How To Make New Year’s Resolutions

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Happy New Year!

Let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions.

It’s January 1, and 2021 is looming before us like a clean sheet of paper on which to write an amazing new chapter of our lives.

You may have spent the last week thinking of some changes you’d like to make or some goals you’d like to achieve in 2021. And maybe now you’re ready to take those hopes and desires and formulate them into New Year’s resolutions.

BEFORE YOU WRITE THOSE DOWN, THINK ABOUT THIS:

How do you make really good New Year’s resolutions?

Resolutions that will stretch you?

Resolutions that will make you a better person?

Resolutions that you will keep?

What’s the BEST way to make New Year’s resolutions?

As a coach, consultant, and pastor, I have a really good answer to that question.

My answer is…

DON’T.

Just don’t.

Studies show that of all the people who make New Year’s Resolutions only 8% actually succeed.  80% have failed or given up by February.

(And if you don’t believe those statistics, just ask anybody who works at a gym!)

One of the problems with New Year’s resolutions is that they’re so often based on a voice in your head that’s constantly telling you you’re not good enough.

You’re not …

  • Thin enough
  • Smart enough
  • Pretty enough
  • Handsome enough
  • Neat enough
  • Organized enough
  • Disciplined enough
  • Productive enough
  • Wealthy enough
  • Wise enough.

Instead of starting the New Year listening to that negative, critical voice that drives you to make resolutions you’re not going to keep, I invite you to start the New Year listening to the voice of God:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”*

“Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed.”**

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands …” ***

And then, the words that many Christians will hear soon at the annual observance of “Baptism of the Lord” Sunday:

You are my child

My beloved

With you I am well-pleased.****

Those are the words God spoke to Jesus at his baptism, at the beginning of his ministry, before Jesus had accomplished anything.

Before he preached the Good News.

Before he taught the crowds.

Before he healed the sick.

Before he cast out demons.

Before he died on the cross.

Before he has done anything, his ministry begins with this affirmation from the Father:

You are my child

My beloved

With you I am well-pleased.

And before you do anything this year–before you start frantically trying to accomplish things–stop for a moment and let God say those words to you:

You are my child

My beloved

With you I am well-pleased.

******

Now–am I suggesting that you should never set goals? Never seek change? Never strive to improve yourself?

Of course not! I am a coach, after all!

Goal-setting is a very good thing. It’s just that we so often start from the wrong place. We start by saying,

  • IF I do this, THEN I’ll be worth something”
  • IF I get better looking, THEN I’ll be loved.”
  • IF I accomplish things, THEN I’ll be valuable.”

 

But your value is not based on what you do.

Your value is based on who you are.

And if you’re like me, you know that–in fact, you’ve probably known it for a long time–but you need to be reminded of it.

Consider this blog post your reminder.

******

As I write this it’s cold and rainy outside, and I’m thinking about a stressful, harrowing experience I had on a cold, rainy day in January a few years ago.

I was in my office and it was time to go to lunch. I stood up at my desk and realized that my wallet was not in my pants pocket.

No problem, I thought. It must be in my coat. 

I walked over to the coat rack and checked my coat pockets. Right pocket, left pocket, breast pocket–not there.

No problem, I thought. It’s at home on my dresser. 

I drove home (without a license!), and I thought about how important a wallet is. It’s like your whole life is in there!

Your credit cards

Your driver’s license

Your bank card

Your insurance card(s).

It’s like your whole identity is contained in that little leather pouch.

When I got home I checked the top of my dresser–and the wallet wasn’t there.

So now I was getting concerned. I started looking all over the house.

I looked in my favorite chair. Not there.

I looked under the couch. Not there.

I took out all the seat cushions. Not there!

I checked every table, every desk, every chest of drawers in the house. Not there! 

I looked all over my car–in the floorboards, under the seats, in the glove box. Not there! 

I drove to the Japanese restaurant where I had eaten dinner the night before. The folks in the restaurant knew me. They remembered the booth where I was sitting, and they looked all over, under, and around it. Then they looked all around the cash register and the front counter.

NOT THERE! 

I walked out of the restaurant worried and upset. I was going to have to call the credit card companies, the insurance companies, the bank, the DMV … this was going to be a terrible afternoon.

The wind blew and I shivered. I pulled my coat tight around me, because it was so cold.

And that’s when I remembered.

The night before, when I went out to eat, I WAS WEARING A DIFFERENT COAT!

I went back to my house, and I opened my closet, and I reached in the pocket of that coat—and there it was.

And I thought, “Man! I looked all over the house, all over the car, all over town …

… and all the time, it was RIGHT HERE.”

And here’s the thing: In the same way that I lost my wallet, lots of people in our world today have lost their identity. They’ve lost their sense of value.

And they’re looking for it everywhere:

  • They’re looking for it in what they do.
  • They’re looking for it in what they own.
  • They’re looking for it on Facebook.
  • They’re looking for it in how they look in comparison to others.

They’re looking for their self-worth all over the place, and all the time, it’s been RIGHT HERE, in the words spoken by God to all who pass through the waters of Baptism:

You are my child

My beloved

With you I am well-pleased.

If you’d like to set some goals for this New Year, by all means, do so. (And if you’d like some help in refining and achieving those goals, call me–that’s what I do!)

But don’t start by frantically writing down resolutions in response to a critical inner voice.

Instead, start by listening to the voice of God. Feel his acceptance. Rest in his love.

And secure in your identity as his child–move forward in response to his call.

 

*Jeremiah 31:3
**Isaiah 54:10
***Isaiah 49:15-16
****Mark 1:11, paraphrased