Monday, December 29, 2014

Four Ideas to Help Keep New Year's Resolutions

So, you’ve been contemplating a new year’s resolution with the rest of the known world, am I right?

I make these new year’s resolutions every year, but I’ve gotten a little jaded about them. About the middle of February is about as long as any of them has ever lasted. I hear I’m in good company on that.

So here’s what I’m thinking - we’re all of us making the wrong kind of resolutions. We’re resolving to do things every day for a whole year all by ourselves, and that’s really hard.

Really, really hard.

But every year we all do it, and if we're being honest, we all expect that we will disappoint ourselves. Why not take a couple of steps to help ourselves stand a fighting chance of making it through the end of the year (or at least through the end of Lent).

(1) Resolve to pray about it first.
    How often have we made a new year's resolution without talking to God about what he wants us to work on in the next year? How many times have we just made a crazy resolution to do something like read the whole bible? Did we even stop to consider the possibility that God may really prefer that instead of zipping through the whole bible (and remembering next to nothing) that we read only, say, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles - slowly?
    So, before you go resolving to take on some crazy volume of work, pray for God's guidance. A new year's resolution with a mission behind it is more likely to be kept. 
(2) Resolve to do it once.
    If you have trouble keeping those "every day until forever" kinds of resolutions, try resolving to do something only once, or twice. Unfortunate tendency to overwork yourself? Resolve to go on a cruise. Well aware that you are out of shape? Resolve to do the 100 pushups challenge. Had to get a root canal this year? Resolve to make an extra maintenance visit to the dentist. 
    Resolving to do something once gives you the opportunity to get a quick payoff, but they do have the unfortunate drawback of not feeling like a "good resolution".
(3) Give yourself a fresh start periodically, at least once a month.
    This will mean that for big resolutions, you get to start counting again every month (or every week, if you need to). This is hard because half the fun of those enormous resolutions is the drama of it all.
    This thought always goes through my head: "I resolved to take on this huge amount of work and won't it be epic if I actually finish it all!" 
    But once I've missed about a week or so, it's all over. It's no fun any more. I never want to come back to it. I rather doubt that I'm alone in this feeling.
    While giving ourselves a fresh start each month may not feel dramatic we would definitely make more real progress than if we stopped all together for the year and never came back to it at all. 
(4) Find or make an accountability partner.
    For a lot of people - myself included - accountability is everything. If there's nobody out there expecting to hear a positive update, I am unlikely to stick with anything. So, for anything I really want to do, I better have somebody expecting to hear that I did it. 
    Sometimes, a resolution is embarrassing, or finding an accountability partner feels kind of prideful. Try a journal or a chart to mark your progress. This way, you can tell if you're keeping up with your resolution, but you can also keep it to yourself.

Here are some of my resolutions.
(1) Read scripture more regularly.
(2) Do the 100 pushups challenge.
(3) Get into a regular writing routine.
(4) Try jogging again.

What are your resolutions? Do you have any tricks for keeping them that worked for you in the past?

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