Every year around this time people joke about how the gym is really full for the first few weeks of the year and then it eventually tapers off. This is pretty telling of how successful our New Years resolutions are. We start off strong. Motivated by the promise of a new beginning and the hope of changing our lives for the better or slimming down for summer. But then life happens. We get busy. We get sick. We get bored. Or it’s just too much work. We may miss a day, then a few days, then a week and before we know it it’s July and we’ve gained 3 lbs.
I’ve never been one to make New Years resolutions, because I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone’s life actually change by making them. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to vow to ourselves that we will change. It’s wonderful to reflect on the previous year and decide how we want the coming one to be different. However, I think most of us would agree that New Year’s resolutions are largely ineffective.
So why do we fool ourselves with these often lofty, life-changing goals? Sometimes we just need a re-do after a bummer of a year. It feels good to say “Buh-bye!” to a disappointing 12 months with the hope of a better dozen ahead. When the rubber meets the road though, many of us bend, buckle, and then break those resolutions.
A resolution is a great starting point. It’s a decision. The first step. It’s the recognition that something about us or in our life needs to change. Failing to recognize that at all is surely more detrimental than falling back on those decisions. The problem is that we tend to think that a one-time decision is enough to transform us.
Generally this isn’t true. We’re transformed when we are disciplined enough to make that same decision day in and day out. A wise sage named Jillian Michaels once said, “Transformation is not a future activity, it is a current event.” True transformation is the product of daily reminding ourselves of the decisions we’ve made. You might call it discipline.
So what happens when we inevitably fail at some point or another? This is where I think New Year’s resolutions are particularly ineffective. The implication is that each year we will make them and if or when we break them (or forget about them completely) we can always try again next year.
I think what people enjoy about New Years is the idea of a fresh start. A clean slate. We can simply put the previous year behind us and start over again. I’ve said before that I’m an “all or none” kind of person and so, unfortunately if I fail in May, January 1 is a long time to wait for a new beginning.
So this year I’ve decided to make one New Year Resolution and that is that I will make “Monday Morning Resolutions.” Every Monday is a new chance to start fresh. If I don’t make it to the gym at all one week, I can just start back up again on Monday. Even if I fail for a few weeks I can treat Monday morning like a clean slate. It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how quickly you get back up. Will it be the start of a new week? Or the start of a new year?
When we fail at something we tend feel guilt. Guilt is a terrible motivator. The fear of failure might work for a while, but eventually we end up just feeling awful about ourselves which is quite uninspiring and discouraging. But when we give ourselves the grace of a clean slate each week we’ll be far more likely to see lasting change. Not to mention that God’s mercies are new every morning and if we actually lived like we believed that we’d probably be a lot happier and motivated to get back up again quicker.
Cheers to a new year and a new week and new mercies!