The New Year often brings with it a sense of renewed enthusiasm to make a change or two in our lives. Unfortunately, statistics and our own experiences demonstrate that, on average, a new year’s resolution won’t last two weeks, let alone the entire year.
So what is a person to do? Should you set a goal for the new year or not?
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Goal setting and the Christian
Perhaps you have wondered if Christians should have a new year’s resolution at all.
Verses like Proverbs 19:21, Proverbs 3:5-6, and others, have lead some people to adopt the idea that to “live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4) and completely “trust in the Lord”, Christians should live day by day without making any short or long-term plans or goals.
However, the Bible actually speaks highly of making plans, which includes setting goals. Proverbs 21:5, for example, tells us: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” The Bible here and elsewhere indicate that it is good for us to work and plan accordingly.
However, there is a difference between making plans out of selfish or greedy desires and committing your plans to the guidance of the Lord. The Bible contains examples of both, but let us focus on the latter for a moment.
The apostle Paul is an example of a godly man who made plans but still allowed himself to be guided by the Lord. See Romans 1:10-13 and 15:20-33 for two specific times when he referred to his plans or intentions.
Proverbs 16:3 says: “Trust your work to the Lord, and your plans will work out well.” (NLV) Godly plans or goals are made for the right reasons, are entrusted to the Lord’s care, and are flexible should the Lord choose to take us in a different direction.
Making a new year’s resolution
If you do want to make a change in the coming year, here are 5 tips for setting a realistic new year’s resolution and achieving it.
1. Choose only one.
Often, we get over zealous and try to make too many changes at one time. Write out all of your resolution ideas in a journal or Google document. Spend some time praying over them, and ask the Lord to show you which goal is the best choice for you at this time.
Then select only one goal to focus on over the new year. It can health-related, financial, character building, professional development, mission-oriented. Most importantly, pray for the wisdom and endurance to achieve it.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.James 1:5, ESV
2. Know your motivation for the new year’s resolution.
Why is this change or goal important to you? Are you doing it because everyone else is or someone somewhere said it was a good idea? Or does this change have a real meaning for you and your life?
It is better to be specific when goal setting than to generalize. For example, instead of saying vaguely “get healthy”, write out the details: “I want to improve my diet and exercise to better manage my Type 2 Diabetes.”
Knowing why a change or goal is important to you helps you later on when you run into roadblocks and challenges.
Commit your way to the Lord;Psalm 37:5-6, ESV
trust in him, and he will act.
6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
3. Make a plan with small, incremental steps that moves towards your end goal.
Though some of us might have the willpower to make that big, dramatic leap, the majority of us need to take it more slowly. The best way to achieve a goal is to break it up into smaller parts. As you achieve these smaller milestone goals, you are getting closer to your main end goal. On top of everything else, with each milestone you reach, you are re-enforcing that you can do it.
If your resolution is to improve your overall fitness, then maybe your plan might look like this: start off taking a ten-minute walk twice a week. Once that becomes habit, you might increase the time to twenty-minutes or bump up to walking three times a week.
If your new year’s resolution is financial, then maybe you start off with the goal of saving $25 per paycheck for an emergency fund and slowly increase it as you are able to. Or maybe your goal is to payoff debt so you throw any extra money you can at your smallest debt. Once that one is paid off, you can put that extra money towards the next smallest debt in what Dave Ramsey calls the snowball concept.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:13, ESV
4. Create a support network.
Share your new year’s resolution with others to create a network of support and encouragement. Then take time every so often to check in with your support group on the progress or setbacks you are experiencing.
If your goal is something that can be done in a group setting, plan a few group activities with your support network to help you through the challenging times. God created us to be social, and we are called to help encourage one another.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV
5. Trust in the Lord.
Setting a realistic, achievable goal that has a genuine purpose for your life is a good thing. However, sometimes the unexpected happens and challenges arise. Do not give up. Trust in the Lord to see you through, even if the end result is not exactly what you planned it.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,Proverbs 3:5-6 , ESV
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Sometimes God has a different plan for you… something far beyond anything you could have imagined! Ephesians 3:20 reminds us: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”Want to make a change? Here are 5 tips for setting a realistic, achievable New Year's Resolution. Click To Tweet
Whether you decide to make a resolution or not, I pray that this new year will be full of blessings, love, joy, peace, and laughter. Happy New Year!