“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Is 43:19)
Two Thousand Fifteen. The New Year is approaching quickly! Many of us will use it’s arrival to set goals and make resolutions for self-improvement. Efforts made to better ourselves positively impacts the quality of our relationships with others and can cause a ripple effect that changes families, communities, cities, states… and maybe even entire nations!
A Resolve for Every Morning of the New Year
I will this day try to live a
simple, sincere and serene life,
repelling promptly every thought of discontent,
anxiety, discouragement, impurity and self-seeking,
magnanimity, charity and
the habit of holy silence,
exercising economy in expenditure,
carefulness in conversation,
diligence in appointed service,
fidelity to every trust and
a child-like trust in God.
-Bishop John H. Vincent, 1909
I am looking forward to fulfilling personal goals and improving neglected areas of my life in the year to come… who is with me? Imagine the impact we could have together! Our church is beginning the year by fasting and praying together. This is a great way to refocus on God by cutting out certain distractions (i.e. social media, movies, TV, caffeine) or by deliberately choosing to eat only certain foods (i.e. the Daniel Fast) to concentrate on and make more space in your daily life to hear from God. If you are going to make this work, it is crucial that you invite Him into this process with you! Here are 15 ingredients to make this year’s resolutions stick as you reflect on ways to change and create holistic health in your life this New Year:
1. Intentionality: Slow down. Pick one thing to change. Set a goal for you and make them something you really want. Once you achieve that goal, you set another one. What does God want for you at this time in your life? Don’t make it a resolution that you “should” want or what other people tell you to want. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” Colossians 3:23
2. Positive Focus: Don’t give into the temptation to focus on what you are lacking, but rather… challenge yourself to focus on what’s possible. Choosing to be deficit-focused can cause you to magnify the problem instead of being solution-oriented. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Phil 4:8
3. SMART goals: Specific Measurable Attainable Results-focused Timely
Specific: What will the goal accomplish? How and why will it be accomplished?
Measurable: How will you measure whether or not the goal has been reached (list at least two indicators)?
Attainable/Achievable: Is it possible? Have others done it successfully? Do you have the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, and resources to accomplish the goal? Will meeting the goal challenge you without defeating you?
Results-Focused: What is the reason, purpose, or benefit of accomplishing the goal? What is the result (not activities leading up to the result) of the goal?
Timely: What is the established completion date and does that completion date create a practical sense of urgency?
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” Prov 21:5
4. Self-Sacrifice: You can expect to sacrifice things you want in order to achieve the goal that you are setting for yourself. One of the reasons we choose not to change is because we become comfortable and “settle for less” rewarding or temporarily rewarding choices instead of exercising control and developing disciplines to create longer lasting change. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” Phil 2:3-4
5. Grace: Forgive yourself. If you mess up, try again. Many people fall into the trap of believing that if they stumble, they should stop trying… this is never helpful. Ask God to help you to forgive yourself when you fail and then for the strength to persist in the change He has called you to! “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17
6. Flexibility: Switch it up. The Holy Spirit has something fresh for you every day. Don’t get caught in a mundane routine that you dread, give yourself a fresh aim everyday that achieves the same goal. (i.e. Monday, I will go to the gym for 30 minutes Tuesday, I will run around my block 5 times, Wednesday, I will begin my day with 50 pushups and situps). “Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors” Prov 8:34
7. Make your goal a habit first:
(Examples from author Leo Widrich:)
Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast
Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana
Resolution: Lose weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block.
Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2
8. Be honest with yourself : Change requires commitment. Choose to be humble and realistic about your process of change. If you view your changes in an exaggerated manner, your change will not last, and could ultimately cause greater frustration. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
9. Develop your patience: Make one change at a time. Enjoy the process/journey. This change in your life will require diligence and practice. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” Romans 12:12
10. Look for ways to reduce stress: Stress undermines and compromises your discipline and your health. Worry causes us to become distracted and decrease in hope- and hope is necessary for the creation of lasting change! “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Phil 4:6-7
11. Be prepared to learn from your mistakes: You will probably fail to get it right the first few times, but rather than becoming discouraged and frustrated by your brief defeat, choose to view them as opportunities to learn and grow. “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again” Prov 24:16
12. Celebrate the small victories: Celebration is the result of your perception. Reward yourself in a healthy way and give God the glory for even the most tiny improvements. “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58
13. Find support: These are ‘safe’ people who will encourage you during your highs and lows. Look for other like-minded individuals who share your goals, and support each other. Seek counseling for accountability and encouragement through the process! “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” 1 Thess 5:11
14. Have some fun along the way: Joy can fuel positive change! Whistle while you work and check your attitude. Ask God to help you identify the positives in challenging situations. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” Prov 17:22
15. Pray, pray, pray: Prayer is about relationship and communication with God. Talk to Him with words, drawing, painting, writing, singing- whatever it looks like, invite Him to come along with you on this journey because after all… the positive change you experience will be coming from Him. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” James 1:17. “Pray without ceasing” 1 Thess 5:17