Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My "Secondly" Blog Post

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I can't tell you how mine went, because I'm writing this post ahead of time, so I won't have to worry about it the week after Christmas. But I'm sure it was splendid.

If you've been reading my recent blog posts, you know the title for this one came from a post where I started a list of things I was going to talk about, and never made it past "firstly."

My "secondly" thing happened to be about New Years, so I decided to wait until after Christmas to write about it. After all, I'm the one who complains when stores start putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

New Years resolutions are the topic of many newspapers, magazines, and blogs this time of year. We all like the feeling of a fresh new start, a chance to change for the better, and begin anew. Never mind that most people forget about their resolutions by the time February is winding down.

Are you like that?

Do you consider your word something to be given seriously, and kept faithfully - even if you've only given your word to yourself? What does a commitment mean, if it's not kept?

Well, it's easy to scold, but I admit it can be hard to stick with something. That's why I think of these things in terms of "goals," not resolutions (for the most part). To have a goal is motivating. To make a promise to yourself or to God and not keep it is much more serious. So I had goals.

I flopped on one item myself, last year. I wanted to study Spanish five days a week. I made it through February, then started getting pretty sketchy.

But I made it with other items. By the end of this month, I will have read Proverbs through once every month for this year (that was a resolution). And I published a book I had been working on since I was 16. That was a goal.

I had a few other goals, but I try to keep it basic. For the most part, I keep things pretty realistic. This isn't a time to dream of what I'd do if I suddenly had 3 extra hours in my day, unlimited funds, and the brain of a genius. This is a time to figure out what God is calling me to pursue this year, and what I can reasonably accomplish if I work hard. Now is the time to figure that out, before the heat of battle makes me tired, nervous, or discouraged. When that time comes, I'll have my goals staring me in the face saying, "You figured this out before hand; you counted the cost. You can do this! You know you can, with God's help! It's not impossible!"

I like to have categories in which to divide my goals; intellectual, spiritual, and physical. Reading through the Bible in one year would be a spiritual and intellectual goal. Working out three times a week would be a physical goal.

These are all examples of positive goals. Not positive in the sense of "good" (though they are good!), but positive in the sense that they require you to take action to fulfill them. They are offensive rather than defensive.

To stretch yourself a little bit this year, I encourage you to try some negative goals in all three areas. You don't just want to add good things to your life; you want to remove those things which are harmful.

So what needs to go? Maybe your goal is to de-clutter your life and get rid of all those items that you really don't need. Maybe you want to stop a bad habit. Is there a certain sin you need to work on and pray against until it is thoroughly conquered? Maybe you want to get rid of certain harmful foods in your diet. Maybe you want to stop being a procrastinator.

So get yourself a blank piece of paper (Or Word Document, if you're on the computer more than you're off). At the top of the page, write "Goals for 2012", and below that make three columns.

Now stop and think. And pray. Envision the past year, and look forward into this one. What do you see that you want to stop? Where do you see God's hand of blessing? What needs to continue?

In the first column, list (let's keep it simple) five things you want to change/stop. Opposite them, in the middle column, write what you want to replace them with. If you're not a morning person, and want to change that, your goal sheet might look like this; "Stop sleeping until 9:00am" "Wake up at 7:00 every weekday morning." In the third column, write the steps that will make it happen; "Set alarm 15 minutes earlier, every third day, until I am getting up at 7:00 regularly."

Put the paper somewhere you'll see it often. Inside the front cover of your Bible? On the wall in your bedroom? At your desk?

I find that goals need to be a mixture of positive and negative to be the most motivating, because our human nature wants to be both offensive and defensive, depending on our mood.

New Year Resolutions aren't a "must." For years I didn't do them. I thought they were only for people who wanted to lose weight. But now I love challenging myself so much that I do month goals as well.

In the Bible, there were many times the nation of Israel took the time to read through God's law and dedicate themselves anew to following it. That ought to be a part of any New Year's goal-setting plan. Of course, the reason Israel did it many times is because they kept failing. And I'll fail, too. But that doesn't need to stop me from trying again. The struggle itself helps you gain strength.

What are some of your goals for the New Year? Are you remembering to consider all areas - Spiritual, Intellectual, and Physical? What do you think of positive and negative goal setting?


Amanda said...

Good thoughts. I've enjoyed writing out my resoloutions in the past. Probably my number one for this year would be to complete my projects. And to get up earlier. :)

Britney said...

Your post gave me so much to think about and ideas for the coming year! It should always be our goal as Christians to grow closer to God each year, but as you said there is also other things in our lives that sometimes need to be changed. For me I think instead of procrastinating it is trying to do too much and keep up with too many things. This can also be a problem because I believe it sometimes makes you lose focus of what is truly important. Keep up the writing! I love reading! :)