After the glitz of celebration passes on midnight January first, we wake up to a new year. For many, including me, an unblemished calendar smells of promise and hope. This will be a year where I can accomplish feats of self-discipline, strength, and knowledge.
The resolutions and goals we set reveal our identity, priorities, and values. Our lists give others a snapshot into the type of person that we are and what we hold close to our hearts. Are we the type of person who longs for learning and adventure, love and security, achievement and power?
For me, making New Year’s resolutions is meaningful—helping to frame the past year and clarify what I would like to do with my “limited energy and my too short time, in my too short life,” as a writer on LinkedIn puts it. Or, as the Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Before creating a plan for the upcoming year, I consider it foundational to reflect on the previous year. What were my greatest achievements? Who influenced me? Who did I influence? Where did I go? What were the disappointments? Where did I spend my money? Did I work with all my might?
A question rattling around in my brain these last two weeks has been, “How much of my time was spent achieving my own agenda, and how much was spent devoted to God’s agenda?”
I find it helpful during both the reflection and resolution process to divide my life into the roles that I play in life: wife, mother, learner, writer, friend, Christian. In the real world, these areas are messily interwoven, but on paper, they are easy themes to disentangle. What terms would you use to describe yourself?
What type of resolutions should we set?
“So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step” (1 Corinthians 9:26).
I set both resolutions and goals. In general, goals have a concrete end point. For example, “To read all the prophets in the Old Testament in 2016.” I will know I’ve achieved this goal as I turn the final page of Malachi. Goals differ from resolutions, which are far more open ended. For example, “Pray more.” Should you set a goal or a resolution? It depends on whether you’d like to accomplish a particular task, or simply see growth. It also depends on whether you do well with structure, or feel constrained by guidelines.
Since I am a Christian, my faith touches every aspect of my life, but that does not mean that every goal I set relates explicitly to the church or Bible. However, when making goals or resolutions, I do consider how the time and money I will need to accomplish the particular task will affect my ability to serve others and love God. Again, from Ecclesiastes 5:18, “It is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot.”
Many people find that they are the most likely to achieve their goals if they make a public commitment. This does not have to be standing up in front of the church on Sunday morning and sharing your goals! However, perhaps sharing with your small group, spouse, roommate, or friend will help.
Although many people drop their New Year’s Resolutions by mid-February, establishing consistent habits, and reviewing your goals monthly or quarterly will increase your likelihood of success or growth. This can be as easy as downloading an app to track your progress, or setting a calendar reminder to review. Furthermore, if there is a way to involve another person in your goals, say by exercising or reading the Bible together, this will greatly increase your chances of success.
Further Reading and Resources
Read the Bible frequently: Bible Reading plans
Live missionally: The Art of Neighboring and Meals with Jesus provide suggestions (both books are available in the NSCBC library)
Experience Spiritual Growth: Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (available in the NSCBC library)
Goals and Good Habits
How to Set Your Goals – Donald Miller, Storyline Blog
Why set Resolutions? – John Piper, Blog
Ordering Your Private World – Gordon McDonald, Book (available in the NSCBC library)
Thanks to Beth Melillo for writing today’s post!