Many of us have the annual tradition of setting resolutions to welcome in the New Year. Although most of those resolutions are soon forgotten, even as quickly as the end of the week, and most certainly by the end of the month, most of us continue to set them year after year. A quick perusal of early January journal entries from several years running may find us disappointed to learn that we keep setting the same goals, only to fail or forget them almost before the ink is dry.
How does this happen? Even if we set out with good intentions, day-by-day life happens. We skip a day of eating right or taking that fifteen minute walk we told ourselves we would faithfully do. We get distracted from scripture study or reading about a career path we’d like to pursue. We promise ourselves that tomorrow we will make the time or choices that will set us back on the path we promised, only to find that tomorrow never comes.
How can we change this pattern? How came we set resolutions that we can actually keep, ones that will move us forward on the path of self-actualization, the realization of our own true potential?
Picking the right goals is important to the process. Dr. Mike Murdock teaches, “Intolerance of your present creates your future.” We have to ask ourselves about the things we tolerate before we can honestly make a change in our patterns of behaviors that have led us where we are. Allowing ourselves to fluctuate between two clothing sizes doesn’t provide true motivation to stick with a lifestyle of healthier living. Fear of change will prevent us from moving forward with a new career, even to the point of stopping us from reading books or taking classes in the subject. Realizing that some of our friends or even family members are toxic to our emotional or spiritual well being, and that they must either change or be distanced from our lives gives us the power to move forward. Until we face what we can no longer tolerate and make the hard decisions to create a new future, we will be stuck in the same ruts we’ve long been walking.
Of course, the goals we make must be realistic. We may find it more helpful to master a set of smaller goals, rather than aiming toward the end. Of course it would be great to drop that extra 50 pounds, but it may take months to accomplish, and the journey can be discouraging. As a writer, I have goals to finish a manuscript, but I know I cannot write 70,000 words in a day. The process will take some time. Getting out of debt sounds like a wonderful idea, but draining your resources dry every month will cause more distress than chipping away at those credit card bills a smaller chunk at a time.
I find it is better to set specific goals. When goals are vague you never feel like you accomplish anything. Being debt free is too vague. Paying off one credit card before tackling the balance of another allows you to see that having and maintaining a zero balance can be done. Those 50 pounds come off easier than saying I want to be thin, no matter how daunting the number 50 might seem. Writing a novel at 500 words a day gets you more progress than telling people you want to write a novel someday. Sitting around for years complaining about how dissatisfied with your job will only make you miserable, and could lead to getting you fired, but taking steps toward improving your education could lead you to an even better position, even if it’s only within the same company. As we read in Mosian 4:27, “It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength . . . All things must be done in order.” Setting smaller goals takes us toward the possibly, without making the journey impossible.
Of course we will continue to face difficulties and challenges along the way, but those are often the places we learn the most. Robert G. Allen shares, “I learned the most profound life lessons, from my own challenges; they are some of my core lessons in life.” As the Chinese proverb states, “If you get up one more time than you fall you will make it through.”
But that resolution to keep getting up and to make the change has to come from you. Michael Jackson told us if we’re going to change the world, we have to start with the “Man in the Mirror,” and that’s the same place we have to start to make the changes within ourselves. Get up one more time, break our goals into manageable steps, and choose goals that are worth are worth fighting for, and with the help of the Lord, we will make it through.