By now, you may have made some New Year’s resolutions. It seems that resolutions change through the years.
- 2007: I will get my weight down below 160 pounds and get into my new red dress.
- 2008: I will count my calories until I get below 170 pounds and fit into my sweater.
- 2009: OK… I will follow my new diet until I get below 210 pounds and maybe I’ll buy some new slippers.
- 2010: I will talk to a counselor about developing a realistic attitude about my weight and appearance.
- 2011: At my doctor’s suggestion, I will work out five days a week at my gym.
- 2012: I will drive past the gym once a week … and if I have my gym bag in the car, I’ll go in. And if I don’t, I will take that as a sign that I should go to the Dairy Queen next door.
The most common New Year’s Resolutions are, according to studies, “losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking,” but other popular resolutions include “managing debt, saving money, getting a better job or education, reducing stress, taking a trip, or volunteering.” (1)
Although some studies say making a resolution increases the likelihood of achieving a goal, making a resolution ~ in and of itself ~ isn’t really enough.
I’ve found that New Year’s resolutions don’t work unless people work at making resolutions stick. Otherwise, by February 1st or sooner, the resolutions are a dim memory. The same old frustrations or longings linger.
Many resolutions are made after periods of indulgence. For example, we give ourselves “permission” to go crazy over the holidays, but then we feel guilty, or we don’t like it that our clothes no longer fit.
Resolutions are our way of convincing ourselves we will eventually take control. At first, we feel pretty confident that we’ll win out… but then those feelings of discomfort and stress return. If we haven’t developed a new habit or acquired the character quality of self-discipline, we aren’t likely to keep those resolutions. Or, when our “results” take longer than we expect, or we find that our new choices haven’t made us any happier, we tend to give up.
But here are five ways to encourage success with “resolutions.” They start with right thinking.
(1) Consider Motives – This is a tough one, I’ll admit. Sometimes it’s hard to think through why we are making a resolution? Do we just want some immediate relief from guilt, or are we really ready to accept responsibility for our choices and discipline our life for change? Are we trying to please God or people? Is our heart prepared to listen to inner promptings from the Spirit of God?
(2) Choose Smart Goals – I have really blown it in the past with all-or-nothing choices. It’s important to be realistic with resolutions. We need to build in some incremental changes that will give us a greater opportunity for success.
(Remember: You eat an elephant one bite at a time!) Pray and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) as you choose new goals … or as you re-commit to some old ones.
That reminds me of a woman who remembered a vow she made to God years ago, and she was brokenhearted that she had broken that vow (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5; James 5:12). Last New Year’s Day, she repented and chose to get “back on track” with God. She implemented some simple, practical goals and guidelines to help her obey God every day in the area of her vow.
(3) Concentrate on Behavior Change – Rather than focusing on the goal itself, it helps to focus on how God wants to change wrong attitudes we have that led to bad behavior. There may be a lie we’re believing ~ can we replace that lie with God’s truth? Again, it’s a matter of the heart. God wants to sanctify us ~ make us holy through His Word of truth (John 17:17).
As we hand our behavior issues over to the Spirit of God, we allow Him to replace them with the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).
(4) Call it Something else (Re-name Feelings) – It’s not unusual to have some physical sensations that are uncomfortable as we make changes.
For example, if we stop over-eating, we may hear a growling stomach. We can say, “I’m starving,” or re-label the discomfort and say, “My stuffed stomach is shrinking!”
If we’re in a store and tempted to overspend or to buy something we don’t need ~ instead of saying “I want this snack,” we can say, “How can I use the money that this would cost to meet a real need?”
It’s a good strategy for behavior change to define and re-name ineffective feelings, or ask ourselves smart questions.
(5) Cease Planning for “Outs” – The Bible says, “Make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). In other words, we need to clothe ourselves with the presence of Christ and not even think about ways to indulge unhealthy or evil desires. We don’t want to set ourselves up to fail.
We may want to make some things non-negotiable: “I won’t miss my 7 am walk” … “I won’t eat fatty snacks after 7 pm,” etc. [Note: If you do give in to temptation, don't use it as an excuse to reject your resolution. Use it as a "teaching time." What can you learn so you don't fall, again?]
Procrastination is the surest way to sabotage good goals, and it is Satan’s best friend ~ one of his favorite strategies. Don’t let the enemy fool you into thinking there will be a better, more convenient time to resolve to change.
What are you waiting for?
If you aren’t struggling with any “issues,” and you want some simple resolutions for the New Year, consider four areas of focus to “Ring in the New Year” ~