We humans are ironic creatures. We fear change, yet we crave change. We hate goodbyes, but we love new beginnings. This paradox runs deep in our “created very good” but fallen nature. Regardless, the calendar waits for no one. I’m not a huge New Year’s Resolution guy, but I am big on the innate ability of us same humans obsession with self-improvement. This can be beautiful and dangerous. So, if you’re mulling over resolutions for 2022, I offer a fresh approach….
- In 2022, consider the “Red Pill.” If nothing changes, nothing changes. When we stay in our comfort zone we start to die. In the original The Matrix, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill by Morpheus. Morpheus says "You take the blue pill… the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.” Meaning, 2022 is the same as 2021. “You take the red pill... you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." Meaning, step into the unknown (out of the boat!) by doing something new and let God show you the real change and freedom that is possible.
- Examine. Take a look back at 2021. What worked that you want to do more of? What didn’t work that you want to change? What was missing that you want to add? Where you failed or fell short, do not beat yourself up. Self-Examinations are useful to help us move forward, so focus on what you can and want to improve and do that. And be encouraged that the best is always yet to come.
- Know Yourself. You are a unique, unrepeatable human being. Cookie cutter approaches don’t work, which explains why there are thousands of diet and exercise programs. The surest way to fall short of your goal is to make it unattainable, and the surest way to do that is to simply go after someone else’s goal.
- Pray. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, bring it to prayer. Ask God to confirm or adjust what you’re thinking. Listen and don’t ask more of yourself than he does.
- Plan Ahead. The New Year is upon us, so if you don’t have a plan, then don’t start tomorrow! This is not Lent. There is no rule that says when to start or that you have to do this at all. So, get a plan together – a realistic plan that you are excited about – and choose your personal start date!
- Measure Results. Pre-determine how you will use specific check in times to measure results. If you find you’re falling short, do not be discouraged and do not be afraid to make adjustments. Remember, this is all self-imposed, so feel the freedom to adjust what is not working. And absolutely do NOT forget to celebrate your successes!
- Share Your Plan. This must be with someone you trust, who knows you, and only wants the best for you. Someone you can call when you feel tempted to give up and can motivate you, pick you up when you feel like you’re falling short, AND celebrate with you! You can also ask them to hold you accountable to your check-in times.
- Take it ONE Day at a Time. If your goal is to run a marathon, I hope it’s not scheduled until October. On your start date, run for 5 minutes and build up from there. If your resolution is to pray more, start with 15 minutes a day and set several goals throughout the year where you bump it up.
- Be at Peace. Obsessing over the occasional slip won’t help you achieve your goal. You’re not going to die if you oversleep on day 4 and miss your scheduled prayer time. It’s the not the end of the world if you eat more than you planned in the second month. You are still a beloved son or daughter of the Father. No slip will ever change your identity. Do the best you can each day. God’s mercy and grace are new every day, so you can start new EVERY day.
- That Said, Stick To It. Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your life. You can’t climb a mountain in one step and real change won’t happen overnight. So, be persistent and patient with yourself. This is a journey, so enjoy it.
- Write a Gratitude List. With the pandemic and lock downs, anxiety is at an all-time high. Real gratitude – being able to see the gift in everything - will naturally push much anxiety away. Read your list out loud every day and add to it throughout the year.
- Dig Deep. Diet and exercise are great goals but think deeper. Establish a regular morning routine for your overall well-being. Get up at the same time every day (if you wanna allow yourself a treat of sleeping in one morning a week, go for it), but the other 6 days, get up right away and do the same thing. Exercise – get the blood pumping and the endorphin’s flowing, baby! Then spend 15 to 30 minutes in quiet prayer. Talk to God and Listen. Ask him to fill you up for the day and give you the grace to be a gift to all you will encounter.
- Be the Light. Come up with a practical plan to volunteer. Consider a regular schedule at the soup kitchen, praying in front of planned parenthood, teaching a religious ed class at your parish, etc. And always be on the lookout for others who need help.
- Open Your Door and Your Heart. Set up a regular monthly dinner routine where you invite a family, a neighbor, someone from church or work that you haven’t before. And/or establish a regular monthly rotation of taking a different person to breakfast or lunch. Pray for them beforehand asking God to let them encounter him when they encounter you. Let the conversation be about them. Ask how they’re doing and really listen, give counsel or support, just be sure to love them in the way they need. If you’re married, use this approach with regular “date nights.” St. John Paul 2 taught us it’s in giving ourselves away that we find ourselves, so look for ways to be a gift in the New Year. Perhaps this can be the greatest resolution for us all.
Happy New Year and in the words of Tiny Tim....God bless us everyone!
Steve Motyl is a trained Freedom Coach with Freedom Coaching. He lives in the Amish countryside of southeast Pennsylvania with his wife, children, dog, barn cats, and chickens. He wants to know if you’re ready for a fresh start. You can schedule a session with Steve or learn more or at freedom-coaching.net.