The turning of the new year is a great time for review and self-examination. Another 365 days have gone; what do we have to show for it? There may be pride from success, or guilt over insufficient accomplishments. Both of these often serve as catalysts for New Year’s resolutions – either goals for further accomplishment, or determination to put an end to certain bad habits.
New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap as of late. Only about 8% of people succeed in keeping their resolutions. In fact, January 17th has been dubbed Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day, because so many people have already failed or quit their resolution by that date. More often than not, people will altogether skip making a resolution, and thereby avoid the guilt and shame of failure.
What about you? We are always in need of forward progress! While it need not be on New Year’s Day, there’s nothing wrong with using that as the catalyst to both self-examine and set goals. The Holy Spirit may already be prompting you to consider certain areas of your life that need change. Let me encourage you to make a few considerations in order to enjoy lasting change.
First, make specific, measurable goals. “I will be a better parent” is vague and immeasurable, but you can check your progress with goals like “I will not yell at the kids,” or “I will pray with them every night before bed.”
Second, put your specific goals in their larger context. This is crucial! We want to strive to be more moral, but life is not about having a good moral performance. We are made to have a relationship with our Creator, to enjoy Him and to depend on Him. Our moral goals should be helping us to grow in our relationship with God, rather than to look better to those around us.
Third, choose a positive action to replace the negative one. This is essentially your action plan for the heat of the moment. We need to know how to redirect ourselves when we are struggling with temptations toward old habits. Set goals like, “I will not yell at the kids, but I will give them a two-minute timeout and speak calmly with them afterward,” or, “I will not eat sugary foods, but I will have a healthy snack after dinner.”
These are biblical principles! God shares these truths with us in the Bible in Ephesians 4:22-24: “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
Finally, recognize that change is a process. When you stumble, get back up and continue! Train yourself not to make excuses or quit, but to persevere when it gets hardest.