Resolutions. They’re a secular tradition but most of us have had a brush with them at some point, promising to make an effort at self-improvement or to—at the very least—become a nicer person in the coming months. I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with resolutions over the years. Mostly off.
I could pretend I’m super spiritual and tell you it’s because I spend my days deep in prayer and make a regular habit of looking inward and asking the Lord to reveal what I need to work on. But it wouldn’t be true, although I wish it were.
No, my reasons are much more shallow, and I have a hunch I’m not alone.
Why I don’t make resolutions, summarized in three simple points.
1. I’m cynical
I’ve been here before…making resolutions. Resolutely resolving to be different this year. To break the bad habits and create good ones. To be better than I was, to commit to an idea longer than a few months. To make good on my promises. Only to break them and fail miserably, now not only having to deal with the sting of failure, but the guilt of it. Do I really want to endure the bad feelings again?
2. I’m afraid of commitment
Wait a second, the resolution lasts for a whole year? I don’t know…that’s a long time. Maybe I’ll try it out for a couple weeks and see how it goes. Or better yet, maybe I’ll work up to it…think about it for a few months and then slowly engage in my resolution mid-summer. You know, when I know better what’s in store for the year.
3. I’m used to instant gratification
Let’s be honest, we’re more Mr. Noodles than “make it from scratch” people these days. Well at least I am. And resolutions are a lot of work! Breaking a bad habit? That takes at least a month. Maybe more! And keeping resolutions? That’s hard work! And it’s thankless! And boring! Maybe if resolutions paid off quicker I’d be more motivated to make them.
Reviewing my excuses and comparing them against what the Bible says leaves me compelled to revise my stance on resolutions. True, the practice is secularized, but the concept is biblical. Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD” (NASB).
Maybe the real reason I don’t like making resolutions is because it forces me to acknowledge how sinful I still am. It’s much easier to ignore the parts I need to work on and live in mediocrity.
A new year is a great time to make a change. Christmastime often sets our minds and hearts back on track. We think of the reason we’re all here, the incredible sacrifice Christ made on our behalf, and then we compare it with the way we’ve lived for the past 12 months. And then we feel fresh inspiration to live our life more meaningfully. With more gratitude. And with less excuses.
I’ve done some research on setting resolutions and have a few tips I’m going to implement in order to maximize my chances of keeping them.
- Make realistic goals. Often I set lofty resolutions without creating a plan on how to accomplish them. If I can make a plan it will help me recognize if my goals are realistic or not
- Ask God for help. It’s so obvious but I know I spend more time trying to keep my resolutions on my own strength and forgetting all about God
- Be positive. If I make resolutions assuming I’ll fail then I’m sure to fail. If I set goals trusting God to help me reach them I have a much better chance of succeeding
If I take an honest look at my life asking God what needs improving, what needs eliminating, and what needs adding, resolutions become a wonderful opportunity to see God’s blessing in my life. I think my stance on resolutions is changing.