Happy New Year to all of you. May 2024 bring us faith, hope, love, joy, and peace. I know that is a lot to ask of a year, but the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”
Dear Lord, my enduring prayer for my world, my church, my family (both of biology and of love), my enemies, and even myself is that you will grace us all with these blessings in the year that waits before us. Amen.
This is the time of year when people make resolutions to improve themselves. I often resolve to make changes in my life, but rarely do I follow through on those changes. I saw a quote on Facebook yesterday. The poster said, “I’m going to open a new gym called Resolutions. There will be exercise equipment in it during the first two weeks of January. After that, it will become a wine bar.” That pretty much sums up my experience with new year’s resolutions. Just change “wine bar” to “ice cream parlor” and you will have me pegged. It can be discouraging.
Why do we make resolutions? We want to be healthier and happier. Does making resolutions really help us meet that goal? I’m not sure it does.
First of all, what we want is usually an outcome, not the process. Everybody wants to go to Disney World, but nobody really wants to spend 7 hours on a cramped airplane with dozens of hyper stimulated children. We may want to be thinner, but don’t particularly want to stop eating ice cream. I think for a resolution to be meaningful (and have even the tiniest chance of success,) it must focus on the journey and not the destination. If I resolve to increase my level of physical activity, it may work if I genuinely believe and honor the notion that increasing my level of physical activity will make me happier and healthier just for its own sake. It won’t work if the reason I make the resolution is because I believe I will get thinner if I increase my level of physical activity. I am unfairly raising the bar for success if I resolve to increase my physical activity but “really” mean that I resolve to lose weight- an outcome over which I don’t have complete control. It is a recipe for failure.
Secondly, a year is a very long time. The average life expectancy for a woman in the United States is 79 years. I have already lived 64 years of mine. That leaves me with about 15 years to go, statistically speaking. The year 2024 may represent 7% of the time I have left. Deciding in January how the year will go and how I will want to live that year seems a little reckless. There are a lot of variables that can impact the facts and circumstances of my life over the course of a year. The improvements I consider making on January 1st may not be healthy, possible, or beneficial in the landscape of the life I end up living on March 12th or August 9th or December 25th. Again, setting resolutions that assume everything will be the same throughout the year as it is on January 1st is just resolving to fail.
I do not know quite how to describe the impact of the year 2023 on me. I ended 2022 with gratitude, exhaustion, and a relatively clear vision of what I thought the next year would be. More importantly, I think I had a pretty clear vision of who I would be during the new year. I learned and grew a lot in 2022. The resolutions I thought about making for 2023 had a lot to do with recrafting relationships to accommodate the new me. To be honest, I thought I had done the work I needed to do in 2021 and 2022 to be the person I wanted to be. My resolutions for 2023 centered on how to reap the rewards of that work.
Yes, I did do some reward-reaping and relationship recrafting in 2023, but the truth is that I was still a long way from who God intended me to be. This year 2023 was one of the most painful, most challenging, and most precious years of my life. I resolved some decades-old pain that has eaten away at my soul for over 40 years. I learned to stand up for my own convictions. I embraced the idea that I can still be right, even if someone else thinks I am wrong. I have shared some of my epiphany year in this blog, so I won’t delve into specifics again. The other revelation I had during 2023 is that the only way to live effectively is to live in the moment. I have always been a compulsive planner, creating detailed action plans for everything and strategizing solutions to every possible scenario. There is nothing wrong with planning. I believe that it is important to be present and in the moment during the planning process. I am never going to stop being a planner and I do not want to stop being a planner. However, it is just as important to be present and in the moment during the doing process. I’ve done things in 2023 that I never, never could have even imagined as possibilities in the past. I did not always manage these new, unplanned scenarios perfectly. I did not always do what I resolved to do. However, there was NO failure. Even circumstances that did not yield the results I wanted or expected were huge triumphs in my personal development. No harm, no foul.
As I go into 2024, I am making no resolutions. I am choosing instead to observe the world around me and my responses. I am choosing to be curious and open to what God has in store for me. I am choosing to embrace unexpected conditions and adapt in order to sail with the wind. I am not choosing resolutions to develop myself into a happier, healthier person. I am choosing explorations and experiments.
Who’s with me? Do you make resolutions? Why or why not? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wonderful 2024!