I know it’s common to make a New Year’s resolution; it demonstrates the desire of many people to improve themselves. Unfortunately, I also know it’s quite common to only last a few weeks before the individual who made the resolution loses willpower. I rarely, if ever, make a New Year’s resolution. I know my own weaknesses and that an entire year seems too daunting when I am only a month in. But I do want to develop better habits.
To make better habits, I find that bitesized chunks work much better, so I made a 31 day resolution this year to read through the Bible in January. I wanted to start big so that perhaps that would keep me going better throughout; it would remind me in my weak moments that I made it through harder times.
Before Bible school, such a goal would have seemed impossible. After Bible school? I’m fairly certain I read the equivalent of that goal several times over, just in a different format.
So I set out to read the entire Bible this month. I am one day away from achieving that goal. It hasn’t been easy. There have been nights where I fell asleep trying to get just the last couple chapters in. But it has been remarkable how immersing myself completely into that one thing has provided so much motivation in other areas. For example, writing. It’s a lot easier to push myself to write a few dozen words a day when I know I am meeting my other goals. I haven’t had nearly as much difficulty getting the dishes done regularly. I’ve been more patient.
I think this one challenge has reminded me of what a resolution really should be. It’s not a pipe dream. When one makes a resolution, they should be RESOLVED to do something. A resolution in other contexts is a certainty, a declaration of what is to happen. And there is a consequence for not following through on it. Our New Year’s resolutions are so easy to break because there isn’t really a negative consequence for completing it; maybe a guilty conscience for 2.5 seconds and then we move on. And the positive consequences are often so vague. Maybe I’m the only one who has that problem.
I have studied my fellow humans enough to know that we have a tendency to do best when the stakes are highest. When something is prompting us that going in this direction isn’t just a nice thought, it’s desperately needed. The consequences for not doing this thing are greater than the consequences for doing it. We claim we don’t know what we would do in a high cost situation, but the truth is that maybe our day to day decisions have a far higher cost than we think. The apathy we breed in ourselves by setting resolutions and then breaking them is keeping us from living to our full potential.
It’s not enough to want to be committed. If I only wanted to be committed to my marriage but wasn’t really committed, what kind of a marriage would I have? (Terrible, in case you weren’t sure of the answer.) The desire to be committed is not a bad thing, but without the actual commitment, there isn’t much point.
The commitment to do something may have some unforeseen advantages or disadvantages. I wasn’t anticipating my 31 day resolution to so drastically impact the rest of my life, but it has had a positive impact far beyond what I expected. I knew being deeply immersed in Scripture could not have a negative impact on my attitude or actions, but I didn’t know just how much of a difference it could make.
That is the beautiful thing about following through on a commitment. It usually does more good for you than you thought it would.
So maybe it’s time we start taking baby steps toward bigger commitments. Maybe a 3 week goal is a better way to start out than a whole year goal. Or at least breaking that year goal down into bite sized increments.