By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
As we approach the end of the year, our minds will soon shift from Christmas presents and giving, family, reminiscing, and eating all the Christmas goodies, to New Year of resolutions, fresh starts, and new habits. It's common to receive an inundation of emails advertising weight loss services, a general increase in exercise equipment sales, and the whole New Year-New You mantra becomes front and center.
Granted, New Year's resolutions aren't all weight loss related. Sometimes, we look at a New Year as a fresh start to address habits that need changing, adopt new hobbies, or refocus our minds on projects we started but never finished. And a restart fresh isn't a bad thing, nor is it a bad idea.
Often, there is a bit of the hare meets the tortoise effect around New Years. It starts with a bang, and we're off to the races, with the speed of a hare heading for the first bend in the race. Let's be honest, though; a year isn't exactly a sprint so much as a marathon. By the first few turns, we're already winded and count us a month or two into a new year, and we're gasping for breath and frantically trying to regain momentum to keep going. Meanwhile, the old familiar plod of the tortoise is rising within us, and we begin to think already, "well, maybe next year."
But are there reasons not to make a New Year's resolution? What would happen if, instead of joining the throngs of individuals declaring goals and strategies for the upcoming year, we just continued as we've been?
Let's look at reasons why not making a New Year's Resolution may be a viable option:
1. A Lack of Grace
There's a fine line between throwing goals out the window and extending grace to oneself. But one of the glitches with a New Year's resolution is it also comes almost without exception with an ominous thundercloud of potential—if not probable—failure. Some of that is because we set unreasonable goals, and some is simply because life isn't going to hand us the cooperation we need to accomplish what we've set out to do.
What if we began the new year with an outlook of grace? Meaning, sure, you have thoughts of ways you want to improve or change or grow. You may even have strategies to accomplish this. But instead of resolving, what if you go into it with an attitude of giving yourself grace as you begin the process? This means, instead of instantly staring the potential of failure in the face, you understand what it means to take a step toward a goal in faith, knowing you're going to extend grace as plans change.
Oftentimes, when you give yourself grace, you're also careful how often you extend it. For example, I can extend myself grace in the weight loss arena when I find myself going through a trying month of February, and my focus must be on others in my life and not myself. That being said, I'm far less likely to feel good about extending grace to myself when I'm at a party and opting for that second piece of cheesecake with no justifiable reason to really need that grace.
Resolutions don't often calculate in the concepts of grace. So what if we said, "I have goals, but I also understand there are going to be times I just need a little grace"?
2. Not Realistic
Ok. Most of us will argue that we make realistic resolutions, we just don't want to do them, or life happens, and we end up getting cut short in our pursuits of them. But are they truly realistic resolutions?
Take starting a new hobby, for example. Perhaps you want to pick up knitting because it's been something you have always wanted to do! This is the year! This is the year, you proclaim, that you will make the time to learn to knit!
The declaration is inspiring, it's impactful, and you take up the new hobby with vigor. The problem is life itself hasn't adjusted to this. It's unrealistic to add another thing to the list of things to do when we haven't expunged the laundry list of things already knocking on the to-do-asap door of our lives. Is it?
Being realistic with our resolutions is also a big reason why they end up failing. It's also a good reason not to make a resolution. They're unrealistic in the grand scheme of life; sometimes, that's a super hard pill to swallow.
3. It's the Status Quo
Think about it for a second. Are you making a resolution because you feel this resolution's conviction, drive, and necessity? Or is this taking place because it's the thing to do? It's just what is done at the beginning of a new year, so, therefore - insert your resolution here.
That is truly a great reason not to make a resolution. It goes hand in hand with the proverbial concept of peer pressure. I am because everyone else is. With that as the foundation of your resolution, you have a high probability of crashing and burning.
Creating goals for yourself out of a sense of reluctant obligation is a poor way to start change. Granted, I'm not sure anyone races to the starting line of a new diet, so reluctance is probably a somewhat understandable part of the equation. But to do so merely because it is the expectation, under the influence of group instigation, or because you feel like you're not accomplishing anything without a resolution is a bad reason to create a New Year's resolution.
Are resolutions with the New Year bad? Absolutely not. And change is good! We need to push ourselves to grow, to learn, to adjust, but for the right reasons! A New Year's resolution is what the word implies: a resolve to carry something to completion. That sort of decision is not a small thing! So treat your New Year's resolution with the respect and consideration it deserves.
Take yourself down a checklist to weigh whether it is the right course of action for you this year.
-Is this the right time to tackle this?
-Have I prayed about its priority in my life?
-How will this affect those around me if I commit to this?
-Do I have the mental health to extend grace to myself but not excuses—and know the difference between the two?
-Are the goals realistic and achievable or measurable?
-What are the reasons I'm choosing to make this resolution?
Advertisements, marketing, social groups, and networks all make New Year's resolutions the next step in holiday preparations. So PREPARE! Be wise in your preparations. Be cautious in your preparations. Charging headlong with the speed of a hare will end up getting you winded, and even plodding along at a tortoise's pace may accomplish little to no progression. Instead, be a thinker. A planner. A prayer warrior. Be strategic and look at all angles of your marathon before you commit to it.
Otherwise, don't commit this year. Sit back. Take a year to rest. Resolve to not resolve on January 1st; instead, see what God lays on your heart for small steps of change.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.