Today is the day it all comes crashing down, if it hasn’t already.
No, I’m not predicting a stock market crash, or civil unrest after the inauguration. I’m talking about the crashing of your goals. More specifically, your New Year’s Resolutions.
Do you remember those?
Remember the day after Christmas, when you were lazing on your couch scrolling Netflix and reaching for the Cheetos or another cigarette and you thought, “I really should do something about this.” Right then and there, in the haze of the Christmas holiday, you decided: “I will be better!” You Googled gym memberships. You watched a video about how to quit smoking. You took out your checkbook and a piece of paper and said, “Let’s make a budget!” Whatever it was, you said, “January 1st is a new day!”
And it was.
You killed it your first day. You did some pushups. You said “no” to second helpings at supper. You threw your cigarettes in the trash. You logged off of Amazon before you could buy anything. As you pillowed your head without scrolling your phone for a half hour beforehand, you thought, “Piece of cake!”
But now, here we are, at January 19th. Strava, a fitness company, recently revealed that January 19th was the day that most people stopped working out. “Quitter’s Day,” they call it. After your awesome January 1st, you probably had a so-so January 4th, a “Cheater’s Day” January 7th, and by last week, you had to physically remind yourself that you were going to make some changes, and that you should keep going.
Why did you quit? More specifically, why do we as humans quit?
One of the reasons we quit is that we make resolutions hastily. We make resolutions because everyone else is, and because we are temporarily dissatisfied with our condition. But the truth is that we really are okay with our condition, which is why we got to where we got in the first place. If you were okay with overeating on October 1, what makes you think you are going to stop it on January 1? You threw together a resolution for a better self quickly, and so quickly it went away. However, if you have been making small and steady changes, saying “no” to things little by little, this indicates you really are serious about change, and this means that that change will last.
Another reason we quit is that habits are hard to break. We are creatures that love rhythms and patterns, and we like when we find a rut that feels good. This is the reason we say that old people are “stuck in their ways.” Old people like you. About the only person who is inconsistent is a three year old, but only because she hasn’t had time to establish any patterns. Okay, except for maybe a bedtime routine that includes stories, several songs, a glass of water, and a kiss on each cheek. See? We love patterns, and unfortunately, build up harmful patterns. These took time to build up, and sadly they take time to break down, and then to replace with new, good habits. Most of us don’t want the long road up the mountain: we want a helicopter ride to the top. But if you will commit to the slog, you’ll see results.
Another reason we quit is that we don’t have real goals. We say, “I want to lose weight!” But we don’t say, “How much?” We say, “I want to be a better person!” But what does that mean? Nebulous goals are not goals at all. They are a weak acknowledgement that we hope progress will be inevitable. However, if we say “by January 15th, I will be in the habit of doing ten pushups a day,” or “By February, I will have had at least 20 days without a drink,” then we are defining goals. This focuses on success, not failures, and gives us the sense of accomplishment we need. It looks backward, but with the hope that it will help us look forward. When you have met your goal, you can say, “All right, let’s do that again for the next two weeks!” or “Okay, let’s see if we can do even better next month!” Small, manageable goals that show improvement are much easier to manage and keep than large, looming, undefinable goals.
One of the areas that I hope you will consider make some changes in for 2021 is in the area of developing your spirit. God created you for a relationship with Him, and seeking to cultivate that relationship is the most important thing you can do. How do you this? One way is by plugging into a Bible-preaching church. Another is by starting to read the Bible. Another is by finding and growing your God-given giftings and abilities. Honing your prayer life is an incredible way to develop your spirit. Paul talked about the pursuit of a relationship with Christ in Philippians 3:13-14, where he says “I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul acknowledges that he was not where he needed to be, but determined to continue to press on toward the mark: Christlikeness and a life that walks with God.
What does that look like, practically? Maybe you could commit to ten minutes of prayer per day. Or five minutes more than what you were doing. Get a prayer list and pray through the needs of those around you. Maybe you would commit to reading one chapter of the Bible a day. Start with Proverbs or the Gospel of John. Be ambitious and determine to read through the whole Bible in a year. Decide what church to attend, and determine that you are going to make it a priority to be there and participate. Satan will come up with reasons why you shouldn’t, but make a resolution that you will continue to press on. Get an accountability partner to address major sin areas in your life, and to encourage you to keep on cultivating that relationship.
January 19th doesn’t have to be “Quitter’s” Day. It can be “Relapse-For-A-Minute-But-I’m-Getting-Back-To-It” Day. That’s a little wordy. Maybe, “Press On” Day.