A new year is just around the corner. It may seem like we’d wait until after Christmas to even think about January 1st, but perhaps there’s a benefit to not waiting that long.
January usually brings resolutions to change what we should’ve changed several months ago. But what typically happens is: we make those goals, we try to succeed, it gets hard, we get discouraged, and we go back to our old ways. Or we make goals that we believe might fix all of our problems, we try them out, realize they don’t solve all our problems – and we quit because it’s not worth the effort.
New Years Resolution failure is a common phenomenon.
But, if we don’t wait until January (or Dec 31st) to think through our goals, we may have a much higher chance at success.
First Things First: Why Care About NYR’s?
New Year’s Resolutions are a little like hitting “refresh.” For just a moment, most of us are reminded to stop and reconsider whether we are living as we should. As Christians especially, a new year is a time to evaluate whether we could be living for God more wholeheartedly.
Colossians 1:10 is an excellent verse to consider as we think through our goals. We should make goals that help us better:
walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
If January 1st aids us in succeeding in those things, we should milk it for all it’s worth! Of course, we could do this any day of the year, but we usually don’t. We are so busy maintaining life as we know it, we rarely pause to make anything close to “resolutions.” So January 1st is coming… let’s get ready to milk it!
Why Get Ready in the Middle of December?
You could just make goals on January 1st when everyone else is making them. But here are 3 reasons why it’s worth thinking about now:
#1 You will notice what you really need to change.
There are a few goals that will make most of our lists. Improving our quiet times, eating healthier, living a more disciplined life — I bet most of us will make a New Year’s Resolution in one of those categories. And we should (if we are not where we should be).
However, if you spent time praying about how you could live in a manner more “worthy of the Lord,” or how you could bear more “fruit in every good work” or increase “in the knowledge of God,” I wonder what else might come to mind. Perhaps we would also make goals about how we can better love people, or work on patience, or be more generous, or make time to read certain books, or be more bold for the gospel. Our goals might extend to some very specific areas that we don’t typically give thought to.
If you can look at your life over the course of several weeks, and then thoughtfully and prayerfully make some goals, you will likely land on some resolutions really worth making.
#2 You will weed out unrealistic goals.
If you not only make some goals throughout December, but if you start to implement them little by little, you will weed out impractical ambitions.
Often we don’t need grandiose goals to become more godly, more disciplined, or more efficient (or whatever your goals revolve around), we just need to make small improvements and stick with them. Trying out your goals ahead of time will help you find those realistic and doable tweaks you need to make.
In so doing, you will be able to go into the new year with some attainable plans.
#3 You will be motivated by more than the “romance” of a goal.
From a distance, many goals sound so wonderful. We can imagine how amazing it would be to wake up one hour earlier and have multiple hours of Bible reading each morning. We can envision our new in-shape self being able to serve people more energetically. We can anticipate time being added to our schedule if we stop giving in to wasted minutes on social media.
The implementation of our goals might even feel fantastic for a little bit. But eventually, we will feel that same tug we now feel to hit the snooze button. We’ll be tempted, as we are now, to skip exercise and eat junk food. And we’ll eventually be drawn back into the timewasters that usually captivate us.
But what if we let these goals marinate in our minds for a little bit? What if we move from just pondering their benefit, to even “counting the cost” in a sense? More than that, what if we try it for a couple of weeks before January?
If we give a little upfront effort to considering our goals, we will move past the “this-goal- is-so-fun-to-implement” mentality, to realizing “this isn’t easy and I need to be disciplined to succeed.” If we want to get past January 9th with our goals still intact, we need that latter determination. We need to move past being motivated by happy feelings, and we need consistent discipline if we want to see lasting change.
Get Started Now!
Christmas time is, of course, a busy time; so New Years Resolutions do not seem like a legitimate priority. But that’s what makes this method so promising. If we can make some goals, and try them in the busiest of seasons—we can move into January with clarity, knowing we can accomplish our goals next year.
Think about it: say your goal is to add 10 minutes of concentrated prayer to your daily quiet time routine–if you can make that happen in December, you know you can make it happen next June, August, and October! Or maybe you learn adding 5 minutes is a better starter goal that you can stick with.
So don’t wait. At a minimum, start praying that God would make clear how he wants you to grow to live “more fully pleasing to him.” And if you can, get started on whatever resolves you should make! May 2018 be our best year yet because of the extra thought and effort we put into our New Years Resolutions (that we actually succeed at).