Not sure what your emotional response is when I say, “New Year’s Resolutions,” but the spectrum is broad. Some dismiss the lists with disdain. Some panic and stress. Some laugh and joke. And some will focus and determine to make things different this year.
Whether you give resolutions thought or not, we all recognize that a new year seems like a clean slate. It’s like buying a new journal (sorry, this analogy will only pertain to a certain few), and then waiting till that perfect insight before we christen the blank pages. We want it to be just so, just right, just…perfect. But the pure expectation can’t carry us to the finish line. We can only maintain perfection for how long? A week? A day? An hour?
Some motivational speakers encourage people to, “Just set goals you can attain. Don’t set yourself up for failure.” In other words, we know you’ll give up and sputter out, so just do something lesser than what you really wanted. Am I wrong?
At the same time, I recognize my own tendency to raise the bar to the second story. No matter how high I jump, I’m not going to make it there without stairs. Building stair-steps allows us to attain progress through the process. We don’t leap from point A to point G. We say, okay, what’s next? And we do the next thing.
I know people say to be specific: if you don’t have a focal target, you’ll hit your mark every time. On the other hand, my goals are often more abstract. So, how do I take abstract down to specific?
For example, at some point last year, I set a goal for myself to complain less. I didn’t say, “Okay, I’m only going to whine 5 times today.” I did ask the Lord to grant me more insight into my words and to help me think with gratitude. As I chose to thank more, my focus averted to the positives and away from the negatives.
Turning our attention away from one thing and onto another is key to changing our attitudes, and thereby, our actions.
If a person wanted to drink less soda, he could determine to drink 64 oz. of water, instead of just saying, “No more pop.”
If a person wanted to cut back on TV, they’d start reading more, or talking to friends on the phone, or playing games with their kids.
If I struggle with unforgiveness, bitterness, or gossip, I must first recognize the heart of the matter. My mind will be filled with thoughts, just as our bodies are filled with food. We don’t live in a vacuum of empty existence. We must choose to fill up on what’s good, pure, and true. Doing so leaves little room for the evil and misguided.
Get at the heart of the issue. Find out what the obstacle is and how to hurdle it and ask the Lord for the strength to do what He has set before you in 2017. Be willing to see the year adjust to His plan; give yourself grace to grow in His timing and His way. Above all else, keep your hands open and turned upward in surrender. You may not be able to put together an impressive montage from the year’s achievements and that’s okay. Some years are years of grief, of loss, of confusion…but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t also years of growth.
The tallest trees have the deepest roots. What goes on underground will eventually produce life in the light.
“Listen to your life: to its passion, its dreams and disappointments, its tedium as well as its drama. It came to you as a gift and each day, too, unravels as a gift. God wants an invitation to share in its every detail” (Philip Yancey, Prayer, 324).