Can you believe 2017 is over? It’s crazy to think about! Now, almost 1 week into the New Year we’ve likely almost all jumped back into the normal swing of things. It can sometimes feel overwhelming and even discouraging. I know I’ve felt both of those emotions this week. The truth is, planning is super fun. We all love to think and dream about what could be. But doing, well.. doing is “where the rubber meets the road,” as they say. Actually implementing our plans is tough work, especially when it comes to the things we think are most important and want to achieve.
The statistics are pretty dismal. About 80% never achieve their New Year’s resolutions and give up by February. I would be willing to bet that most of those statistics are true because “doing is tough.” There are always a lot of great excuses out there, but the reality is plain and simple: “doing is tough.”
Here are a few key reminders and tools to help you take your goals and habits past January.
Reflection and Remembrance
I find that there is no better time to really take time to reflect and plan than the week before the New Year. As Winston Churchill said, “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.” I hope you were able to take time to do some reflection on 2017 and planning for 2018. If not, it’s never too late to do so. Schedule aside some time to think, remember, and learn.
Reflection and remembrance are such powerful tools by which the Spirit of God can work in our lives. Throughout Scripture God calls His people to remember: remember Him, remember truth, remember His mighty works of deliverance, remember His commandments, and so on.
Remembrance leads to knowledge and, if we will take action on the knowledge, it will lead to change. William J. Bennett wrote,“Reflection allows us to weigh our actions, judge the consequences, and proceed circumspectly.”
Michael Hyatt also puts it nicely when he says, “We want to distill what we learned in the past into wisdom so it can be used in the future.” That’s why my wife Heather and I have developed the practice of setting aside space and time in our calendar for the past few years to spend time reflecting on the past year and planning for next.
The True Measurement of Progress
Often as I review the past year it’s easy for me to highlight all that wasn’t accomplished. But the truth is there is much to be grateful for! Progress is not only measured in terms of our plans but in terms of our growth. Our true progress is measured according to God’s plans for our transformation and maturity in Christ.
Whether we accomplish everything we set out to or whether we experience a series of unforeseen events that throw us off course, there is always place to see and be thankful for everything that God was doing. As the well know verse reads,
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NKJV
Trusting the Invisible Hand
This past year certainly contained a few surprises for us. But as I look back, I can see all of the successes, surprises, and failures have led to important learnings and life lessons that God was seeking to work in our lives. I’m reminded of the fact that our God is BIG and that “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV).
My job is not to try to control everything or fear the uncertain but to simply trust in Him.
Trusting God’s invisible hand in my life is the greatest pursuit of my life, the most relevant goal, and the most beneficial habit.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
Reflect, Remember, Trust & Plan
Not only does Scripture speak to reflection, remembrance and trusting in God’s sovereignty but also to our responsibility to be intentional, plan, take action and be diligent. My encouragement for you would be to take some time to not only to reflect on the past year, but also to plan for next. Taking intentional aim towards what’s really important helps us to avoid drifting directionless through our days and enables us to take action and spend our days and weeks with purpose and progress.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty…”
Proverbs 21:5 NKJV
There are many amazing resources online and otherwise to help you do this. You can always begin right here by using some of the helpful content in our JesusHacks articles to establish clarity in your responsibilities and roles beginning with stewarding yourself well first. From there, work on keystone habits like waking up early to create space for a solid morning routine, especially spiritual and physical fitness. Once you’ve made a short list of key habits, goals, and routines, focus on developing the supporting structure, systems, and schedule to see them through. This will start you well on your way to establishing healthy rhythms of life.
Don’t go into the New Year just dreaming about a set of broad resolutions you’d like to work toward without the careful thought and planning to make those things reality. That’s just a recipe for disappointment and discouragement. Go into the New Year with a plan. As I’ve quoted many times before, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” ― Benjamin Franklin
That being said, if you’d like a detailed program for helping you take these concepts further, sign up for the Intentional Living Course. It’s full of content and tools to help you take intentional aim and action on an annual basis at what really matters in life.
- Reflect and be thankful. When reflecting, may your first effort be toward giving thanks, not toward what you didn’t do or did wrong. My challenge for you is to make a list of 10 very specific things (not broad categories) you are grateful for last year. Certainly there is a place to reflect on wrongdoing or failures, to repent, and learn how to avoid them in the future, but first, start with thankfulness for what God has given and done.
- Take aim and action. When planning for the year ahead (even if you’re already into it) remember this: have open hands and a surrendered heart to the invisible hand of God in your life. Plan and take action, but always be available and willing for God to shake things up a bit. Remember, it’s always for our ultimate good. Prayerfully write down 7 very specific goals and 3 specific habits you’d like to take aim and action toward achieving and implementing this year. Once you’ve done so, pick the top goal and top habit you will work on first, identify the next tiny step in each one, and then take it or schedule in your calendar when you will take it. Godspeed!