I hate New Year’s resolutions. I hate making them and I cringe when I hear people say, “My New Year’s resolution is to …” Not because they’ve done something wrong, but because only 8% of people who make them stick with them.1 I hate them because it has always seemed a futile goal, an elusive target, a frustrating experience. So, even though I have tried such resolutions off an on over the years, I still don’t like to. However, some people I respect have given me new insight into New Year’s resolutions and I’m going to give it another try. What are the new insights?
One person, talk-show host Dennis Prager, dedicated an hour to this topic recently. The insight I gained by listening to that show is that resolutions should be simple and meaningful. We shoot ourselves in the foot when we make too many resolutions and when they are too grand. “Starting immediately, I resolve to exercise 20-30 minutes per day five days a week” is a great resolution, but also a rather dramatic lifestyle change for the person whose current exercise regimen involves lifting ice cream spoon to mouth for 20 minutes five days a week.
Instead, start simple by focusing on reasonable first steps:
- First week of January: Walk the stairs at work. No elevators.
- Second week of January: Continue walking the stairs. Drink water instead of soft drinks or other unhealthy drinks.
- Third week of January: Continue walking the stairs and drinking water. Walk once around the block right after getting home each day.
- … and so on.
Each change is small and builds on previous success. Focus on one week at a time. You only need to set this week’s goal and know what next week’s goal is. That’s all. By the end of the year (or perhaps even earlier), you might might be up to the 20-30 minutes of full-blown exercise five days per week–but that is not an overnight change.
Keep it simple. Focus on now.
I gained some more wisdom on New Year’s resolutions from Tim Challies’ blog article, “How To Make A New Year’s Resolution That Sticks.” He provides 7 helpful tips:
- Make resolutions, not wishes
- Make just 1 resolution
- Convert your resolutions to habits
- Make a plan
- Share your resolution
- Plan for temptations and setbacks
Each of those tips is helpful, and I encourage you to read Challies’ full explanation of each, but for me the most helpful points were to keep it simple and to take action. Make one resolution that is close to your heart. Put a plan to it.
I also liked his point to share your resolution with other people.
So I’m doing that right now: My 2015 resolution is to spend time in God’s Word and writing about my what I learn every day.
That’s it–just one resolution.
It’s simple. It is a 10-15 minute per day commitment. It’s not an overwhelming stretch because I already do this an average of 3-4 days per week. Once this is a daily habit, I can build on it by adding in 1-day per week for an hour of in-depth study.
Hold me accountable. I know that many of my friends read this article. I give you (as well as people I don’t know), to ask me how I’m doing: “Scott, what insights did you write in your journal from today’s scripture reading?” Do it, please.
Before I wrap up, I want to point you to one more resource on resolutions. My 2012 article on the same has some points that are still relevant today, and that fit nicely with the content above. Take a few moments to read “Why Most People Fail at Keeping Resolutions.”
Update: February 14, 2015
As of today, I’ve fulfilled this resolution 35 days straight. It’s a pleasure to report that I now have a desire, a hunger, to get into scripture and reflect on it in my journal daily.
Update: March 27, 2015
As of today, I’ve fulfilled this resolution 96 days straight. My hunger for the word continues and I look forward to daily times in scripture and reflecting on it in my journal. I see differences in how I look at people and situations. The Holy Spirit is transforming me.
Update: May 30, 2015
This will be my final update on this post. In the past 150 days, I’ve missed a few days of my reading and journaling activity. No more than 5. Have I failed? No. Far from it. In fact, I discovered an important victory in missing a few days. The first day that I missed, was a tremendous insight for me. On that day I had allowed daily events to get in the way of my commitment. At first, I was frustrated at the prospect of breaking my streak. Then it hit me: I was more frustrated about breaking the streak than about not spending time in God’s Word. If that was my motivation, it wasn’t right. So I let go and focused instead on my desire to get back into the Word the next morning.
So, if you’re going to set a resolution and commit to it, make sure you have the right motivation for doing so!
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo by author.
1: “23 New Year’s Resolution Statistics to Kickstart 2015.” Rebecca Lake. Retrieved January 4, 2015 from http://www.creditdonkey.com/new-years-resolution-statistics.html.