I’m excited about 2013. I’m excited, not simply because every day brings us closer to the release of the second part of the Hobbit trilogy, (though there is that,) but because more than anything I want to use my time, energy, and talents wisely and faithfully. That inspired me to reflect on the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I know not everybody is a fan, and I can understand why. According to the Wall Street Journal, 88% of all New Year’s resolutions conclude in abysmal failure, meaning that 88% was likely thrust back into whatever bad habits and lifestyles they tried to escape. So that was a downer.
However these statistics stop nobody from taking the plunge, and the resolutions made are as predictable as their eventual failure. Time Magazine lists 10 that are not only common, but are commonly broken, and I doubt any of them will come as a surprise:
- Drink Less
- Quit smoking
- Eat healthier and diet
- Lose weight and get fit
- Be less stressed
- Travel to new places
- Spend more time with family
- Get out of Debt and save money
- Learn something new
Each of these is noble and benefits one’s wellness, so why do we have so much trouble keeping them?. I’m not omni-anything, and I can’t back this up, but I think it’s a fair point to say that many of these failures are caused two obstacles: a lack of preparation, and a lack of focus.
Lack of Preparation
It’s one thing to say you want to quit smoking and eat healthier. It’s quite another to, on the first day, flush all your cigarettes and throw away everything in your cupboard that isn’t organic. If you jump in with two feet without first having learned how to swim, things won’t go well for you. You’ll burnout quickly, and the frustration and exhaustion from flailing your arms in the deep end, just to keep your head above water, will be enough to dissuade you from swimming. Ever again. Inevitably you’ll find yourself sitting on the edge of the pool, dripping wet, clutching your pack of cigarettes and box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, trying to figure out what just happened.
Lack of Focus
“I want to eat healthier, workout, quit smoking, and be less stressed.” Fantastic. On a whim, you’re going to try to change four aspects of your lifestyle, simply because pop culture dictates January 1st is a great time to do so? Don’t you realize that whether or not you are working out is going to influence the type of diet you need? That if you do any and all of these things, diet, exercise, quitting smoking, you are fundamentally changing your body? Which is also stressful and potentially counterproductive. I say counterproductive because by trying to do everything all at once, you will become so overwhelmed with multiple lifestyle changes, that rather than focusing and mastering one, you give up on them all, roughly, as the WSJ article said, in February.
You may have wondered why I’m even writing about this. If you know me, either in person or through my writings, you’ll know that I’m not, nor have I ever been, in the “your best life now” camp. That bountiful valley flowing with teeth whitener and pomade doesn’t really appeal to me, and frankly I’d rather hike through the wooded hills to the decidedly less hospitable peak of cynicism, solely for the entertainment value. So what’s the ministry implication?
We Christians, both as individuals and as the Church, should take the time to reevaluate our lives, who we are, what we do and why it is we do it, and then out of that revelation create a specific, realistic and attainable vision to plan for our future and the future of our ministries. After which, we should properly prepare to engage that vision, both individually and corporately. It might not be possible to make multiple changes at the same time, and that’s fine. Progress is progress, and it’s OK to narrow your focus if that means mastering those necessary first steps. The last thing you want to do is introduce a basketful of changes in January only to burn out an entire congregation before the snow melts.
Focus on the Basics
In the same way physical and financial health is something we should all keep in check, so are some of the basic tenants required for maturing in the faith. Which is why I suggest taking some time this year to adopt at least one theme throughout the next year, be it a spiritual discipline, biblical literacy, or participation in your community, both inside and outside the church. By narrowing your focus you can create a solid foundation for your vision, something you’ll want to see through.
So what are your needs? What‘s the one obstacle to your growth? What are you going to do about it?