers with autism how to engage with others, how to teach people of all ages with autism to more effectively understand their emotions and have less anxiety, and how to help children with autism and feeding problems (which are common).

BYU1211-35-Mikle-South-Autism-Lab-017 (00000002)The conference is sponsored by BYU’s David O. McKay School of Education,  Timpanogos Regional Hospital, and BYU Continuing Education, and will be held at the BYU Conference Center on January 29 from 8am-5pm. The conference will focus on adolescence and the difficulties that individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face in this transitional period of life. Dr. South received a BA from Yale University followed by a PhD in Child Clinical Psychology at the University of Utah. He returned to Yale for post-doctoral training in developmental neuro-imaging. His research program is focused on understanding the interaction of anxiety and autism in brain and behavior.

The Autism Professional Research Workshop is specifically designed for:

  • physicians
  • nurses
  • psychologists
  • school psychologists
  • educators
  • social workers
  • BCBA’s
  • speech and language pathologists
  • parents
  • students

With such a wide range of professions in attendance, all of them dedicated to helping improve the lives of those with special needs, Professor South’s contribution to the conference will have an effect on many lives affected by ASD – both those with the disorder, and their friends and families. We look forward to Dr. South’s contribution to the conference!

Ticket prices range from $10 to $105. Registration is still open here. See this link for the full schedule of presenters.

Mikle South
© BYU PHOTO 2012 All Rights Reserved



Two New Exhibits at Museum of Peoples and Cultures

Two exhibits recently opened at our own Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Located on north Canyon Road in Provo, just a couple of blocks northwest of campus, the museum is open to the general public and is, in fact, a treat for students and families alike. Both the Greater Than Gold: Textiles of the Ancient Andes and the More Than Stone: Historical Archaeology of the Original Provo Tabernacle exhibits are designed and curated by students.


The Greater Than Gold exhibit illustrates the extiles for the ancient Andean people. Without a formal written language, the unspoken messages were communicated in other ways, one of those ways being cloth. Fine textiles were a sign of social status, wealth, and power. For this reason, there were many influences of textiles and cloth on culture and behavior.

Of the More Than Stone exhibit, Jess Simpson, a grad student at BYU who was able to volunteer during the excavation of the former tabernacle and meetinghouse, along with many other students. Of the experience she said, “my favorite part was finding things. I was right next to Haylie when she pulled a tiny doll with a painted face, and I found another little metal trinket. It was neat to see things that somebody loved a long time ago. These people loved this building and were there often enough to lose things like buttons and coins and toys. I think that that is a testament to the faith of the saints that settled here – they loved their church buildings.”

The exhibits opened during an open house on January 19th, and will be celebrated during the upcoming BYU Night at the Museums, in collaboration with five other campus museums, on January 29th, as well as during a Peruvian Date Night on February 12th. For more information on those events, please visit the MPC’s website, follow them on Facebook, or check out BYU’s calendar.

Family Time: the Family Enrichment Program

What is the value of spending one night a week with one’s family in concerted, collaborative learning? That is a subject that Dr. Wendy Sheffield has spent the last eighteen years studying, with widespread results. Like our professors Dollahite, Carroll, and Willoughby, she is passionate about providing families of all sizes and races the tools that they need to succeed. At the 2015 World Congress of Families. In particular, she talked about a family enrichment curriculum she helped develop that has been applied around the world.
Sheffield, WendyThe Family Enrichment Program is a curriculum developed in 1998 by faculty members of BYU’s School of Social Work, part of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Because students of that school were and are required to serve families as part of their professional training process,
a search began for a simple tool to help families across a wide variety of cultural and family backgrounds implement an organized system for weekly family interaction. Dr. Sheffield and her colleague Dr. Shirley Cox, as well as many of the students they taught, had grown up having weekly family meetings, and out of the many positive experiences they’d had grew a curriculum that could be used by those students in their field internship program. The curriculum consists of lessons on:

• The Benefits of Holding Weekly Family Night

• How to Organize an Effective Family Night

• How to Hold an Effective Family Night

• Family Togetherness

• Individual Talents Strengthen Our Families

• Playing Together as a Family

• Family Communication

• Problem-Solving and Decision-Making in Families

• Anger Management and Non-Violent Behavior

• Family Work and Responsibilities

• Family Service

• Family Traditions


Since its inception, the Family Enrichment Program has been taught in 47 countries, including Vietnam and Zimbabwe, and translated into 14 languages. Regarding her experience talking about the program at the World Congress, Dr. Sheffield said this: “Participating in the World Congress of Families is a truly wonderful and rewarding experience!  This was the fourth international conference on the family in which I have been invited and privileged to participate.  I am continually uplifted and inspired by the many good people, from all countries and all religious faiths, who work to strengthen families.  I have come to truly love, admire, respect, and appreciate those who work so tirelessly within their own spheres of influence to assist and fortify families.”

Family Enrichment ProgramDr. Sheffield spoke in two separate sessions: the first to an “Emerging Leaders” group — young adults ages 18 to 28— and the second on Wednesday afternoon in a general breakout session about establishing an advocacy program. Its purpose was to encourage and inspire Congress participants to develop and utilize their individual skills and abilities and work to strengthen families within their individual circles of influence. She spoke not only of the Family Enrichment Program, but also about the Staying Alive program, a culturally sensitive, structured, abstinence and family-based HIV/AIDS prevention and life skills education program taught to children and youth ages 9-14, in 14 African countries to over 2 million African children and their families.

The full video of her presentation can be viewed here

Intern in Thailand

Supplement your formal education by interning in Thailand this summer!

The Thailand Internship Program is open to all majors. Students in the program will be given research and internship opportunities while gaining international experience. Internship work is customized to fit the goals and aspirations of each individual student. Past students have worked in diverse areas ranging from orphanages to  courthouses in Chiang Mai. There are opportunities for students to intern with NGOs, schools, shelters, hospitals, courts and other organizations.

Political Science professor Dr. Joel Selway is the program director.

Students live with Thai host families during the course of the program, which runs Spring/Summer 2016. Students will also earn at least 9 hours of BYU credit.

Application deadline is February 1st. Read more about the program at http://kennedy.byu.edu/thailand-development/

Complete the online application at kennedy.byu.edu/apply

Thailand via Flickr M M 3998447398_cb07556b3f_b


Picture courtesy of Flickr.

Have you ever been to Thailand? What was it like?

Political Science Student Named MFP Fellow

The students in the college of FHSS continue to amaze us! Alejandra Gimenez, a senior political science student from Connecticut, has been named as one of the 2016-2017 American Political Science Association (APSA) Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Fellows.

Alejandra GimenezThe Minority Fellows Program, as described by the APSA, is a competition for individuals from under-represented backgrounds applying to doctoral programs in political science. Gimenez herself plans to pursue a PhD in American Politics after graduation.

As an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, Gimenez has taken advantage of many opportunities outside of the classroom. She has pursued her research interests by working as an undergraduate research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy since January 2014. She and her co-author explored the effects of ‘positive and negative cues on support for an increase in the federal minimum wage’ using a survey experiment that was fielded on the 2014 Utah Colleges Exit Poll. This work was awarded first place in the 2015 Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Student Paper Competition. Gimenez has presented her work at MPSA, and she has been selected to present at the University of Michigan’s Emerging Scholars Conference.

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To learn more about the APSA MFP program and recent fellows, visit  www.apsanet.org/mfp

Crayon photo via Flickr.

Breaking Down Traditions: LDS Women in India

Two of the most influential forces in one’s life are culture and religion. In some aspects they may intermix, but what happens when they are at odds? Taunalyn Rutherford joined us on campus last November as one of several speakers at the 2015 women’s studies conference, and addressed that question. Rutherford, an adjunct instructor in the religion department at Brigham Young University, took a semester off to spend time in India working on her dissertation. Her research focused on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in India. One of her chapters focuses on the women of the church specifically.

The Church in India

There are 12,257 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in India and 43 congregations, according to MormonNewsroom.org. The first stake was organized in Hyderabad in 2012, which is where Rutherford spent most of her time. Collectively, in her visits to India, she has interviewed over 150 people, mainly members of the the Church.   


Women in India

Rutherford asked the women she interviewed to tell her about the position and status of women in India in general. “I often [got] the word patriarchy,” said Rutherford. “And it is never used in a positive light.” One woman she interviewed said,

I think it’s very patriarchal here. Men dominate a lot… It differs from person to person. If the man is a good man, respectful man, then the woman who married him is a happy woman, a lucky woman. But if you’re in the wrong place, wrong person – I’ve seen my cousins and they all have been dominated, hit … They say Indian women get abused, but in other countries too it’s the same. Women are being abused everywhere.

India, which was ranked 108th in the world in terms of economic opportunities and education for women by the World Economic Forum in 2015, has struggled in its development of equal opportunity for women.

Members of the Church in India

Though the Church has faced some scrutiny over issues of gender equality, their stance on the issue is clear: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny,” as stated in The Family, A Proclamation to the World

Rutherford saw a difference when the same women who spoke of women’s status in India spoke of women’s status in the Church. There were still some comments regarding male dominion, but the language was much more positive and hopeful. One woman said, “In the church, I think the brethren have slowly understood the priesthood holders – that all of us are equal.”

One male member of the church demonstrated this understanding in an interview with Rutherford. “I am grateful for this gospel because it tells that they are both the same. Not one is superior or inferior. Both are equal and men, ‘without her, you can’t get exalted!’ That is one of the greatest truths because you break all the traditions and cultures in India.”

india-787724_1920Through their membership in the Church, Rutherford has seen that some women have found more purpose in their role as a wife and mother. One woman said, “They have priesthood, so we have motherhood. And they have different roles and we have different roles.” Some women have discovered confidence. “Personally, for me, if it wasn’t for the church, I wouldn’t be sitting here like this, sitting here talking to you,” said another woman. “I would have just told you a few words and that’s it. But, it has changed me. It has changed my way of thinking about myself, about that I am not low, I am equal to men.”

Rutherford noted, “There is something in the message of the gospel, that is working counter to the patriarchy that they are naming.” 

Looking Forward

Rutherford will continue in her research and writing her dissertation. In the meantime, she said, “I have great hope for women and for the future of the church and in how we deal with issues of gender as I look and listen to women and men in the Church in India.” Watch the full lecture below. 

How has religion influenced your cultural identity?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.