Goals and Resolutions Anyone?

A Case for Resolutions: Is it just me or are more people now avoiding New Year resolutions? I'm disappointed when people say: "What's the point? I'll fail anyway."

Actually the point is not whether we are entirely or even partially successful, rather whether we have a vision we believe is worth pursuing and will invest effort to move in that direction - even a little ways.

Murray and Carol 1976

Here are a couple reasons to set goals for the year ahead:

1. Resolutions acknowledge room for improvement in our lives. Hopefully that includes us all if we want to make the world a better place.

2. Resolutions provide opportunity to lean on the Lord: It's certainly easier to "float down the river and see where the New Year takes us". More strength and courage however is needed to put our shoulder to the harness and help shape a better future in a needy world. This recognition increases our dependence on Christ who enables us to be more than we are.

 

There are two primary ways to seek a better world: one is to become a better person (I know of no better way than to start here), the other is to pursue goals to make a better world (if you've not done so, a good place to start is by writing or updating your life-mission statement).

I've prayed on New Year for several decades, "Father, how do You want to use the unique bundle of gifts, strengths and weaknesses that I am, next year for Your glory?" Then I listen, think, and write down what I believe the Lord would have me focus on the next year. I also jot down the steps I expect will be involved in those goals or activities.

 

The value of focusing on the target: Writing all this down is important because we forget and fail. But a lapse or failure is not the end of the goal or value of the resolution. Let's use the simple example of wanting to loose a little weight. If I break the resolution by eating two desserts one day should I give up, declare my failure and never try again? No. Because the goal is still a worthy one and because I can still choose not to eat two desserts tomorrow, or the next day.

The same is true of all worthy goals and resolutions. If we aim for the bull's-eye (e.g. lose 5 kg or read a book a month) but place the arrow in the 2nd or 3rd ring outside the bull's-eye (e.g. lose 3 kg or read 7 books next year), it is still far better than missing the target altogether (e.g. losing no weight or reading nothing) or shooting the opposite direction (e.g. gaining 3 kg or watching more television). So don't give up but stay focused.

 

Pursuing multiple goals for the year: Let me suggest also that you consider goals in several important arenas of life. You may want to set a goal or two in areas such as the following:

  • your spiritual life (more)

  • your marriage (or significant other)

  • investing in the lives of your children

  • educational goals (formal schooling or informal reading)

  • financial goals (more)

  • mission or ministry goals.

Other Tools:

1. Simplest of all is to choose the one thing - only one - which would make the most positive difference in your life. You can always add others later.

2. Married? When Carol and I led marriage enrichment weekends, we invited couples to use a simple tool like this "goal wheel" (in PDF).

For a more detailed "life-goal worksheet" for yourself click or PDF (or Word if you'd prefer to edit).

3. A fun exercise to share with your family or other small group of friends are these questions for reflection at the turning of a year. Downloaded an editable version here.

 

Resolutions for Life: To this point we've been focusing on New Year resolutions. Let's go a step further. Resolutions don't need to be written on New Year's Day or to end a year later. You can write resolutions and add to them any day of your life.

For example you may resolve today to encourage others and not criticize them. Excellent! (Might you fail? Of course. Will God forgive? Of course. Will the resolution still be valid the day after you do? Of course.)

Tomorrow or next week you may prompted to add a resolution to change the way you save for future needs. Write it also and mark your addition with the date.

Next month you may add a resolution to read a book a month or to review your resolutions once a month. Add these intentions with the date and continue until you feel you've shaped the most important contours of your life.

(For a remarkable example of such an ongoing list of resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards, click here.)

Better yet, read Ken Shigematsu, God In My Everything: How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God  (Zondervan) 224 pages and build the life God has created you for!

To whet your appetite: "...a 'rule of life' isn't about trying to cram more into our already crowed lives. It's about saying no to certain things in order to say yes to others. It's about giving each part of our lives the time it deserves." p. 91.

To Summarize:

Positive change comes through

1. Commitment to Christ, who shapes our life-mission statement for good.

2. Who we becoming in Christ affects our goals/resolutions for the New Year.

3. Our plan needs then to be summarized in our weekly schedule.

Without actively following Christ and making decisions about the future the next year is more likely to be like the last.

Other pages which may be helpful in this process include: time, our only non-renewable resource, and a birthday review. For fun you may want to make a 5 year 'time capsule' with family or friends. Here is an editable starting point.

It is up to us. Seize the day! Take a moment to listen to this challenge and invitation wonderfully expressed in song by Carolyn Arends ... (in MP3 or download WMV).