In my previous post, I talked about two major contributing factors to the question of why people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions. The major points were: their goals are vague when they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART); and they lack self-discipline to stick with it for more than two months. You can read the post in its entirety HERE.
But, many people DO have a serious plan and they grit their teeth and force themselves to do what they said they would. There is no joy in what they do. One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight or eat better. Why? Other resolutions are to get a new job or to save more for retirement. Why? The third most popular resolutions have to do with self-improvement, such as earning a higher degree. Why?
At the core, we are dissatisfied and afraid and we think we have to try harder.
We think that losing weight and eating better will prevent heart attacks. If we save more for retirement, then we will have plenty of money to rely on when we can’t (don’t want to) work anymore. If we get more education, then we can earn more money, then we will be happier in our employment. There is some truth in all of this, that’s why we do it, but deep down, it is the fear and the beliefs that drive us. If we are going to see real change in our lives, if we are going to accomplish our goals with joy in our hearts, we need to address these issues.
Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
When you make a resolution, ask yourself, “Why?” Did your doctor tell you that? Was it on a website you read? Did you overhear someone else’s conversation? Or, did God put it on your heart to do?
Take our health, for example. Most of the time, we make health resolutions because of fear. We think about the trip to the hospital, our loved ones, long-term illness. Sometimes, in our brokenness, we make resolutions out of envy. We want to look as good as someone else we’ve seen. Even that is based on a fear of rejection, though. We sigh and grit our teeth, dragging ourselves to the gym, eating small meals that don’t satisfy. What if our health goals weren’t based on slavery to fear? What if they were based on something much larger?
Focus on Joy, not Fear.
God has already numbered our days, no matter what you eat or how much you exercise. Your actions have no bearing on the length of your life. However, your actions DO affect how you live out those days, the quality of your life. A pre-occupation with eating healthy is just as idolizing as gluttony, though. What if your focus shifted from your fears to your joys? What if your heart were set on being healthy so you can serve Him better instead of being focused on avoiding cancer, heart attacks, and the like?
Focus on Giving, not Fear.
If God has graciously provided for you thus far, won’t He also provide for your needs until the day you die? Personally, I don’t believe in conventional retirement. Most people are very capable of working part of the day well into their twilight years. Companies promote a romantic idea of retirement in order to have an excuse to get rid of the older, high salary employees and bring in young, low salary employees. All that aside, it is not a bad thing to save money. But, if you are hoarding money and relying on it instead of the Lord, money has become an idol. If fear is driving you to earn more and save more, if it is the focal point of your goals, then it is an idol. What if your resolutions around money focused on being able to give more instead of keep more? If you focus on gratitude, focus on the joy of God’s blessings to you and being able to share those blessings with others, perhaps you will no longer feel the pressing weight of slavery to greed or fear of not having enough.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1)
Is fear driving you to get more education? Is that what God led you to do or what fear led you to do? If God led you to pursue more schooling, He will bring circumstances and people together to make it abundantly clear to you that He wishes you to take that course. However, many times, it is not God but fear that leads us to pursue a degree. I have heard people say, “If I want to stay competitive in my field, I have to get a master’s.” Really? If that’s true, then why do I read about many top tier businesses lamenting that they can’t find qualified candidates for the entry level positions? The main reason is that their degree alone doesn’t qualify them. Their knowledge alone won’t get them the job. And, knowledge won’t save you from being fired if you don’t care about others.
I don’t want anyone to get the idea that seeking knowledge is bad. Knowledge is a spiritual gift after all. But, seeking more knowledge out of fear or for the purpose of gaining power and prestige are things that God hates. What if your resolution wasn’t about self-improvement or education to gain prestige, but to gain understanding, to love others better? What if the knowledge you sought was people knowledge? How would that change your relationships?
Changing our Focus, Changing our Hearts
Why don’t people keep their New Year’s resolutions? Because they are focused on the wrong things. They allow fear and dissatisfaction to drive their goals instead of love. We don’t have to be like that. If we focus on God and others instead of ourselves, we can have joy, gratitude, and love that transform our hearts, bringing real, lasting change.
I pray that all of you will see God’s abundant blessings in your life in the coming year. Happy New Year!