The New Year has come and gone once again.
How are you feeling?
For many of us, January 1st means New Year’s resolutions – an opportunity to think about things that we want to change in the year to come.
In the United States, there are a few perennial New Year’s resolutions, common commitments made by many people each and every year:
Lose weight / Get in shape
Save money / Pay off debt
Go back to school
Take a dream vacation
Ever enamored with technology, we’ve even got our iPhones in on the action with apps to help our New Year’s resolutions stick.
There’s a wonderful sense of possibility that comes with each New Year – an opportunity to get wrong things right. But for many, the sense of possibility quickly melds into frustration, disenchantment, and even despair…
Because we inevitably fall short of our ideals.
Our self-discipline only takes us so far and runs out in the midst of life’s minutia. The apps on our smart phones are not the magic bullet we hope they will be, and we turn off alarms, disable notifications, and ignore reminders. Notably, this tendency existed long before the Information Age:
“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week, you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” – Mark Twain
This reality causes some people to take a pessimistic view of New Year’s resolutions or resolutions in general. It’s now February, and perhaps you’ve already come to this place. Either way, take heart – I think there’s a way to embrace the sense of possibility that accompanies the New Year while also being realistic about life.
Do you ever feel there are simply too few hours in a day?
A few weeks ago, I heard about a very interesting USA Today survey of experts in the fields of health and fitness, relationships, parenting, personal finance, etc.
Each expert was asked to describe the bottom line, minimal daily time commitment necessary for success in his or her respective area of expertise (e.g., what amount of time does a person need to commit to exercise, managing finances, parenting, etc… every day). The experts’ recommendations were added together to tabulate the total number of hours per day necessary to manage life’s priorities.
The answer: 36 hours… per day.
No wonder it’s hard to make New Year’s resolutions stick – we’ve got our hands full just trying to maintain the good habits we’ve already established!
For many of us, a day comes when we let our good intentions succumb to pragmatism. The choice happens in a moment, after the sheen of the New Year has faded. But the truth is that the ‘newness’ that energizes and inspires us to create New Year’s resolutions is there for us each and every day.
“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
It starts with how we understand ‘newness.’
Here’s where I engage my faith… If you’re not a Christian, just bear with me. I think there are insights here for you too!
According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, when someone becomes a Christian, he or she becomes a brand new person inside. What’s old has gone and something new has begun. But get this: In the Greek, this passage is written in the continuous, present perfect tense. In other words, every moment what’s ‘new’ is even newer.
Wrap your mind around that!
It implies something that’s very freeing to those of us who frequently fall short of our resolutions: The key is not getting your act together and being more disciplined – it’s embracing a robust grace that fosters ‘newness.’
As a Christian, I understand this grace as God’s unmerited favor, which I accept as a gift that I did not and cannot earn. Because God has grace for me, I have grace for myself as well.
Enjoy newness, every new day again.
With an eye toward ‘robust’ grace, it’s possible to embrace newness and maintain the sense of possibility that accompanies the New Year while also being realistic about life.
I think there are four considerations:
1) Start with the right expectations
We often set goals with unrealistic and uninformed expectations about the results we want to achieve and what it will take to achieve them. New Year’s resolutions are no exception. In order to give yourself the best chance of success, make sure you understand what you hope to accomplish.
2) Celebrate victories, and defeats
If you’re making progress, you will experience failure. Embrace it. Perfection is not required to make New Year’s resolutions stick, but humility is. Let failure teach you to play to your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. Then get back in the game!
3) Count your blessings
No matter what your faith or religious tradition, no matter what your current situation, you have many blessings in your life – so cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It’s one of the most effective ways to combat negativity, resentment, or any other bad attitude that could otherwise threaten your potential and undermine your New Year’s resolutions.
4) Keep looking forward
With each breath, you have an opportunity to live an intentional life, exercise positive influence in the lives of those around you, and embrace your God-given potential. When life overwhelms your resolve, give yourself a break. Take some time to reflect on your experience and develop insight. Then start anew the following day.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” – Albert Einstein