Many of us will turn the corner into 2023 full of ambition and expectation. According to some of the latest statistics 38.5% of adult Americans will commit to a New Year’s resolution with only 9% of us seeing that resolution to the end of the year. If we’re honest, often times, we are not surprised by these numbers. Many of us have made resolutions that were more like hopes than something we actually had a way of achieving. Perhaps we can admit we didn’t really expect to achieve some of our loftier goals but had rather treated them like the proverbial ‘dangling carrot’ to help create some motivation. While some of the reasons we are not successful in achieving our resolutions may certainly be that we have overshot our expectations other factors may simply be that we are trying to change too many things at once. Is there truly an art to a good New Year’s resolution?
I feel the best place to start is to make the right kind of goals for the right reason to begin with. We can begin by taking inventory. Be honest. Make sure to set goals that fit your season of life. Try to envision what the ideal day would be like and then plan for the worst-case scenario. It can be helpful to establish a baseline to work from and maintain. Don’t settle for something without asking if it makes sense. Whatever your goals may be, don’t forget to involve God in your goal making. Ask Him what things He would like you to focus on.
The majority of New Year’s resolutions have to do with health, fitness, or losing weight. It’s not a bad thing to want to be healthier but count the cost. We often make resolutions that are extremely improbable only to hold on to the guilt of not completing them. When we think about yearly goals we could be accepting an idea that is too shallow or too harsh to be truly beneficial.
We want to think of our goals in three parts; the main intent, routines associated with it, and the habits we hope to establish. Goals will naturally telescope, whether it’s a specific or general objective, into all the little details of life. Your goals may be project based, they could be personal or professional, even purely numerical yet the seemingly mundane details that surround each goal will still matter.
I think it is important to identify what the ultimate desire or intent truly is within a goal. What do I wish to achieve beyond the routines that I will need to build? What is it that sits beyond the habits I may be personally trying to practice? What is my true motivation for all of it? You may find that your usual goals are rather self-centered. You may find that, in truth, you’re really only seeking the approval of others. It is a slippery thing to unwittingly feed an unhealthy relationship, obsession, or fear by grounding it in a personal goal. Yet, it is something we have all likely done at some point in our lives. Too often goals are symptomatic of other issues like low self-worth or a need for approval, attention, or praise. We may claim otherwise but, it is easy to look for value in the way others treat us or view us. So many struggle with anxiety and a lack of confidence, others fear the loss of relationships or status. Regretfully, many people will tie these issues to something physical—like a number on a scale. Identifying our fears is a great first step in diagnosing the intent of our hearts.
After establishing a healthy goal, take a look at your routine. What needs to change in order to achieve the goal? Should you wake earlier, set up some accountability, move apps around on your phone, or simply set an alarm. The idea is to make it as easy as you can to follow through with your goal and self-impose difficulties to the contrary.
Which brings up the issue of planning ahead. Look at your past experiences and identify the times and places where your goals were derailed. What can you do to offset temptation? What is the best way to get back on track after a disruption? There will always be things that come up, so plan for them.
The goal need not be perfection, but continuous gains. Often times, we take three steps forward with one step back and completely discredit any growth that we see because we did not live up to our own ideal. Plan simple, small, consistent steps to your goal and celebrate along the way. Know that there will be difficult days, times when things will not go according to plan. Work your plan “B”, have a contingency, and modify when absolutely necessary but keep going.
If you continue to struggle, use accountability as incentive. Find someone who will be encouraging. Make it fun. If it’s something you want to do you will do it. All goals have their strength in the everyday going ons of our routines and rituals. Discipline is the most powerful of teammates! Routine is where we live and from it much is done or wasted.
I have heard it said, “We can’t always be blooming, but we can always be growing.” To me, this means we can truly appreciate the “in between” times, the “not yet” in our journey, and the parts of our story that actually develop character and require effort.
Let’s celebrate the fact that we are growing even when it may look as though we have stalled. If at some point you fail at a goal, remember your worth is not in your productivity or efforts. Your worldly successes and failures do not define who you are in the eyes of God. Rest in God’s grace and know you are wholly loved. If life right now is slow or uncomfortable, if you have been called into a season of hardship, or some other unforeseen pause; take heart. Remember, there is a season for everything under heaven. There is a difference between making good goals by establishing appropriate routines and wishing for what’s “more” outside of God’s timing. Let us not be ones to push through with our own agendas in our own strength to fulfill some longing we were never meant to satisfy. Let us not try to fulfill even good desires in ungodly ways. It will never be soul satisfying if it is done in our own power and strength.
You may be aware that during the warm weathered months all trees grow buds and new leaves for the next spring. God gives these buds a special covering that keeps them from opening during the cold. In the spring the bud’s scales fall off and the leaves begin to grow again. At this time, having been established, the buds excel rapidly. As difficult as it can be, we are not in control. While we may be able to see what we have hidden away inside of us, it does not automatically mean it is our time to sprout. If we do not heed God‘s timing we will languish on the vine. It will be as if we are trying to bloom in the middle of winter.
You may long to shed your scales but remember God’s wisdom and protection in pausing the leaves to wait out the winter’s cold. That which you regard as suffocating may truly be a blessing in disguise. If you are in a season where your scales have not yet fallen off, be encouraged that with God waiting is not a passive activity. You can cherish a season of waiting, because in faith, we know that God is at work. By faith we know God provides. We can know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that when the time is right all things will fall into place and we will be able to bloom in God’s ordained abundance. But there is a time to wait.
Buds will not all burst forth together. Some buds will open early, others will wait until later in the season, but each according to God’s plan. We can’t rush it. We can’t expect our lives to follow perfectly after our peers. We cannot compare our lives to the lives of others. God’s call to each of us is unique. Treat it as such. Focus on Christ and trust His direction. Follow hard after Him in every season and you will not be disappointed. Let God lead you in the goals that are appropriate for you right now and use your goals, your hopes, and dreams as an offering. Trust God to fulfill your heartfelt needs and desires. He knows you perfectly and loves you beyond comprehension. Only God brings the harvest.
Written by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.