As the year comes to a close, many of us begin to reflect on the past 12 months and plan to make some changes for the next 12. This is especially true if we’ve had a particularly bad year. Most, if not all of us can say that we hope that the next year will be better than the previous.
The tradition of celebrating a new year and making resolutions dates way back to the ancient Babylonians, approx. 4000 years ago, (source) and we still celebrate it today. We ask ourselves a lot of questions during this time of reflection and it can be a great way to realign our walk and make some much-needed self-adjustments.
I ask myself a lot of these questions often, not just at the end of December. For a Christian, it should be an ongoing process as the Holy Spirit is transforming our lives.
As we think about the upcoming year, here are some things to keep in mind when coming up with those “resolutions”.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
When looking back at the past year, it’s important that we don’t just pick out the negative things that happened. We should also focus on the many great blessings that God has given us as well, and it helps us keep things in a healthy perspective.
WRITE THEM DOWN
I’ve mentioned this in other articles but it bears repeating, we need to start writing down the things we are thankful for, the answered prayers, and the many ways that God has blessed us. Keeping a journal is a great way to see how God is working throughout your life.
If you’ve had a particularly bad year, it can be easy to let the negative experiences overshadow all of the good things that have happened. But if you have a way to document it, whether it’s in a journal, a scrapbook, or even in your own blog, it can be very enlightening and inspiring to look back and see all the ways that God has worked in your life over the past year.
It’s an excellent way to measure your Spiritual growth as well.
For some people, keeping a simple list at their desk or on the refrigerator is a wonderful way to be reminded all year round.
What would happen if for one whole year you made a commitment to write down one thing that you are thankful for each and every day? How do you think your mindset would change?
4 REASONS WHY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FAIL
According to Dan Diamond, a contributor to Forbes.com, statistics show that only 8% of people actually achieve their resolution goals. (source) That’s an extremely low number considering how much we talk about it in December and January.
But why so low? Why is it so hard to follow through and do what we say we want to do?
WE’RE ALL TALK
Most of us want to lose some weight, eat better, pay off debt, break a bad habit, overcome an addiction, etc. We talk about it all the time, and for 92% of people who fail, it’s nothing more than lip service.
It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and it’s time to stop talking and start doing.
Instead of just talking about it let’s try putting a plan together to make it happen. Keep it simple, keep it realistic. Plan out the first small steps that will take you in the direction you want to go, and build from there.
WE DON’T FOCUS ON THE “WHY”
Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus of TheMinimalists.com frequently talk about the importance of focusing on the “Why to” rather than just the “How to” when it comes to simple living, decluttering and minimalism.
It’s easy to find an endless amount of books, blogs, products, etc. on how to (fill in the blank). We offer some on this site as well. But when all we ever focus on is the “how”, it becomes the focus and we lose sight of the “why.”
We need to keep the “why” at the forefront of our thoughts.
- Why am I doing this?
- What are the short-term and long-term benefits?
- How will I be able to serve God better by doing this?
- How can I be there more for my family by letting this go?
WE DON’T COUNT THE COST
We have a tendency to rush into things with the greatest intentions, but we never really sit down and consider what it will actually take to reach our end goal. Losing weight is hard, paying off debt takes consistent discipline and time, and overcoming an addiction takes focus, determination, and accountability.
We run in all excited but then when the aches and pains set in, and we realize how much it’s going to cost and how hard it’s going to be, we end up throwing in the towel before we even really began.
Jesus cautions about counting the cost when we aspire to become a disciple of Christ. Those words of great wisdom can also be applied to other areas of our lives as well, including radical life changes.
28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:28-33 ESV
In other words, we need to understand what we are getting ourselves into before we begin. That doesn’t mean we should turn back and forget about it, just that we should prepare and fully understand what it’s going to take to get where we want to be.
WE EXPECT IMMEDIATE PERFECTION
Another reason that New Year’s Resolutions fail is that we expect perfection right out of the gate. We try to do everything “cold turkey” and we throw ourselves into immediate shock. We didn’t plan, we didn’t count the cost, and we feel miserable.
So after a short time (for some it’s less than a day) we fail and end up pacifying our misery by overindulging and gorging ourselves on the things we said we wanted to overcome.
That first treadmill workout makes our legs hurt up to our neck and we stumble off after only 10 min.
(Perhaps 5mph and a +4 incline isn’t the best starting point?)
The first day we “diet” we decide that starving ourselves and only eating protein is the best way to achieve our perfect body. So by 7 pm, when our body is shaking from our sugar fast, we end up eating 3 bowls of double scoop rocky road with extra hot fudge–and sprinkles–to make it stop.
(Perhaps a gradual calorie reduction and including more fruits and vegetables would be a better approach?)
After our binge, we feel like we’ve blown it all and rather than trying to plan and take some smaller steps in the right direction, we end up abandoning our resolutions altogether, saying, “Well, maybe next year.”
We need to forgive ourselves, come up with a realistic plan, and take it one step at a time.
3 REVISIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Our lives are a work in progress. As a blogger/writer, I tend to like the word “revisions” more than resolutions. When writing content, the revision phase is when the best creativity tends to come out. It’s the process of eliminating the unnecessary and adding what is missing to try to enhance the reader’s experience.
I love this verse from the book of Jeremiah that talks about the potter and the clay:
“Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.”
Jeremiah 18:6 NASB
God (the potter) is constantly molding, shaping, and revising us (the clay) to help us rid ourselves of the unnecessary and adding His righteousness in a way that enhances both our lives and the lives of those around us.
Let’s begin by deciding what’s most important in our life. Then pray and ask God to help us identify a few ways to improve from last year. No matter how good or bad of a year it was, we can always make some adjustments and improvements.
Here are the 3 revisions I’m going to work on in my own life this year. While they are broad, it allows me to ask very deliberate questions when making decisions on how to spend my resources (time, money, etc.)
GROW CLOSER TO JESUS
No matter where you are in your walk with Christ, this should always be at the forefront of everyone’s list. More time in prayer, more time in the Word, and more time finding ways to contribute to the needs of others and share the message of Christ.
For most of us, if we would simply focus on this, the other stuff would actually start taking care of itself.
We should all be spending some time in the Bible each day. Whether it’s with the help of a devotional, (Our Daily Bread, etc.), deep study, or just some general reading, it’s important that we are filling our hearts and minds up with the Word of God on a regular basis.
It’s astounding how many Christians don’t know what the Bible says. Back in 2012, a survey was conducted among 2900 Protestant churchgoers. They found that only 19% actually read the Bible on a daily basis. (source) With the apathy of the church today it’s apparent those statistics aren’t getting any better.
A common excuse is that we just don’t have enough time. Did you know that by reading just a few chapters a day (the average is 4) you can read the entire Bible in a year? That’s just a few chapters a day. Every one of us can spare a little bit of time to dive into the Word. Bible Gateway has many great reading plans that you can subscribe to help you stay on track.
If you don’t have your own copy of God’s Word, we recommend the New Believer’s Bible. It’s a great tool to help you develop your relationship with God and begin sharing your faith with others.
How about that morning commute? Have you ever considered an audio version of the Bible? What if instead of listening to the same old songs we’ve heard 1000 times we were to fill our ears with the life-changing Word on the way to work? With Audible, we can do just that. Many audio Bibles today are excellent quality and have some fantastic voice acting as well. I’m especially impressed with The Word of Promise audio Bible.
Maybe you spend plenty of time in both prayer and reading the Bible. There are other ways to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ. You can start/join a small group, volunteer and share your faith at the local homeless shelter, or even help out in the children’s ministry at your church. Just pray and ask God to show you how He want’s to help you grow this year.
I’ll be seeking God’s direction on new way’s that I can grow and serve this year.
Let’s be honest. We love spending hours binging on Netflix and mindlessly scrolling through our Facebook feed.
I’m not here to say that we need to stop doing things that we enjoy. But what if we carved out a portion of that time each day to invest in ourselves?
- What if we spent some time reading a non-fiction book on how to share our faith with the lost?
- What if we spent time watching a documentary on the benefits of simple living?
- What if we spent time developing a new way to share a passion with the world around us?
Because the learning was forced on me, I always hated school. But now, I really enjoy learning. I love picking up a book and allowing it to challenge my thinking, my way of life, and push me to a new level.
Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” (source)
Learning doesn’t have to be boring. We can make it fun and exciting, we just need to think outside the box and find ways that work for us and that we enjoy.
This year, my revisions for personal development are:
- Read 1 chapter a day in a new non-fiction book
- Watch 1 new documentary a month that I can share and discuss with others
- Travel to at least 1 new location that my family has never visited
- Work on 1 new major project (For 2018, it’s my book)
SIMPLIFY MY LIFE
Life is difficult, chaotic, and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Most of the time it’s hectic because of the choices we’ve made or the choices that have in a sense been made for us.
We are on a desperate mission to find happiness and contentment, but our efforts are misplaced and we end up trying to fill the voids with meaningless stuff and temporary pleasures that only leave us searching and never finding.
If we were to take a long hard look at our lives, determine what our core values are for ourselves and our families, and make more conscious decisions on how to contribute to those values, then we could easily identify what doesn’t belong and remove it.
I’ll be looking at decluttering, learning to say “no”, and forming deeper relationships with those that matter most. As my family journeys together over the next year we will find ways to better serve Christ, to find value in what matters the most, and to find greater joy, contentment, and a simpler life in the process.
Revisions, not “resolutions.” Looking ways to improve ourselves and the lives around us. Ultimately, the greatest way to improve is to draw near to Christ, and let the Holy Spirit mold, shape, and lead us. I love the lyrics of this song by Kutless. It’s called “Vow”. Perhaps you will be blessed by it as well today.
Father, in this crazy world that we live in, I pray that you help us to focus on what’s really important. Help us to stop worrying so much about the traditional resolutions that people try to make. While we do need to eat healthier, be more active, and cut back on useless spending, it’s far more important that we focus on our relationship with Your Son, Jesus. I pray that as we grow closer to Him, the people around us can’t help but take notice. When they are depressed because they haven’t kept their resolutions, let them see a joy in us that makes them ask the question, “Why are you so joyful?” Give us an abundance of opportunities in the coming year to share the good news of Jesus with those that need to hear it. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
What about you? What ways do you plan to improve your life and those around you in the coming year? I’d love to read about it in the comment section below.