It’s January and that means it’s resolution time. I read that this habit dates back as far as the Roman World which means we have a long history of January goal-setting. The top New Year Resolutions, according to a recent poll are: (say it with me) 1. Lose weight. 2. Get fit(ter). 3. Eat healthier. 4. Take better care of my appearance. 5. See more of friends and family. (Source: YouGov poll). But researchers also tell us approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.
Setting overly ambitious goals or allowing small failures to sabotage success are among the many reasons only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. Also, we usually focus on goals or tasks that we haven’t been able to achieve over the past year. “You are making it your New Year’s goal because you keep failing at it,” says Tim Pychyl, a psychologist at Carelton University in Ottawa. These resolutions are more about intentions than actual action.
“Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is absolutely no power in intention. The seagull may intend to fly away, may decide to do so, may talk with the other seagulls about how wonderful it is to fly, but until the seagull flaps his wings and takes to the air, he is still on the dock. There’s no difference between that gull and all the others. Likewise, there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place.” – Andy Andrews, The Noticer
So what’s the answer if good intentions and resolutions mean that most of us fail by the end of the month? There’s a big difference between intentions and being intentional.
Here’s another approach: Rather than making grandiose goals, think of doing things “better” this coming year. That’s why I think a better approach to the new year is to look for ways to do “better”.
1. Better is a process, not an outcome.
Better is about becoming, not arriving. Better is not tied to a time. It is a resolve to improve. We tend to make New Year’s resolutions too rigid! “I’m going to lose 50 pounds!” or “I’m going to work out 5 times a week.” The problem is that when we fail, we stop. We never have to stop getting better, right?
For example, as Christians, we are becoming more like Christ. The Apostle Paul writes that we are becoming” more and more like him” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our Christian walk is just that – a step by step relationship, not a destination (see 1 John 1:7).
2. Better is positive, not negative.
New Year’s resolutions tend to try to fix a problem. In fact, we make them because we are failing at something. It is much better to see how we can be better at something. I know I may be playing with words, but improving an area in our lives seems much more doable than an entire overall.
Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Instead of setting out a hard-and-fast end goal, better allows us to learn along the way.
3. Better is realistic, not idealistic.
Whether we are intentional, self-disciplined, and task-oriented or tolerant, unassuming, and content, we can all improve. Better allows us to admit we haven’t yet arrived and reminds us of where we’d like to go. Resolutions tend to require perfection. Better leaves room for improvement, even failure. Seth Godin put it this way, “Start small, start now! This is much better than, ‘start big, start later.’ One advantage is that you don’t have to start perfect. You can merely start.”
We all can do better by starting to do what we know is right and good! I love the promise found in Galatians 6:9: “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit” (The Message).
Before You Go…
For the next few blogs, I’ll be sharing some areas we can and should be better at in 2018. However, I’m curious, what areas do you want to do better this coming year? I’d love to hear from you!