Happy New Year

It is never too late, or too early, to make needed changes in our lives. However, the start of a new calendar year is the perfect time to think about our goals and dreams for the year to come. Making New Year’s Resolutions is a natural way to make those hopes and dreams concrete. However, research has shown that only about 8% of people are able to keep their resolutions. That’s astonishing.

Why is it that out of all of us who make some kind of resolution leading into the New Year only two of every 25 see that resolution become a reality? Surely the other 23 of us are not resolving to learn how to fly in the next twelve months. Nor have we decided that we are going to quit our jobs and become a quarterback in the NFL. (If you are making those kinds of resolutions, maybe we need to talk one-on one. J) There must be something else going on.

What I have found is that we often stop our decision making process too early. It is great, even laudable, to make grand plans for the coming year, but we don’t follow those plans up with actions we can take. For example, I’ve talked about wanting to write a book for some time now. However, I have not made any real progress toward that goal, that dream. Why? Because you simply don’t sit down one day and write a book. It isn’t a one-step and you’re done process. That’s the way most things are in our lives. Most of our goals and dreams take more than one action to accomplish. If yours don’t, maybe there are bigger things you can strive toward.

All too often we stop at the large dream and don’t think about the specific, measurable steps to get there. You may have noticed that I just mentioned two of the five steps toward setting SMART goals or, as I prefer, SMART steps. The acronym, SMART, stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Timely. We actually already talked about the achievable part when we talked about not trying to fly, or become a star quarterback in the NFL. The reality is that there are some things which are just not possible for all people. I may be tall enough to be a viable quarterback, but I can’t pass worth a darn, I’m really too old for the NFL, and considering I’ve never played a day of organized football in my life, all come together to make that an unrealistic and un-achievable goal for me.

So, let’s assume that the goa we’ve set for ourselves is something that actually CAN happen. It is achievable. Now it’s time to set those specific and measurable steps. Let’s say that I want to be healthier in 2017. That is an achievable goal, but it isn’t specific. What do I mean by healthier? Do I mean I want to lose weight, exercise more, change my diet, or some combination of those things? We need to get specific. This is where those steps, or actions, come into play. I want to improve my overall health in the coming year, so I will improve my diet, exercise more, and become more fit. Three steps. Now we are getting somewhere.

But we’re not done just yet. Those three steps aren’t really specific enough, or measureable enough, just yet. What do I mean by exercise more? What do I mean by improve my diet? What do I mean by becoming more fit? Those are all questions that must be asked, and answered, to propel us toward achieving our resolutions in the coming year. It’s not an easy process, and it may be helpful to have someone else help by asking you the hard questions, what do you mean by that? What is the first thing you can do to achieve your goal? When will you commit to doing that task?

We’re not used to asking questions like these in the church. They can seem very forward, even judgmental. And they are not easy to ask, or answer. That is OK, because as long as we are seeking to improve ourselves, and to support one another in the process, I believe we are truly living into our commitment to journey together with God. If you want some assistance in thinking through your resolutions for the coming year, please let me know! I know I want to enter 2017 SMARTer!