New Year: New You or Old You? — Actions vs. Resolutions

It’s January and as expected, class attendance exceeds the maximum room occupancy at the gym. These (will prove to be non-faithful) newbies are bubbling with excitement to start their “New Year’s Resolutions.” They start with high hopes that this will finally be their year to change. But after years of observing this New Year’s phenomenon, I know the gym will return to normal by the end of February (if not earlier).

It’s easy to make resolutions. It’s sticking to them that’s the problem.

When asked to speak about his book, Put Your Dream to the Test, John C. Maxwell, internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, coach, and best-selling author, gave me (and 10,000 other entrepreneurs) this advice: “I read. I write. I file…everyday. People ask me, ‘What do you do on your birthday?’ I read, I write, I file…everyday.”

Maxwell began those daily activities years ago when his dream was to become a writer. Maxwell has now sold over 19 million books. I’d say he has achieved his dream! But he started with simple, daily, and tactical activities. Maxwell explains, “It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to do the things needed to achieve it….”

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? What are your goals? What are you going to do to achieve those goals?

“Lose Weight and Healthier Eating” usually ranks number one on New Year’s Resolutions lists. According to Statistic Brain, 21.4% of people have made this their top resolution for 2017. Looking at Statistic Brain’s list of Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions, I find it interesting that “Work out more often” ranks lower as number seven. Only 5.5% of people want to exercise more this year. How can 21.4% of people want to lose weight but only 5.5% want to work out more often? Reality: Only 5 of the 21% have a chance at achieving their weight loss goal.

It’s easy to make resolutions, but not having a plan of daily or weekly activities is the problem. Let’s look at typical Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions to find the unattainable and unsustainable commonality between them:

Unattainable and Unsustainable Goals:

  • Lose (More) Weight
  • Work Out More
  • Eat More Healthy
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Be More Spiritual (a common goal in Christian circles)

Do you see the problem? The problem is with the word “more.” How do you measure “more”? You cannot. More is not measurable.

With the first goal of “lose weight,” you can put a number to it, for example, “lose 20 pounds.” It’s then measurable, but it’s not sustainable. After you lose that 20 pounds, then what? Goal achieved, well done. But then you might stop your healthy eating and exercise. That pesky scale climbs back up again and you feel defeated. Instead, turn those unsustainable goals and resolutions into attainable and sustainable goals. How do you do this? Here are ideas for regular activities that will lead you to obtaining those New Year’s resolutions.

Attainable and Sustainable Goals:

Instead of “Lose Weight/Work out more/Eat Healthier” do several of the following:

  • Exercise 30 minutes, 5 days a week. (e.g. Brisk walk, Slow jog, Yoga, etc.)
  • Cut back from several sodas/sugar drinks per day to one per day. (Zero is the goal, but in your sugar detox you’ll be screaming at me on Day One. So I’m making it more attainable for starters.) 
  • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. For example, a 160-pound person needs to drink 80 ounces of water daily.
  • Drink black coffee instead of sugared/flavored coffee. (Note: This will require you to buy better quality coffee beans because you’ll actually be able to taste the coffee.)
  • Eat breakfast everyday. Healthy examples: eggs and avocado, a protein shake, bowl of oatmeal, or yogurt with berries. (Donuts and high sugar cereals  = dessert, not breakfast.)
  • Eat 3 servings of vegetables and 1 salad every day.
  • Use olive oil and vinegar on your daily salads and skip the croutons.  
  • Eat grilled protein instead of fried protein.

Instead of “Spend More Time With Family/Close Friends” do several of the following:

  • Call your sibling(s) at least once a month.
  • Plan a summer visit to your siblings, parents, etc. and put a date on everyone’s calendar 3–6 months out.
  • Schedule a week for family vacation with your spouse and/or children and put the dates on the calendar. (If you log that vacation time with Human Resources now you’ll be the first one.)
  • Have lunch or coffee with your best friend once a month. (Schedule January’s lunch soon.)

Instead of “Be More Spiritual” consider the following:

  • Listen to online sermons while on your daily commute, doing housework, or exercising. The How Great Is Our God! series (June 2016) by Dr. Charles R. Swindoll has impacted me as of late. (Warning: At times you might find yourself pulling over to the side of the road or putting down that laundry to pause and give humble adoration to the Lord. Expect conviction and a few tears.) 
  • Read daily devotionals. Here are two of my favorites: Living the Psalms (Swindoll) and My Utmost for His Highest (Chambers).  
  • Join a Bible Study or Small Group at your local church and don’t just attend, but participate and with authenticity.    
  • Most importantly, have an attitude of humble submission. These sermons and devotionals are not just for your spouse, neighbor, or family member. They are for you. It’s easy to say, “Such and so needs to hear this.” Yes, perhaps they do. But God will work on them in his timing. Instead, ask the Lord, “How do you want me to change? How do you want me to apply this lesson to my life? I don’t want to stay where I am. Help me. Grow me. Move me.”

The above are just a few ideas to get you started. Think and pray about your own ideas, but get them set before the end of January. Post them on the fridge. Tell your spouse or close friend so he or she can help keep you accountable. Schedule exercise and time with family on your calendar. And ask the Lord to transform not just your physical appetite, but your spiritual appetite, too (1 Peter 2:1–3). Taste buds—physical and spiritual—can be difficult to change, but ask the Lord for his help.

Success is not in making a resolution or a goal. Success is found in the repetition of small, daily tasks needed to accomplish that goal. Repeat, repeat, and repeat, until those tasks turn into habits and a lifestyle. (And lest you think I do not need to heed my own advice, believe me, I do. I’m preaching to myself as I type.)

Maxwell’s daily mantra was: “Read, write, file…everyday.” What’s your daily mantra? I now need to go and pray about my own. Do you?   

Photos courtesy of Amazon and Lightstock.

Karla D. Zazueta is an architect-turned-discipleship-leader serving alongside her pastor-husband in Hispanic ministry both locally and abroad. She's also a mother to one furry feline and one adorable little boy. Karla has a M.A. in Christian Leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary and a B.S. in Architectural Studies. She is the author of Discipleship for Hispanic Introverts. She was also a contributing author to the book, Vindicating the Vixens, with the essay "Mary Magdalene: Repainting Her Portrait of Misconceptions."

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