5 Things to Keep in Mind When Making New Years Resolutions

There is a German saying: “Alles hat ein ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.” (Everything has an end, only sausage has two [ends]).

As we approach the New Year, this changing of calendars gives us something to measure by. With the end of one year and the beginning of another, we have the opportunity to look back and assess the previous year, as well as to look forward and pray and plan for the year to come.

In his book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, author Jon Acuff (who I first came to know about through his great blog: Stuff Christians Like) refers to a study at the University of Scranton(!) which determined that 92% of all resolutions go unfinished. Thus, in a world of bottomless possibilities and endless distractions, to be a person who finishes what you start is as rare, valuable and powerful thing.

92% of all resolutions go unfinished

I’ll admit to you right now, I’ve become a slight bit addicted to finishing things. If I start reading a book, I have to finish it, even if it’s bad (and I did read a few books like that this year). If I set a goal, I almost always finish it, even if it’s not always in a timely matter (like the 1.5 year landscaping project in my front yard).

I agree with what Ecclesiastes 7:8 says: “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.” However, this in itself is one of the things which prevents people from completing their goals… Many people won’t even try to start doing something unless they are sure that they will be able to finish it. So they won’t even start exercising, because they are afraid they will give up.

Through Jon Acuff’s research, what he found is that the most common day that people give up on a goal is Day 2.

The most common day that people give up on a goal is Day 2.

In the past I was not a fan of New Years resolutions for the very reason that most of them don’t succeed, but perhaps I’ve become a bit less cynical (maybe I should have made that a resolution!), because I’ve really warmed up to the idea. So here are some things to consider when making resolutions and some tips on accomplishing them:

1. Don’t Neglect the Spiritual

The most common New Years resolutions are about 1) Health and Fitness and 2) Time Management. For Christians, we remember what Jesus said: that life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. (Luke 12:23) and that it is possible to “gain the whole world and yet lose your own soul.” (Mark 8:36).

2. Do Everything to the Glory of God

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
I’ve spoken and written a lot on this topic recently in light of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The idea of doing everything to the glory of God was a key teaching of the reformers, as they rebelled against the division of life into sacred and secular realms and showed that the Bible teaches that we should do everything we do for God’s glory, and if it is something which cannot be done for God’s glory, we should not do it.
For more on this topic see:

3. Set Goals That Are Not Easy, But Are Attainable

Jon Acuff mentions how many people will set a goal like running a marathon, but yet they underestimate the time and effort that goes into reaching a goal like that. He suggests instead setting a goal that is attainable, and exceed-able, such as running a 5k or 10k for someone who is not already a runner. Having reached that goal, you can set another. Whatever goal you set, it should stretch you, but it should still be attainable, if you want to increase the likelihood of success.

4. Write Them Down

God told the prophet Habakkuk to write down the revelation that God gave him and make it plain. (Habakkuk 2:2) As a result of Habakkuk and the other “writing prophets” writing down the visions that God gave them, we are now able to look back at them and have a record both of how God spoke to those people at that time, and how God fulfilled what He spoke to them.
Having a written record of a goal helps keep you accountable to yourself and motivated throughout the year. I like to keep a list in my desk and check it regularly.

5. Make it Fun

Jon Acuff points out that gaming your goals is one of the best ways to ensure that you make progress on them and don’t give up. So a Bible reading plan (I use the YouVersion Bible app and bible.com) that shows progress each time you complete a section can help you keep going.
I like to compete against myself, so things like this are very helpful for me. I recently installed a productivity app on my MacBook and smartphone called RescueTime. It monitors all the time you spend on your devices and gives you reports and graphs to see what you actually do and how much time you spend on certain websites or particular tests. I also gives you a productivity score of 1-100. I like to see that number grow, which encourages me to spend more time working on things that are truly important and in line with my goals – and less time on things which are a waste of time, which there is no lack of on the internet.

Maybe you’ve got some tips of your own. Leave a comment below and tell me what those are. And may this year be one for you in which you live for God’s glory fueled by gratitude for what He has done for you in Jesus!

Why You Should Make New Year’s Resolutions – and How to Actually Accomplish Them

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I never thought I would be a New Year’s resolution type of person, but over the years I have learned a few things about myself and about New Year’s resolutions that have changed my mind.

Here are some quick statistics for you:
One study shows as few as 8% of people accomplish their resolutions.
However, that same study shows that people who make resolutions are as much as 10x more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t.

People who make resolutions are as much as 10x more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t

In a way, the New Year is a strange holiday. We aren’t celebrating a grand event in the past which changed the course of history, as we do at Easter or Independance Day. We are not celebrating the birth of a great figure as we do at Christmas or Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We are not celebrating a class of people as we do on Labor Day, Veterans Day or Mothers Day. All we are really celebrating is that the Earth went all the way around the sun again; which we could theorertically celebrate any day of the year. We have gotten to the end of our calendar, which begins on an arbitrary date.

However, I have come to greatly appreciate this holiday, because it gives us something to measure time by. And albeit slightly contrived, it does give us the sense of a new beginning, a fresh start.

On my desk in my office, I have a book stand, and on that stand is a notepad. For the past 2 years, I have been writing down several goals for the year, ranging from personal goals, to items related to my marriage and family to ministry and prayer topics, which I would like to see come to fruition in that coming year. Then for the rest of the year, I leave that notepad right there, always in constant view, so that I see it every day when I sit down and get to work.

The reason I started doing this was because I read somewhere that goals which get written down are much more likely to be accomplished. I think there’s more that goes into accomplishing goals, but that’s a good start.

Over the past 2 years that I have been doing this, I have been amazed how at the end of the year, almost all of the things which I wrote down have become reality. 2016’s list had about 20 items on it, and at the end of this year, only 2 of them remain unrealized. Those items will be rolled over into 2017’s list, but even those are not to be considered failure, as having them on the list for the past year led to them being topics of prayer that I brought before God almost daily and asked for His will to be done.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Why You Should Make New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. If you set a goal and write it down, you are 10x more likely to do it than if you don’t.

  2. If done right, it can guide your prayer life and help you to see and rejoice in God’s faithfulness.

  3. If you set God-honoring goals, planning and working towards them are acts of faith and obedience to God.

    Setting goals which you cannot accomplish on your own keeps you on your knees and dependent on God, pushing forward and asking Him to do great things.

How to Actually Accomplish Your Resolutions:

  • Make Decisions.

Without a strategy, your resolutions will likely only remain a good intention, and we know what those pave the road to… This Forbes article points out that the huge difference between “intentions” and “decisions”: stating that most people don’t follow through on intentions, but they do follow through once they’ve actually made a decision.

This year one of my goals is to run a half-marathon. Rather than just writing it down, I’ve also gone online, picked out the race I want to run, signed up and paid for it, and signed up for a training program. Whatever your goal is, don’t let it remain only a good intention, make a concrete plan for how it is going to become reality.

  • Use Your Calendar.

Time is kind of like money: you’ve only got so much of it, so you’ve got to budget it. Be strategic and schedule things that are important to you into your calendar. If you want to pray and read the Bible more, scedule it into your day. If you want to spend more time with your kids, schedule it into your day. If you want to read or write more, schedule it. You can still be flexible, but at least having it on the calendar will give structure to your days and keep your on track towards your goals.

Significant Things and Mundane Actions

Early Saturday morning I got home from the mission trip to Eastern Europe, and one of the things that has been on my mind since has been how many of the things which have the most glorious end result, are the result of actions which seem very inglorious, mundane, and even boring in the moment.

This is true of marriage, work, ministry, fitness, creating or making things, etc.

Last night I was making something for a friend, which he was excited to watch me make – but I had to tell him: the process is very boring and tedious – but the end result is great. I think that’s the case with many things in life.

During the trip to Hungary and Romania, the actual carrying out of the English classes, administration, etc. was not all that thrilling. But the end result was glorious. We saw 10 young people turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I have known a lot of people who have tons of good ideas, but do not have the ability to carry out the mundane actions which are required in order for those ideas to become reality. And as a result, there is a lot of smoke but no fire. They’ve had grandiose ideas for years – but yet they have nothing to show for it, because it has never moved past the idea stage.

Some of the best things in life are accomplished through actions which in the moment are very mundane. May we have the resolve to do unexciting things which lead to glorious results by keeping our focus on the end goals.

Busyness: The Enemy of the Soul

“How have you been?” “Busy!”
“Haven’t seen you much lately. What have you been up to?” “Oh, I’ve just been really busy.”
“We should really get together sometime.” “Yeah, I’d love to. Things are just really busy right now.”

We live in a culture that is chronically busy. Many of us, myself included, are busy doing a lot of really great things – but if we don’t watch out, our busyness with all these great things can destroy us.

What legacy will you have to show for all your running around?

Recently I’ve been listening to some audiobooks given to me by a friend. One of them is about how to get out of debt – a topic I’m very interested in. And what I see is that there is a parallel between how our culture handles money and time.

You see – because of technological developments of everything from cars to the internet, we now have more time on our hands, which frees us up to many more possibilities! We can go more places and do more things and connect with more people than ever before. In the same way – money and products are also readily available, perhaps like no other time before. Even if you have no money, there are a myriad of ways to finance purchases, which you can leverage to buy GOOD things, like houses and cars, you couldn’t have before. But, if you are always spending your money on every good thing that comes your way – after a while, you end up with very little to show for your years of hard work. The statistics on how much money passes through the average middle-class home in America are astounding.

Similarly, with busyness – if we stay busy doing a lot of really good things, we can easily find ourselves BUSY, but then looking back we have very little to show for it. Sure we might accomplish a few things along the way and spend time with some people – but what legacy will we have to show for all of our running around?

On a website I recently read about how the difference between chronically broke people and those who have financial security is found not in income, but in habits. One defining factor is that a much higher percentage of those who attain financial security set out concrete goals for themselves to work towards, whereas many chronically broke people never set out goals to work towards; they go through life living day to day.

The same principle can and should be applied to time-management. What are the goals that you would like to attain with your time? Who is the person you would like to be? What is the big-picture thing you hope to accomplish? What has God called you to do? If you are a spouse or a parent, that is a calling. If you are a Christian, by definition, you have a calling on your life – because to be a Christian is to be one who has been commissioned by Jesus Christ to join Him in His mission.

What do you want your legacy to be?  Do you want to raise a Christian family?  Do you want to have a closer walk with the Lord?  Do you want to be used by God for His purposes in the world? 

Once you have identified what you want to attain, what you are shooting for – then THAT will dictate how you spend your time, it will prioritize your options. Otherwise, you will be just like everyone else: running around like crazy, but with very little to show for it. In fact, being super busy with no purpose and direction – well that will quickly kill your creativity, and it will quickly kill relationships – with people and with God.

Guess what the first thing is that many God-fearing people cut out when they are feeling too busy:  Church. Time with spouse and kids. Bible study. Devotions.  “Oh, I’ll do those things when I am not so busy.”  But if you let your calling in life and the end goals that you hope to attain dictate your priorities, then seeking the Lord and being in fellowship with other believers is always a priority.

Certainly there are many things which might be dialed back in a busy schedule – but figuring out which ones you should dial back is the result of evaluating your goals and focusing yourself on attaining them.

Don’t wind up a victim of your own busyness! Figure out what it is that God has called you to do – and what it is that you hope to attain, and let those things dictate how you spend your time.