I typically do not make New Year’s Resolutions. For years, I would choose a few only to break them after a couple of weeks. I resolved to exercise. I started well. I would have a passion for awhile. Then, I would stop. Or, I would commit to eating better. Less desserts I would tell myself. If I was reasonable (light treat at night) then maybe I would be able to keep it. Yet, eventually, the late night pull would draw me towards the refrigerator for not one or two but three or four scoops of ice cream. When I failed in keeping my resolution, I would feel a sense of failure and defeat. I don’t have the willpower. I just can’t keep these commitments. Then, I would start to wonder why I made them in the first place. “What is wrong with a large snack at night? I am healthy. I don’t need to lose weight. It tastes good so why not go for it.” Or, I would tell myself “I exercise occasionally. Once or twice a week is good enough. I don’t need to be militant about it.” Of course, these are rationalizations. I know it is good to eat better and stay active. In fact, the last year has proven to me that it is necessary. However, this is why I gave up making resolutions. The issue was not the “improvement” needed. Rather, it was the mental wrestling over keeping the commitment or the sense of failure when I didn’t keep it. Resolutions were simply too exhausting.
Rather than make New Year’s Resolutions, I have decided over the past couple of years to pursue some life commitments. These are different than behavioral changes (exercise more, watch less TV, spend more time in prayer, and read the Bible consistently). These are character and priority decisions. They are based on deep values that I hope to foster and radiate in my life. Am I perfect at them? No. Are there days and weeks where I fail miserably at them? Yes. However, I keep coming back to them for a couple of reasons. First, they are decisions of character. Since I desire to be a particular person and there is a deep motivation to be that person, it never fades from my mind. It keeps coming back to me therefore prompting me to keep it. Second, I give myself a degree of grace in them. I embrace my human nature. I realize that I will stumble and fall. I don’t wallow in self-despair when I misstep or feel an urgency to be perfect at it. The result is freedom from the mental gymnastics that plagued me with resolutions. Third, I intentionally connect them to my relationship with Christ. In the past I attempted to keep resolutions in my own strength. Now, I strive to keep the following commitments by drawing strength from God.
So, here are a few of my life resolutions.
- Always do the right thing. When I don’t know what to do about a particular situation, I strive to choose what is right. This way my conscience can be clean about the decision. It might not be easy or free of consequences but I feel good.
- Choose joy. Oh, this is a hard one at times. Frustration. Fatigue. These all fight against it. Yet, in those moments, I take time to pray then ask God to help me choose joy. Almost always He graciously grants it to me. To be honest, life’s too short to be void of joy.
- Resolve issues prayerfully then immediately. Granted, I am a person that likes to deal with conflict straight up. Therefore, the immediacy part is easy. However, I have realized quick attempts at resolution oftentimes fail due to my emotions. So, I am attempting to take time to pray even if only for a minute before dealing with a situation.
- Be thankful. At times, I forget how blessed I am in my life. When my day is filled with moments of thankfulness, it is easier to remember God’s blessings. (Plus it has the added bonus of squelching complaining).
- Go for it. I am always trying new experiences. Life is too short to spend the evening watching TV when you can enjoy an adventure, park, or activity. As this year closes, I am not sitting back saying “this was a good year because I watched every episode of NCIS.” But, I do find great satisfaction in the family outings throughout this past year.
As the old year turns into a new year, I once again plan to make no resolutions. However, I do intend to pursue things that matter for me – commitments that shape me and hopefully transform me more into the image of Christ.