2021 is finally here, and many are already starting on those special resolutions they’ve set for themselves, but before you start on your new resolutions, here’s something you might consider:
Seriously, don’t make any resolutions. Instead, make goals, and instead of making goals that are glorified resolutions, strive to set goals for yourself that are practical and have a real purpose to them.
For example, I once set a goal at the beginning of a new year to exercise to a specific workout video every day. I did it for about a week, and then I began skipping a few days here and there. Those few days turned into an entire week, and before January was over, I’d completely abandoned my new year challenge.
“Well, that’s just you,” you might say.
Maybe that is just me. Maybe I have a deeper passion for delicious food than taking up running marathons, but maybe many of us have the habit of setting goals for ourselves out of flimsy desires that are simply unrealistic.
But I learned some time ago to choose a specific goal for which I had a passion and burden, and I developed a few steps to achieving success in completing said goal.
1. Start small.
Last year, I decided to study the Word more, so rather than commit right away to analyzing Isaiah or Revelations in depth, I chose one of my favorite shorter books—Esther. I knew it would be a book that I could easily commit to studying due to its short length (only 10 chapters), and I chose to read a few verses each day and study those verses only.
2. Set time aside each day.
I made a schedule to read Esther over the course of several weeks and estimated the time I would spend each day reading the verses and then set time aside to study each verse individually, taking notes and using Bible study tools to help me.
At the same time, I’d made a goal to pray more, so I set a realistic time to pray each morning. The set time sometimes changed, depending on the day of the week, but I knew that specifically writing down my goals and the time I would set aside for them would help me achieve them.
3. Gradually increase time allotted each day and effort necessary to complete the goal.
After about a week, I gradually began to increase how much time I spent in prayer. Sometimes, it was by five minutes or by ten minutes or by fifteen minutes, but the more I prayed and focused on prayer, the easier I found it was to increase my prayer time.
4. Approach with firm resolve and understanding—don’t quit.
I didn’t always pray as long as I needed to or study for as long as I could have, but I didn’t give up. Why? Why didn’t I give up the same way I gave up exercising to that new exercise video after a couple of weeks? Because I didn’t set a goal that was only linked to fleeting desires or insecurities. Instead, I made sure to set a goal linked to my own identity and lifestyle. I am a child of God, an Apostolic Pentecostal, and as such, I seek a stronger relationship with God through prayer and studying His Word. I understood the value of the goal I set.
When I failed one day to meet my goal, I began again the next day with a resolve to try harder and do better. By the end of the year, I’d managed to read through and study more of the Word, such as the book of Genesis and themes like comfort. Because I didn’t give up or revert to doing the “same-ole-same-ole,” I was able to reach a breakthrough in my prayers and spend more time in His Presence, getting closer to Him than I’d been before.
Don’t underestimate the importance of writing down your goals and setting schedules.
I’m a visual person, anyway, so putting down my goals and plans on paper helps solidify them in my mind and helps me take those goals seriously.
Your goals don’t have to be big, but your passion does.
If you don’t truly, really, deeply care for achieving your goals deep, deep down, then chances are you’ll give up on them.
After 2020 let down many people, I believe it’s acceptable to set small, realistic goals for 2021—something simple like spending more quality time with loved ones or taking a short vacation (or even staycation) that was cancelled last year due to lockdowns.
2021 will certainly be better than 2020 if we set that as a goal for ourselves and charge forward in faith and with purpose. We have an entire year ahead of us, and we can’t control what happens outside of ourselves. But we can control our determination.
Let’s do this, 2021!