Q. Each New Year's Eve I make a number of New Year’s resolutions. No matter how hard I try, I only keep them for a few weeks. There are many things I would like to change about myself and my life but I don’t seem to be able to make any lasting changes. Why is it so hard to keep resolutions? How can I reach my goals?
A. The beginning of a New Year is a good time to focus on setting priorities for our lives. The end of one year and the beginning of another makes us pause and think about the direction of our life and our relationships. In order to make New Year resolutions that you will keep do the following:
1. Discover your essential priorities. We all have priorities. What are yours? Too often we don’t think about our priorities. We allow circumstances or other people in our lives to push us in one direction or another. What do you really want in life? A high priority has first claim on our time, energy and resources. We will do anything even sacrifice other needs or interests, in order to achieve a high priority.
For Christians our highest priority is glorifying God and his church. Our next priorities are our closest relationships – spouse, children, parents, in that order. Our work is a priority of necessity, but comes after God and family. Our health is also a priority. Our New Year resolutions will flow from these high priorities. Pray about God’s will for the coming year. He will guide you in choosing resolutions and keeping them.
Authentic priorities are those things we value, love, believe in, and want for ourselves and others. We are more likely to keep a resolution that is consistent with our values, interests, and beliefs. We have enthusiasm, energy and motivation to work for the things we love, the things we enjoy and the things we truly want. Don’t make resolutions you think you “should” make. Make resolutions you want to make. Make resolutions you know are God’s will for you.
2. Raise your expectations of yourself. If you set a New Year resolution that you don’t really believe you can achieve, then you won’t reach it. Watch out for “I can’t” messages you give yourself. Look at the obstacles to your goal as a challenge. In order to change we must stretch and grow. Trust God to help you with this.
3. Focus on the positive and put your resolutions in writing. Make certain that you word your resolutions specifically and positively. For example, “I want to stop procrastinating” would be better worded, “I will do things on time.” Writing down a goal convinces the rebellious or self-sabotaging parts of our personality that we really mean business.
4. Be willing to take risks. Be willing to go through pain, struggle, and uncertainty. We resist change because it feels uncomfortable - even a change for the better. Our old ruts are more familiar. Change can bring some anxiety. And change involves effort. Often we fail at our resolutions because we are lazy or fearful. Be intentional and determined.
5. Take small steps toward each goal and note your progress weekly or at least monthly. Celebrate every step you take toward keeping your resolutions and praise God for these. This will reinforce your determination and increase your confidence.
I hope these ideas help you set and keep your New Year resolutions this year.
“I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping my eye on you.” Psalm 32:8 NIV