Many people want to improve their lives, especially around the new year. Yet most well-intentioned starts, like most New Year’s resolutions, fall flat.
Though 45 percent of Americans usually make resolutions, fewer than half last for more than six months. Only 8 percent are successful long term (source).
For years, I was one of the 92 percent who failed.
Like many people, I would begin each year with a fresh slate of resolutions—to go to the gym more, to watch TV less, to read more—but by Ground Hog Day, most of them were a distant memory.
One year, however, I realized that there was more at stake than simply being a bit more disciplined. As I grew older, I realized that my health needed much more attention. Losing a few pounds was not simply a nice idea. My ability to be a dad, husband, and pastor depended on keeping my body in shape.
When I connected the dots between spirituality and health, I was able to make lasting changes. I have bicycled consistently for exercise and recreation for over seven years. It was a major behavioral change that began as a resolution.
Your relationship with God governs all areas of life. When you begin to see the spiritual dimensions of your behavior, making permanent change becomes much more likely.
Here are five simple steps to making a New Year’s resolution that really works.
1. Take responsibility for your problem. Most people don’t want change; they simply want a better life. Lasting change begins when you own up for the way your life is. For me, that meant admitting that I’d been self-indulgent by not caring for my health. I realized that I owed it to myself, my wife, and to God to take better care of myself. All spiritual change—and most of the ordinary changes we make—begins with confession.
2. Make a commitment to God. Behavior is rooted in spirituality. So whether you intend to quit smoking, restore your marriage, or just get back to the gym, the real issue is not your will power but your relationship with God. You need his forgiveness for your failure, and you’ll need his help to make any changes stick. Listen for God’s direction in the resolution you make. Then let God know that you’re choosing a better path and ask for his help on it.
3. Take action. Regret is not a life change. You must go beyond feeling sorry to make a choice for action. You must see two alternatives clearly, and choose one. This means both reaching out for something new and letting go of the old. Do something about your decision, no matter how small. Spiritual resolve combined with action is a powerful force.
4. Make a plan. Many resolutions fail because they are not prepared for real life. There are only 1,440 minutes in each day, so if you add 30 minutes of exercise you must drop a half hour somewhere else. If you intend to further your education, you’ll need money for books and tuition. How are you going to set boundaries on your time? When will you go to the gym? What will you eat instead of burgers and fries?
5. Tell someone. This takes a bit of courage, but it is vitally important. Telling someone about your decision does two things. First, it makes the decision more meaningful to you; it becomes real when you say it aloud. Second, it makes you accountable to someone else, and we all need accountability.
Are you considering a resolution to change in your health, your finances, or a relationship? Whatever it is, I know you can succeed. You don’t have to continue living with regret. Make the choice and take action. You can do this!