More than ever this year it seems that New Year’s resolutions are getting a bad rap. People talk about how resolutions distract you from what’s really important or they are disillusioning when we can’t keep them up all year. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that resolutions done right are like lifeguards.
Before you decide to leave your resolutions at the door this year, consider 4 aspects of this age-old tradition:
1. Resolutions can Rescue you
There is something invigorating about having a fresh start. Though we already know in our rational mind that every day is new, New Year’s Day has 365 fresh starts packed into one! We get a blank calendar; we change the numbers at the end of the date; we remember doing this last year and marvel at how fast the days have gone by… It’s a new year, and sometimes that’s what we need: to be new. Sometimes we just want a do-over. New Year’s is the perfect time to decide to break away and begin again. By it’s fresh nature, New Year’s can rescue us from the rut we’re in.
2. Resolutions Help you Focus
What else happens automatically at New Year’s? We think about the year gone by. It’s hard not to evaluate how we spent our time and what we should have done differently. “Wow! Another year already? I thought I’d be farther along on that side project… I thought I’d finish that book…” Without making this reflection useful by turning it into a resolution, it is oh-so-easy to get wrapped up in how hopeless we are. Ultimately we will never be perfect, and there are some things we can’t change, but a life without purpose, without goals, is adrift. We don’t get anything worthwhile accomplished if we can’t stay focused. So resolutions help us focus on at least one thing we can control.
3. Resolutions can Encourage you
Resolutions done right are actually achievable. Achieving a goal brings the next goal that much closer. If we just say, “I wish I was thinner,” that is a never-ending target. Instead when we say, “I want to lose 5 pounds this month,” that’s a goal we can achieve! And after we check that off the list, we could go for another 5, or maybe even use our experience to try for a bigger goal. I don’t know about you, but I have many times given up on a huge goal because I don’t see any progress. For example, I wanted to read the Bible in a year and got so far behind by February, I stopped altogether. The next year, when I realized how quickly I had fallen into old habits, I made a different type of resolution: I would read the Bible every day for 21 days (that’s supposedly how long it takes to form a habit). If I broke the streak, I tried again, and when I finally gained 21 days in a row, I tried for another. The right resolution reinforces our choices to change.
4. Resolutions Inspire Others
One of the best by-products of setting goals is getting others involved. If you achieve it alone, you inspire others to give it a try. If you bring others along for the ride, you help each other get it done, and you make relationships stronger on the way. Maybe you are hesitant to set a goal by yourself, afraid to fail. Find someone willing to go in on it with you, and you’ll be way more likely to succeed. But you win either way: change achieved, or friendship received. How many times have we been encouraged to see others defy incredible odds or achieve a dream? Perhaps in a small way, we can help others, too.
Tips to Make Resolutions that Last:
Now these principles apply only to the right kind of resolution. Remember the difference between “I wanna be thinner,” and “I wanna lose 5 pounds?” If you have ways to help others make resolutions that last, please share them in the comments below. For a great summary by a friend of mine, visit 9 Actions You Must Take to Reach Your Biggest Goals. And Part 2.