No More Resolutions!
by Cindy Dobroskay
Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year? Every January millions of people make life-changing decisions with the hope of improving their lives. Many of us choose the beginning of the New Year to turn over a new leaf – we call it a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a natural tendency. I’d like to see a number of things in my life change or improve this year. It’s not such a bad idea, really. Wanting to improve our lives is a good thing. What’s not good about New Year’s Resolutions is that they are too easily made and too easily broken. Almost all resolutions are given up within a few weeks or months of making them, leaving us feeling guilty and deflated for the rest of the year.
What’s the alternative? Goal setting. Like resolutions, goals should be realistic, compatible with our lifestyle, outward pressures, and inner passions. Choosing one specific behavior change at a time is more successful than trying too many changes at once. Although similar to resolutions, goals are more specific and can allow more flexibility. Goals do not create a make or break situation the way most resolutions do.
To set a goal we must be motivated to change and believe this change is really good for us. If we can’t make a list of reasons why this change will be good for us, or why not changing is bad for us, then we probably don’t have the motivation to stick with it. What would you most like to improve in your life this year? Ask yourself, “Do I really, really want this?” and “How can I achieve this realistically?”
The top resolutions of Christians last year (taken from a poll by Christianity Today) were:
1) spend more time with God,
2) exercise more, and
3) eat healthier.
Followed by get organized, spend less money, stay in touch with family and friends, volunteer, and simplify schedule.
These are all very worthwhile goals, but vague. What exactly does spending more time with God mean? It may mean beginning daily personal devotions, reading the Bible more, praying more, etc. Being specific is the framework for success.
Baby steps are more easily achieved than a giant leap. Writing down goals and breaking them into short-term and long-term goals helps us to see the step-by-step process as well as our progress. A broader long-term goal, perhaps a yearly goal, can be broken into smaller steps (monthly goals). Each monthly goal can be broken into smaller weekly goals that may be broken down further into a daily to-do.
If spending more time with God is the goal, perhaps committing to work through a daily devotional book or choosing a plan for reading the Bible through in a year may be motivating. A daily devotional in my e-mail box suits my busy schedule and prompts me to focus on God before I get too far into my work. I don’t solely rely on this, but it often leads to further study and reflection. Establishing a regular routine (the best place and the best time) helps us develop a new habit more consistently.
Flexibility allows us to forgive ourselves and re-work our plan when needed. If one day doesn’t work out, we can maintain hope for the next day because we have our sights set on a broader goal. The failures encountered along the way are just bumps in the road, not the end. If we miss a day, the next day is a new day. Missed a week or two? Today is the day that really counts. Claiming victory in Jesus’ power to overcome our weakness, we continue to set our eyes forward and continue the race. If our initial methods aren’t working the goal can be adjusted to fit our changing circumstances. We need to be forgiving of our failures and count them toward experience. The most valuable treasures of our lives are usually the ones that were not easily achieved.
By reviewing our goals daily we keep them in mind so that every decision can be weighed as to whether it will draw us closer to our goal or further away. Most importantly, keeping our goals in our prayers gives us strength in our weakness and assured victory. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7 NIV).