As we approach another new year, I can’t help but wonder why it is that people set resolutions but tend to ditch them by the end of January. Do we set ourselves up for failure by making unrealistic resolutions?
It’s human nature to find ourselves wanting to make improvements for one reason or another. But change is hard. It takes an incredible amount of work. And sometimes I think we don’t really carefully think out the steps it will take to achieve the end results we desire.
How to Make Real Changes in the New Year
As I consider this topic, I propose non-resolution goals. In other words, I propose another approach to making changes in the new year.
As many of my readers are aware, I love to refer to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. So, let’s see what Mr. Webster’s definition is for resolution:
Firstly, “Fixed purpose or determination of mind; as a resolution to reform our lives; a resolution to undertake an expedition.”
And secondly, “The effect of fixed purpose; firmness, steadiness or constancy in execution, implying courage.”
Does it make a difference if we call it “making resolutions” vs. “making changes”? Well, let’s also turn to Mr. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary to define change.
Firstly, “To cause to turn or pass from one state to another; to alter, or make different; to vary in external form, or in essence; as to change the heart or life.
Secondly,”To put one thing in the place of another; to shift; as, to change the clothes.”
And thirdly, I’d like to highlight, “To give and take reciprocally; as, will you change conditions with me?”
Now, those are all definitions of change as a verb. But I’d also like to highlight a verb intransitive definition:
“To be altered; to undergo variation; as, men sometimes change for the better, often for the worse.”
Asking the Tough Questions
While resolutions aren’t evil, what is it about them that makes it so hard to follow through? Perhaps it comes down to the mindset we embrace. When it comes to the idea of resolutions that we fail time after time, we can ask:
- Is my determination dependent upon my own strength?
- Do I struggle with consistency because I’m trying to be a “better version of myself?”
When it comes to change, we can ask:
- Where do I need a change in my heart?
- Do I truly want to change?
- Am I honestly making the decision to change from rag garments to new ones?
- Will I “give and take reciprocally” with Christ so that He may change conditions with me? After all, He did take on my sins so that I may be set free.
- Am I trying to alter myself on my own? Or am I running into the arms of Christ for the internal changes that I need?
Tricky Hang Ups
Sometimes, despite our best attempts to hand things over to Christ, we struggle. But why? Here are some suggestions to consider:
- Am I busy living in the past? If so, here’s a helpful quote from a Toby Mac #speaklife meme: “You can’t restart the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.”
- Am I trying to be a better version of myself? If so, is there a problem with this? Here’s a quote by Bob Goff to ponder: “Our problem with following Jesus is we’re trying to be a better version of us rather than a more accurate reflection of Him.”
Handing it Over to God
I’d like to encourage you with another thoughtful quote from a Toby Mac #speaklife meme: “You can’t expect God to fix what you won’t hand over to Him.”
Whatever it is that we want to change, it begins internally. And part of that is handing it over to our Heavenly Father. Once we change internally, it then naturally follows that we’ll see changes externally.
It really does come down to surrendering to Christ whatever it is that we want to change. It’s like we’re saying, “Lord Jesus, I give you my weak or sinful areas. In exchange, change me to reflect You.”
The Role of Self-Governance
I’ve talked before about how self-government is the key to the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Remember the Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
Being fallen by nature, we can’t govern ourselves very well. To be sure, we need Christ to govern in and through us. And we know that we can trust Him to give us the strength to change what needs changing.
This. This is when we go from failed resolutions of “trying to be better versions of ourselves” to change because of reflecting Christ via self-governance in and through Him.
My One Word
For the past few years, rather than set new year’s resolutions, I have chosen a word, as well as a Scripture verse, to guide my year. Based on the book by Mike Ashcraft, My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word, I first pray and then choose this word.
The concept of My One Word is simple. Lose the long list of resolutions―all your sweeping promises to change―and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result.
This year, the word God laid so strongly on my heart is wholehearted.
Showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment.
Along with this word, the Scripture that will guide 2019 for me is from the book of Jeremiah:
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:13
I’m not sure what 2019 holds for me; I suspect some major changes are coming. But I do know I want to attack the coming year with my whole heart. My sincerest desire is that any goals set and achieved, or changes made, reflect Christ in me, and not just me trying to become a better version of myself.