The New Year will be here shortly and people are thinking and talking about resolutions. Even though change is possible at any time, the new year seems to push us into overdrive when contemplating the changes we want to see in our lives.
Some of the most common New Years resolutions are:
- Staying fit and healthy
- Losing weight
- Spending more time with family and friends
- Getting organized
- Spending less, saving more
Sounds like every list made by every person in America for the previous 10 years! The sad thing is that most of those resolutions don’t last more than 2 weeks. By the end of January, we are no longer feeling guilty about not keeping our resolution and by the middle of February, we can’t even remember what they were.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of making resolutions we know we “should” make. I know I “should” exercise more. I know I “should” lose weight. I know I “should” spend more time with my family. I know I “should” get organized. I know I “should” get my finances under control.
That line of thinking is not very inspiring is it? In fact, trying to make life changes because you “should” do something is like being nagged non-stop by your parents as a teenager.
Think about the resolutions you made last year. Do you even remember what they were? Have you made the same resolutions every January for the last five years? Did you accomplish them or did you quit trying by the end of January?
Making your resolutions work means making small every day decisions about changing your habits so you can form new habits that will lead to the change you want to experience. Changing habits is not easy.
Phillippa Lally is a health psychology researcher at University College London. She and her team researched how long it actually takes to form a habit.
They had a test group of 96 people who chose one new habit for a 12-week period. Each day the study participants reported on whether or not they implemented their new habit and how natural it felt.
Some people made simple changes like “drinking a bottle of water with lunch.” Whole others had more difficult tasks like “running for 15 minutes before dinner.” At the end of the 12-week period, the team analyzed the data to determine how long it took each person to make their new habit automatic. The answer is that the average time to implement a new behavior is 66 days, and this average varies wildly by individual and can be up to 254 days
In other words, change is not easy. And like all things that we find difficult, the first step is taking it to the Lord. In Ephesians 4:22-24 we hear: “That you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
Many times our ‘old selves’ is our weariness when those old habits are hard to break and we are just too lazy to form new habits. Yet once we learn how to change in a way that honors God, we can be renewed in spirit. Praying for strength and fortitude is a way to help us make the changes we want to make.
So while many resolutions come and go, if you truly make a resolution that is God centered and wrapped in prayer, it is much easier to maintain the strength to keep the resolution. The change you want to make needs to be driven by a profound need in your own heart, driven by a deep desire to please God.
With that in mind, we have some ideas to help you stick to resolutions for the long term.
Don’t set a lot of resolutions. Figure out one really important thing you want to accomplish and concentrate on that. If you set a lot of resolutions, it is easy to lose focus and become frustrated. Ponder the one thing in your life that bothers you the most and focus on a resolution that helps to fix that problem.
Make sure your resolution is achievable. You may want to lose 20 pounds by next week, but that is just not going to happen. You will improve your likelihood of success by taking small steps, and being faithful to those small steps.
Make your resolution part of a long term goal. Losing those 20 pounds this year may allow you to reach the goal of biking through Europe next year. Whatever it is, your immediate resolution should be a first step towards a bigger goal.
Be VERY specific about the goal. A generic statement like “lose 20 pounds this year” is not actionable. A well defined goal would be “I want to lose 20 pounds this year by losing ½ pound each week in 2016. I will do this by eating salads for lunch and avoiding snacks after dinner. I will stop drinking soda and drink water instead.” This is a concrete goal – you know the amount and the time frame so you can measure your progress and most importantly you have a defined plan to make it happen. Eating salads for lunch and skipping the evening snacks and soda are your habit changers.
Change is never easy and we are hard wired to be comfortable in our old habits. But once we ask the Lord for help it is possible to become a “new self.” It may even be possible to lose those 20 pounds!