27 December 2021

New year's habits

Tim Alford suggests some resolutions as the New Year approaches. 

The turn of the year is upon us, and with the start of the year comes New Year's Resolutions.

All of us will read those three words in different ways.

Some of us will roll our eyes. Some will feel a pang of regret at all the resolutions we made last year but didn’t see through.

Others will be wondering why we wait for a new year to renew our behaviours, and still others will feel a sense of excitement about the opportunity to review the year gone by and set some goals for the future.

As for me, I mostly fall into the latter category. I try to leverage the turn of the year for some deeper reflection than usual and to embark upon a process of course adjustment for the year ahead. 

Perhaps our varied feelings about the concept of making New Years Resolutions is rooted in the reality that they rarely last.

Whether our resolutions are relational, physical or “spiritual,” (not that the physical isn’t spiritual; you know what I mean), we most often find our resolutions are long since forgotten by the time we come round to making them again next year.

But why? How is it that our best-made plans are so often laid bare?

Is it because we’re all in-disciplined, incompetent slackers!?

I don’t think so. Resolutions usually fade away over time, even for the most determined among us. So what’s the deal?

The problem is rooted in this: We have mistakenly come to think that the fact that we have goals, and the desire to do something about them, will be enough for us to reach them.

But it won’t. Almost never.

That's because we don’t rise to the level of our aspirations; we fall to the level of our habits.

Having aspirations and a desire to do something with them will only ever be good enough to bring about short term change.

Sustained change, on the other hand, does not come until we inculcate a new habit; a repeated pattern or regular discipline that, over time, enables us to reach our goal.

For example, saying, “my New Year's resolution is to read more this year,” is destined for failure.

Developing the habit of reading for 20 minutes a day (and blocking out those 20 minutes in your calendar app) will ensure you become a person who reads more.

Likewise, “I want to be fitter” is an intangible aspiration.

You’ll likely hit the gym for the first three weeks in January, and wonder why you’re still paying your gym subscription in March.

Instead of resolving to “exercise more,” choose to develop a new habit… “I will do an exercise class from 7:00-7:30am on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday every week.”

In doing so you build in a new habit and, ergo, reach your fitness goal.

Or perhaps you long to know Jesus more intimately in 2022.

That’s great… you and me both. But I’m afraid an arbitrary goal to “know Jesus better” is going to get you nowhere.

There’s only one way that any relationship grows, and that’s through time together.

So what are we going to do?

We're going to develop a new habit.

“I will spend the first moment of every single day with Jesus, in Scripture and prayer, before I do anything else.”

That’s a habit that will ultimately enable you to reach your goal of deeper intimacy with Jesus.

You get the idea... the objective is to translate your aspirations into habits; to move your ambitions from something broad and intangible to something achievable and measurable.

So yes, let’s use the opportunity the New Year brings to reflect on what’s been, and set some growth goals for the year to come.

Let’s not settle for intangible aspirations that will inevitably fade away. Instead, let’s build in a new, regular habit to ensure our aspirations do not become regrets.

To do that, let me encourage you to take some time to consider these two questions…

  1. What is the change you would like to make, or the goal you would like to reach?
  2. What is a tangible, achievable, measurable and specific habit you can develop to enable you to reach that goal?

The truth is, we do not become the people we aspire to become simply because we aspire to become them.

It’s the daily habits no one sees that lead to the big changes everyone wants.


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