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Joe McDowell: Setting and Keeping Goals (New Year’s Resolutions)

Posted 1/2/18 at 11:55am. Column by Joe McDowell

The coming of the New Year is a time of evaluation. With the turn of the calendar from the current year to the new, we envision a new opportunity. The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions is very old! “The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year” (Source: http://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions). I imagine the Babylonians had a hard time keeping their New Year’s resolutions just as we do.

We celebrate the new year and make our resolution pledges, but in reality, January 1 is just another day. 2018 will be just another year, unless we set and keep the resolutions we talk and dream of.

This time of year, we think of the things of life we want to accomplish or that we desire to be different. Most often we just let our thoughts and desires for change slide into nothingness; we never act on them. Sometimes we begin the new year working to make our resolutions a reality. Often we are excited and determined, but by March or even sooner we have given up and written off the possibility for change.

What can we do to help ourselves and others make and keep New Year’s resolutions?

First, we need to set challenging but reasonable goals.

Second, we must understand the motivation for reaching our goals, and the motivation must be real.

Third, we need to be challenged continually to continue our pursuit of the goals.

Fourth, we need to adjust our goals along the way, if necessary—it is better to adjust goals than to give up altogether.

Lastly, we must not quit if we falter. Rather than giving up, we must renew our resolve and begin again.

Choosing a Scripture passage can help you maintain your motivation. Some possible Scriptures to contemplate:

  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 ESV).
  • Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23 ESV).
  • Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV).

New Year’s resolutions (goals) can be connected with any part of our lives. Maybe we need better time management. Maybe we want to lose weight. Maybe we want to read our Bible more. Whatever the desired change may be, in order to make the resolution a reality in our lives, the following are essential:

  1. Set Your Goals — Make them challenging, yet reasonable.
  2. Establish Strong Motivation — Set your goals with a clear reason.
  3. Continuous Challenge — Have a constant reminder to stay on target.
  4. Adjust Your Goals — Adjust the goal if it is unreasonable.
  5. Acknowledge you may falter — Predetermine that a falter will not stop you.

Making a New Year’s resolution a reality is difficult. Why? Resolutions normally require a change in or a new habit. Habits are hard to break and they are hard to make, but with a plan you can do it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss each of these points in more detail to help you develop a tangible plan to accomplish the resolutions you make for your life.

Rev. Joe McDowell is the Concord Baptist Association director of missions. You can read his past columns here, and you can reach Joe at jmcdowell@concordbaptistassoc.org
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