Its that time of the year when we all resolve to be better people, look after ourselves more or just plain commit to do things we have not had time for last year. Most of us know that the resolutions we make will not be kept. By Valentine’s day we have forgotten, discarded or just plain ignored them.
So how do we make resolutions that we keep. Three simple steps that come to mind here which I have always found very helpful:
Keep it simple.
Make it meaningful.
Stick to it.
Another system that is helpful (adapted from Organic Gardening of all places) is the S.M.A.R.T. system:
Be specific: Don’t say “I want to deepen my prayer life” but rather “I want to prayer 10 minutes more each day.”
Make it measurable: Intangible goals are impossible to track. Take the example above. When you reach the 5 minutes a day for 5 day goal in prayer celebrate it – maybe with a half day prayer retreat. When you reach your 10 minutes of prayer for 10 days celebrate with a whole day retreat.
Make it attainable: Is your goal within your ability to fulfill it? I cringe when people tell me about their goals to save the world or to transform the city in which they live – all within a 3 month period and without any training or expertise. More attainable goals might be – get involved in a local mission organization; increase my giving to charities by 50%. Take a course in city organization or social entrepreneurship or evangelism. These are attainable goals whose accomplishment gives great satisfaction.
Make it realistic: Develop a plan for attaining your goals and enlist help in achieving your goals. Setting down tangible and measurable action steps that will keep you on track is extremely important. This helps us weigh the possibilities against the commitments we already have and makes us more aware of the time and resource commitments our goals demand. Enlisting help can often be a great reality check as our friends say “Have you thought of…?” or “When will you….? Paying close attention to their advice is an important part of the process.
Develop a timetable. As the article I read this morning suggested: Timeliness adds urgency and reinforces accountability. This too is extremely important though we need to balance our timetables with the flexibility to change and adapt. There is no such thing as failure. Setbacks are merely obstacles to be surmounted and conquered. And surmounting them gives us a sense of how determined we are to change our old habits.
Many resolutions require breaking with old, ingrained behaviors or attitudes. It takes time to transform habits and emotional reactions. So don’t give up because you ate a piece of cake or missed some gym time or snapped at a coworker or sibling. Genuine and lasting change does not come easily and it does not come overnight. It happens one day at a time, with a series of sustained, practical actions. If you are willing to be smart about pursuing your goal, you can be successful.
And let me finish with some good advice from the apostle Paul in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (from Biblegateway.com)