New Year, New...Me?
So. We’re almost 2 weeks in. How are those resolutions going?
Great so far? Yay!
Not so great once the world realized that the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2021 didn’t eradicate COVID? We were all hoping.
Thinking this entire topic is irrelevant to you because you’re not a fan of resolutions? I hear you. I used to feel the same way because I had seen so many valuable intentions fail. People wanting to get healthier, to get their finances in order, to read more and watch television less. The start date would be set and the person would be energized, ready to create change. Soon after, oftentimes within days, that same person would miss the mark and feel like the whole effort had been botched and was unrecoverable. Equally as many times, the person would not try again until the following New Year’s.
I saw the discouragement this caused in people. The feelings of failure, inadequacy, embarrassment, and weakness. The hopelessness when it became apparent that these worthwhile goals would never be achieved and that life would, unfortunately, always be the same.
Not a super appealing practice.
Then, I personally had a significant period of time in my mid-20’s when I could not look past the current day I was living. If I did, I didn’t feel I could make it through. That set me up to really understand the “one day at a time” saying, or “Give us this day our daily bread,” from the Lord’s Prayer. I was setting daily goals for functioning and productivity, and that felt more manageable. I also saw greater success.
During this time, it really sunk in for me that every single day, we are given the opportunity to start over. We get a fresh beginning. We were designed to rely on God daily for our needs of that day. Think of the manna that rained down from heaven in Exodus 16. The Israelites were instructed to gather enough for the day. If they collected more, the next morning it was full of maggots. They needed to relax and trust God for his provision, again and again, rather than taking control themselves and squirreling their resources away.
When we approach 365 days at once, as a full package that we throw away if we have a bad evening, we are working against how we operate as humans. We are forfeiting the measures offered to help us be successful.
It is incredibly unrealistic to decide that, “Tomorrow I am going to wake up and completely change my habits and patterns. For good. This will be a permanent change.” If perfection was that easy, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus to come to earth, both fully human and fully divine, to be crucified on our behalf. In this way, our expectations of ourselves can be higher than God’s expectations of us. We’re not going to hit our target by saying “perfection or nothing.”
Even if they’re unhealthy, we like rhythms, we have our patterns, and we have them for reasons: we find comfort in them from stress or past trauma. They are truly habitual and therefore hard to change. We may even like aspects of them, because they make us feel safe and loved in some way. They serve us in one way while harming us in another. For example, eating sweets when stressed can feel like self care in the moment, even though sugar has negative effects on the body and causes potentially unwanted weight gain. A behavior such as this needs a healthy replacement and likely, a support professional.
We were not designed to succeed through mental toughness or iron-clad self-discipline: we were designed to rely on God and others for help in order to persevere in life. I need God’s help through his Spirit to make real changes and I need solid people who will kindly hold me accountable and encourage me forward. I’m not going to get where I want to be on my own.
If we wake up each morning with our goals for behavior change for the day, and we pray for God’s strength to help us, we are acting in alignment with our design. We are relying on God as our daily strength and we are approaching each day as a new opportunity to be more like him.
And never forget: give yourself kindness and grace as you make progress toward change. Yes, this truth is for others, but it’s also for yourself.
Even when we mess up, this approach is a win.
Call to Action:
If you’ve made resolutions:
a. Are you taking a daily approach that allows room for growth and struggles?
b. Have you invited God into your goal setting and achievement plan?
c. Have you considered reasons for this area of struggle and any missing supports
in order to move forward, such as a support professional or a healthy
replacement for the undesirable behavior?
2. If you haven’t made resolutions:
a. Consider making a goal. Just approach it with the guidance above. It’s good to
recognize areas of growth and to seek change!