New Years. A time of year we observe that God did indeed make each of us one-of-a kind. One friend says, "I never make resolutions," and laughs carefree. Another will pull out her latest New Year's Resolutions typed in serious Arial or Calibri on 90 lb. bright white paper from her nicely-labeled folder.
This year I observed some cementing their 2020 intentions on Facebook. Others reflected on the woes of the past year. Still others looked forward to the new year with the same excitement they did when pumpkin spice lattes came out in the fall.
I love this diversity. But some of you may be feeling New Year's stress or ambivalence; I hope some of the following thoughts are helpful.
- When is not important. Self-reflection and goal setting are beneficial, but when can be what makes sense for you. Some find greater benefit in making new goals with the start of the school year. Others may like the spring which is seasonally the start of new things. (Years ago many cultures followed a solar-based calendar year which started with the spring equinox occurring around March 21 or 22.) Some may opt for smaller quarterly or monthly goal-setting. Others do more serious goal setting and reflection during major life changes (marriage, new child, new career). If your focus on staving off the cold of the weather or your life right now is all you can handle, it's okay.
- Consider a character trait. Sometimes we focus more on what we want to do than who we want to become.
- Talk to God about it. "Lord show me what areas to work on."… "I have no idea what goals to pursue."… James encourages us that "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (1:5) And part of growing our wisdom is gaining a better understanding of who God is: "Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10b
- Do any of my goals bring me closer to loving God and others? As Christ-followers, we are told to "love God and others" and this sums up all God's commands (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27; John 15:12; 17; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Peter 1:22, 4:8; 1 John 3:14, 4:7.) Seeking to understand how much God loves us may be a great start. "We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19
- What do I need to leave behind? Some of us need to do more dumping than we do adding. (See my friend's previous post Burdensome Baggage.)
- What hats/roles do I wear? Organizing goals or action steps under what hats/roles we wear in our lives can be helpful. E.g., Mom, entrepreneur, artist, friend, spouse, Christ-follower. What is one proactive small thing we can pencil into our calendar each month to enhance each role? (E.g., Spouse role: Feb. 10: Prep favorite meal or treat him to his favorite restaurant.)
- Find someone to be accountable to. Having a trusted, godly friend you are accountable to with your goals is critical to success. The first step would be feedback on the goals you set. Are there too many? Are they implementable? Have you set forth the details of how you will make these changes? I have found others can be more objective about my lists than I am, and this has been very valuable.
- Attach a new habit you want to form with an old one. Say for example you have a cup of coffee every morning and you want to become more regular at digging into God's Word; start a routine of adding your Bible reading to your cup of coffee.
- Hold your list loosely. Some goals may need to change. No one but God knows what our tomorrow holds. God gave us minds to plan and bodies to work, but we live in a fallen world mixed with God's eternal beauty. Sometimes the canvas of our lives looks like a beautifully-painted landscape with the sun bouncing radiant, vibrant colors; other days it looks more like dark paint thrown angrily and haphazardly. We may need to tear up our list and look up once again to God with palms upturned.
No matter what entering the year looks like right now for you friend, I pray you will have peace and joy knowing that no matter what happens, God is with you and God is good.
"Your goodness is running after, it's running after me." – Jenn Johnson, Goodness of God, Bethel Music