It is that time of the year where many people are making a new commitment to save money, get fit, or read that book that has been sitting on the shelf since Christmas of 2008. It is funny how a single number change on a calendar can promote such anticipation for change. What is so different about the number 2016 rather than 2015? Desire . . . a new beginning . . . a fresh start. There is something about the one number changing that has people running to the gym to hit the weights, waking 30 minutes earlier to get in their devotion time, and making a tighter budget to actually save for Christmas next year instead of paying on that credit card bill for 3 months.
Many people make New Year’s resolutions each year. Statistically, these resolutions usually last about 2 weeks. Science tells us that it takes about 4 weeks to create a new habit that sticks. So, what are some ways that we can make it to that 4 week wall and beyond? Like many people, I have made and failed at many resolutions, but this year I am resolved to make them work (see what I did there?). Here are 4 ideas that I believe will help us all to achieve our targets this year.
Have Realistic Goals:
If you are planning on dieting this year, don’t plan on trying to lose 5 pounds a week. While you may lose 5 the first week, once you get into it a month or so that is hard to maintain. It would be better to have a plan to lose 10 pounds in a month, so that if you only lose 3 that first week instead of 5 you do not fall off the wagon. If you decide that you want to read the Bible more, plan on reading 3-5 chapters a day instead of 10-12. If you end up missing a couple of days because you are sick, it is a lot easier to make up 3 chapters than 12. For many people, if they get behind on their resolution, they give up. If you make realistic goals, it is a lot easier to actually stick to them.
Have Others Hold You Accountable:
Maybe you have struggled with pornography. You have decided that this is the year that you put down an Ebenezer stone and look no more. One of the tools that the Lord has given us to help defeat sin is each other. The writer of Proverbs wrote, “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). The Lord has given you brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to bear one another’s burdens. By having someone that is willing to ask you hard questions, pray for you, and encourage you, you can make looking at porn a thing of the past. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to help kill the sin in you, and having good accountability with a godly friend is one of the tools He can use.
Have a Plan to Help in Your Self-discipline:
One of the biggest reasons a person stops pursuing their new resolutions is from a lack of self-discipline (I speak from experience). One of the great things about this is that your self-discipline can grow as you grow closer to God. Self-control, or self-discipline, is the ninth Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If you want to grow in this area, get in the Word, and be conformed to the image of God through it. But until you are there, you need to have a plan. If you want to stop drinking caffeine this year and you know that you always cave when you are around it, do not buy it or have it in your home. Bring a water bottle with you to work so you are not tempted to go to the enticement machine, I mean vending machine, at work for your afternoon pick-me-up. If you know that you lack self-discipline, get into the Word, but also have a plan to escape temptation to begin with.
Have a Daily Prayer Time:
James told his audience, “You have not because you ask not . . .” (James 4). Never underestimate the power of prayer. If you want to lose weight, then pray and ask the Lord to give you strength to overcome that 2:00 PM craving for a candy bar. Do you want to work out and get in shape? Then pray that the Lord will help you get up when that alarm goes off at 5:30 AM and get to the gym. We are not called to lean on ourselves in all things, but rather to take all things to the Lord in prayer (Philippians 4:6) who loves to give good gifts to His children. If you want to keep that New Year’s resolution, one of the best ways to do that is to pray.
Change is hard. It takes work. It takes discipline. However, there is something about having the new date on a new calendar that motivates us to change. That is a good thing. We often need motivation. So this year, here’s hoping that the changes that we are all so excited about the first week of January will last into March, June, and eventually to a lifestyle change. It is my plan to apply these four suggestions this year, and I hope you do as well.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell