The time between Christmas and New Year’s is a great week to reflect. I’ve posted on this before. Generally speaking, the year ends pretty climatic. For many of us, our jobs slow down a little this week, most of us are with families, friends around us are sharing their hopes for the coming year and between all that, we end up taking a little inventory of our lives.
Every year people aspire to improve their lives, examples include: lose weight, read more, be better with their finances, and spend more time with their loved ones. Every year someone will come along and discourage the resolver. Someone will post on Facebook that 1/3 of people break their resolutions before January 31.
And every year someone will tell you that it’s cliche, someone on Facebook/Twitter will make a condescending post, and then there’s that cynical inner critic voice we all have. The one that says, “You tried this before and you didn’t do it. Don’t get so carried away with yourself, don’t let the hype surrounding you lead you to disappointment … again. People don’t change. Or maybe some do, but you’re not the type …” Resolve to put to death that voice. It’s not self-preservation, it’s a life-sucking parasite of the soul.
When people change their lives it’s because they really believed in what they needed to do. In my previous post, I mentioned that I fasted from weekly as I was job-hunting. While I’m not a “self-help” guy, when I look back at the goals I accomplished verses the goals I didn’t, here was the difference.
Do These Five Things
First, put some real thought in what you want to change in your life, take your time but make the resolutions. Toward the end of 2010, we were wondering if it was time to move on from our season of ministry in New Jersey. Many wonderful things were happening but among other practicalities, something was stirring in our hearts as well. It took a lot of thought and reflection before pulling the trigger.
Second, revisit your progress twice a month. I find that I need to update my goals and resolve again quite frequently. The beginning was the hardest, so I set smaller goals of updating the resume, creating an Evernote folder, then bookmarking the websites I was going to use, telling my senior pastor what we were thinking and so forth. By the way, I entitled that Evernote folder “Keep Moving Forward.”
Three, encourage those around you. They might reciprocate, they might not, but be a blessing, not a stumbling block. Others are going through a lot too so I asked what their goals were. As a result, I shared with a small number of close friends what was going on with us and sought their prayers and encouragement. (Grateful to say everyone I shared with was supportive, I hope they can say the same for me). It was interesting, the most discouraging person was myself. At times I did have to confront that voice that said, “Your resume is dime a dozen. There’s a legitimate number of people that are simply more qualified, better-versed and more talented than you. They probably love God and people more too … Don’t apply.” Let your friends be your friends and be theirs … but again, kill that terrible inner critic.
Four, reward yourself when making progress. For me, it was buying great coffee or trying a new beer or splurging a little on my family. I liked the positive reinforcement, I liked what it meant, I liked that it was life-giving. Cross a key item off my list and I was headed to the Ridgewood Coffee House to buy a cup of Clover-pressed Intelligentisia. I’d do some work, I’d read a little and then work through that Evernote folder.
And Five, so we don’t lose ourselves in our egos, commit your goals to the Lord often in prayer. I found that you could share just about anything you want with your family or post any goal you want on Facebook and get some positive feedback. Post that you’re going to write your novel, make your first million, play in the NFL, whatever, and though someone will roll their eyes, someone else will encourage. Well, the encouragement is a good thing but that doesn’t mean the goal is good. In my church search, we kept trying to have “open hands.” We asked God to lead us. What we thought was going to happen didn’t and we’re grateful to be where we are. This time around in the job search, I found less bitterness, less frustration and more freedom and I believe it was from a lot of these practices, but it all seemed to be rooted in this time of prayer and fasting.
Which leads me to continue reflecting on 2013. I didn’t finish 2012 knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I hesitated in posting this earlier this morning to see if I was going to get a “revelation” this New Year’s morning. Then this afternoon it dawned on me, we didn’t make the decision to job search until the second week of January in 2011. It was as we were celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary in our favorite restaurant in Manhattan that Susan and I had a conversation that included all of that. So it seems, I’m a week ahead of schedule ;) But the truth is, I’m still praying and thinking but I hope it takes courage, I hope it’s of God, and I’m excited about the new year.
May the Lord be with you this 2013. Happy New Year’s, thanks for reading and as always, feel free to share you thoughts here. I would be very interested in your goals, resolutions and practices.