Philippians 3:14 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Happy New Year, My Friends!
It’s January – the beginning of a new year – and many of us have set new goals, renewed old goals and/or made our list of resolutions. Some are in the areas of organization, decluttering, devotional time, weight loss, diet, fitness, time management, careers, financial planning and more. If we set too many goals in too many areas, it can be overwhelming and, before January is over, we have forgotten those good intentions we had on January 2nd.
Is that how you’re feeling right now? The first week of January you had all the will power in the world to say no to the jelly donuts at work. You set your clock 30 minutes early to get up and exercise, carved out devotional time and even started writing in that new journal. But now it’s the second half of January, the snooze button gets pushed, the weather doesn’t cooperate, the holiday bills overwhelm us and our busy schedule begins derailing the majority of those goals. Does this sound familiar? It does to me, so I asked myself how will this year be different?
First of all, I don’t want to fall into the trap of setting too many goals and making too many changes all at once. Because when I begin to fail in accomplishing one goal, it causes discouragement. That discouragement causes me to lose my focus and my momentum on the other goals. So I started thinking about goal setting like running a marathon, completing a triathlon, even a decathlon. Truth be told, I have never run a marathon but I have completed a half-marathon. I have never competed for a decathlon, but I have trained and completed a triathlon. With each of these competitions, the training and preparation is what equipped me to run the race and participate in all the events. But the training, in every case, always starts small. For instance, in a triathlon, your first day of training does not require you to swim, bike and run all at once. It is broken down into small steps to build your stamina and develop your muscles. One day you run a short distance, then bike the next day, then swim. The distance is slowly increased, then two activities are added, building up to three as you get closer to the goal.
So why, at the beginning of the year, do we create all these new demands on our schedule and our lives? Don’t get me wrong, I am a supporter of goal-setting, new beginnings and self-improvement. I love the idea of dream boards to record our goals and keep them visible for better accountability. But I also know from my own experiences that when I set several new goals and attempt them all at once, I set myself up for failure. For instance, setting the clock earlier to fit in meal preparation, exercise and devotional time before I head to work can be one of those situations. I actually have done this in my life very successfully . . . in the past. I remember feeling organized and refreshed physically and spiritually as I prepared for my day. To try and establish this routine again feels like running in a marathon for me. It’s very difficult to pull myself out of those warm covers earlier each morning. I rationalize that I will have time later in the day to exercise. Then I convince myself that I need my sleep because it could affect my health and my attitude towards others throughout the day, and that’s just as important as fitness and prayer. I know that trying to get up and accomplish too much is setting me up for failure. I need to start small, get up a bit earlier and discipline myself to focus on adding one new thing to my routine. So this is what I am doing. My first step this year is to focus on increasing my devotional time in the morning to allow more time for journaling and reflective prayer time. When I accomplish this, I feel that my time with Christ helps prepare me for the day and makes me aware of what He desires of me. I will let you know if I am able to add on the extra time for exercise!
What is your goal this year? Write it down, pray about it and make a plan. Break it down into small, achievable, measurable pieces and celebrate the accomplishment of each of those pieces. Finding an accountability partner who has a similar goal can also help you achieve success. Remember Paul’s words from Philippians 4:3 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. You are not alone!
Dear Lord, as the New Year begins, I give you thanks and praise for new beginnings. Help me, Lord, to be realistic about my expectations. Help me to focus on your will for my life and set a goal that draws me closer to You and those I love. As I pursue my goal, give me the perseverance to overcome discouragement and press onto the final victory!
In Your name, Amen.