Did you make New Year’s resolutions this year?
If so, how are they doing?
Personally, I gave up New Year’s resolutions years ago. I have never had much success and really do believe that if I want to make a change, one day is as good as another. Besides, New Year’s resolutions are notorious for being broken anyway, mostly within days of the first of January.
The question is, though, why do we fail so dismally in our resolve to change?
Is it because most New Year’s resolutions are made under the influence of a little too much New Year’s Eve spirit? Or is it because we are only half-hearted? Even when we are determined that “this year is going to be different”, our best intentions seemed to be so easily sabotaged.
Perhaps our problem is not so much the things we want to change.
Perhaps it is more about what we don’t want to change.
Take weight loss for example. I do want to lose a couple of kilograms, but I don’t want to cut out chocolate and I don’t really want to exercise. There is a part of me that believes that I can induce the result I want without changing anything else too much.
Jesus told a story about mending old clothes. He said that you wouldn’t tear a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. It makes sense. However, I think this is often what we do when we want to change. We look at what we want to be different and try to stick the new bit on top of all the old, hoping it will patch up our 'deficiencies'.
It is the same with most changes we would like to make. It might be in our relationships; it might be in our workplace, or our church. We want a different outcome, but we don’t want to change the way we do things. We are generally comfortable with where they are at.
Our spiritual wellbeing is just another area we tend to treat the same way. I have had so many conversations about the desire to be closer to God, and yet, time with God seems to be the first thing to get squeezed out of our busy schedules. We want things to be different, but are we prepared to let go of something else to make the change?
Much of it comes back to reassessing our priorities. What we think are our priorities (those things we give 'intellectual assent' to – “yes, this is highly important to me”) don’t always end up taking priority. We allow other things to push in; to take precedence.
A major source of confusion for most of us centres around determining what is urgent and what is important. Many of the things that are in our face and urgent, pushing us to do them NOW, are often (mostly?) actually not important at all. How many times do we stop in the middle of something we are doing to answer the telephone? The ringing gives us the sense of urgency, but how many times is it not even about anything of interest, let alone importance? There are so many things in our lives that are really not that important, but we let them take precedence because of the irritation factor of the “squeaky wheel”.
If we are serious about discerning what is really important to us, we have to be really real about what we spend our time doing. Taking the challenge of writing down (literally) everything we do in a week, and how much time we spend doing it may be very confronting. We may not like to acknowledge how much time we spend doing stuff that we say isn’t a priority or important to us. Of course, asking why we do it may also reveal some other “stuff” we don’t want to admit to, but it might also free up time to do those things we really want to.
And maybe that’s as good a starting place as any for a New Year.
“No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.’” (Jesus, from Luke 5:36-9)