Years ago, to encourage a dear friend who radically adjusted his diet due to cancer, I resolved to eat nothing but fruits and vegetables for a year. (Full disclosure: I allowed myself one “cheat day” a month, and I took liberal advantage of that day!) I didn’t fully realize how difficult that resolution would be to keep, but it lasted 17 months. Other resolutions throughout the years… not so much.
In the next couple of weeks, millions of well-intentioned people will formulate New Year’s resolutions. Health club establishments, diet pill manufacturers, exercise equipment retailers and scores of other merchants will cash in on decisions. Then February or March will preside over the burial of these barely adolescent resolutions; that is, until they are once again exhumed in late December.
Sound familiar? But why does a resolution typically have such a short shelf life?
Because we foolishly believe that we can resolve results. (We can only resolve specific actions.)
“I’m going to lose 20 pounds.” “I will read through the entire Bible this year.” “I will not smoke cigarettes anymore.” “I will organize the garage.” “I’m not drinking soda (or pop for my carbonation challenged friends).”
Noble goals, all of them, but impossible to accomplish. Each of these statements is a goal, not an activity. They are analogous to saying, “I want to win the ball game.” Of course, you do! We all desire beneficial results. But simply identifying a preferable outcome resembles more of a wish than a resolution.
Bluntly ask yourself these questions: What daily/weekly choices will help you reach your goal? When will you do them? Who will hold you accountable for accomplishing them? When and how will you measure your progress?
So instead of saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” perhaps your resolution would be more effectively worded this way: “I resolve not to snack after dinner anymore. I further resolve to take a 25 minute walk each weekday morning at 6:30. I will text my friend John at 7:00 each morning to report whether I have accomplished these daily.”
Simplistic? Maybe. Effective? Definitely.
Because we tolerate our own unacceptable behavior far too readily.
Think about this for a moment. The simple fact that we are willing to wait until January to develop new habits is itself a tacit admission that we are willing to tolerate our unacceptable behavior a bit longer! You might want to read that last sentence again.
And if the behavior is inherently sinful, our procrastination to quit it—regardless of how sincerely or relatively soon we intend to do so—is really nothing more than rebellion and stubbornness. Repentance is one’s present and pressing obligation, not an unpalatable event to be calendarized later.
A resolution that is not important enough to make today will unlikely be compelling enough for me to keep next year.
Because we settle for lesser motivations in the making and fulfilling of our resolutions.
Why are you resolving to start or quit ______________?
Look better? Feel better? Be smarter? Get stuff? Accomplish more?
Until our resolutions are pre-soaked by a God-consciousness and the consequent sobriety that inevitably results, they will lack the best incentive to keep them. Our lives belong to God. Our daily choices matter. Our time is rapidly passing.
Resolutions should betray our motivation to please God, both in the way we steward our bodies for His glory and in our heart’s pursuit to know Him better.
And I don’t want to wait until January 1st to begin that.