Tim and I went out for coffee on Sunday so we could have The Talk. You know the one. What’s not working. What needs to change. How it’ll all be different come 12:00 a.m. on January 1, 2014.
Actually, we stopped short of making New Year’s resolutions, which are typically (for us) no more substantial than grade-school valentines. Instead, we took reams of copious notes on our little yellow notepad. Serious notes. Grown-up, business-of-life stuff. Like this:
I think that last one had something to do with Tim’s priorities. But it fell short of capturing the essence of his point, so he drew this as a follow-up:
I’m not sure what the upside-down butcher knife and Middle-Earth-style money symbol mean, but I’ll be honest – they make me nervous.
In all seriousness, we had a good talk. The areas we need to work on are likely common among many of your families: balancing work and family time, eating better and exercising more (or at all), making wiser choices with our budget, deepening relationship with our neighbors.
I could go on. There’s more packed into those doodles than you’d think. We are determined to make changes, make no mistake. But it seems premature to set out toward a goal without having a plan for overcoming the rough patches we’ll hit along the way.
What makes a resolution stick? That’s the question we’re still asking ourselves on January 2 (and, by the way, it only took until lunchtime for me to break my quasi-resolution to eat “healthy”). It’s not willpower, because I’ve tried that and it inevitably turns into won’t-power. And it’s not motivation, because that fades as fast as a tan in winter.
The business gurus will tell you it’s about setting long-term and short-term goals, which certainly helps. A good plan, along with a heaping dose of willpower and Zig Zilgar-esque motivation will probably get you through, say, March. But what about the other nine months of the year? What about next year? Is there a missing element that can prevent us from approaching January 1, 2015 with the very same failures and resolutions we’re carrying into this year?
The answer to that question might be different for everyone, but these are the essential elements we’ve postulated for successful, lasting change:
1. Team approach. If we’re not doing it together, it won’t work. The change needs to involve our entire family, or at least Tim and I. If I have individual changes to make (i.e., writing-related goals), I need Tim’s accountability and support, and vice versa.
2. Custom-fit. Every family, every person, is different. Introverts vs. extroverts, adventurers vs. homebodies, night owls vs. early risers. It’s good to stretch out of our comfort zones now and then, but we can’t stretch out of our DNA. Resolutions should consider our emotional make-up and seek to strengthen the gifts God has given us.
3. Spiritually grounded. I don’t know about you, but with every passing year the brevity of life settles deeper into my psyche. I’m tired of spending so much time, money, effort, and emotion on things that don’t last. So if I’m going to get into shape, it’s going to be about equipping myself for greater service, not looking good in jeggings (curse them). If I’m going to spend less on non-essentials, it’s going to be so I can invest more in areas of need. For every area of change, I’m asking myself “Why? Why is this important in the realm of eternity?” If I can’t think of an answer, I’ll re-think the necessity of that change.
Independent. Paul wasn’t kidding when he said “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Nor was God pulling Paul’s leg when he said, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” What is impossible with man is possible with God. I can tell you, it’s impossible for me exchange cookie dough and Netflix for the treadmill and worship music. But it’s not impossible for God to change my sugar-loving heart. To say, “I could never give that up” is to say, “God can’t change me.” Not true. The key is dependence instead of independence. If we want lasting change, we need to look outside ourselves. Willpower only works if it’s rooted in His power, not ours.
What are your New Year’s resolutions, and how do you
make them stick? Please share!