By Thomas Moll
Director of Content & Innovation
My 7-year-old son has a fun calendar that lists one “holiday” for every day of the year. Do you know what January 17 is? It’s not Epiphany. It’s ... Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day.
This makes sense as 80 percent of people don’t stick to their resolutions. Only 10 percent of people are successful at keeping their resolutions throughout the year, and one in three people fail their New Year’s resolutions in January.
Personally, if I’m going to give up on a diet goal, I want to give it up by February 3 as it’s Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.
I bring this up not to say you should give up on any positive changes and get on that couch immediately and start eating Ben & Jerry’s. If we recommend making any healthy resolutions in this publication (and we do), we should also be honest about the fact that change is hard.
What Makes Change Difficult?
Here are some of the reasons that sticking with a resolution is so difficult:
Not enough commitment: It’s a lot easier to see the vision of ourselves after all the change has already happened than it is to imagine all the steps ahead of us, and then furthermore, have the commitment to stick with those steps day after day.
Experiencing a Setback: It’s a lot easier to plan for success and smooth sailing than it is to imagine that we may have bumps in the road ahead of us. When we experience difficulties, it’s natural to cut out anything extra in our lives. New commitments that we haven’t gotten used to yet or don’t feel that we have time for anymore are easy to let go of when we are hit with something unexpected.
Slow Progress: Think back to when you were younger, and you learned a new skill. At the beginning, you would grow and improve very quickly. But as you became more proficient, your progress began to slow. As the excitement of something new fades away, it’s hard to stay faithful to our new commitments during a period of little results.
Not Enough Support: We all need support when starting something new; otherwise, we would have already made the change. Whether it’s encouragement, coaching, extra tools, or a change of environment, we need some external support to keep going through tough times to be able to see what can be possible if we stick with our plans.
With all of these difficulties, you may be thinking, “Why should I try to make any resolutions if it’s this hard to keep them?”
As I get older, I still enjoy playing sports, but find that it’s harder and harder to keep up with those who are (at least) 20 years younger than me.
I was doing some online research on how older adults can still stay active, and the first line I read was, “No one can avoid the aging period.” This isn’t the way I wanted to start my search for how to be rejuvenated at any age. Yet, if I’m honest with myself, there are changes coming up that I don’t want to happen, and that I can’t avoid.
We can’t stop the effects of aging from happening. What we can do is to enjoy the health and independence God has given us and make changes that will help to slow the loss of both.
Physical exercise can help stave off a myriad of illnesses. It’s been shown to decrease cardiovascular disease, help with balance, increase oxygen uptake, and decrease blood pressure.
Brain games and crossword puzzles can hold off memory loss and keep your brain sharp. Even better, learning a new skill that challenges you (even just a little) has been proven to slow cognitive decline. This could be anything from learning bridge, quilting, or a new instrument. Anything that doesn’t come naturally is most effective.
Many desire to increase social connections with friends or family. Forty percent of Americans agree with the statement “Nobody knows me well.” Feeling isolated increases feelings of stress and anxiety. Not having someone to turn to in a crisis can exacerbate the damage to physical and mental health.
Contact with friends, family, and acquaintances lets our feelings be known and increases our resiliency in tough times. Digital and written communication is good— phone calls are better—but in person connections are the most effective in improving your health.
From the Physical to the Spiritual
I could keep adding to the list of things that you could try this year to help you be healthy, wealthy, and wise, but you probably already know what you want to do and how you want to grow. My struggle, and this may be yours also, is not identifying the areas of my life that could use growth but rather sticking with a plan and knowing when to stop.
When is Enough, Enough?
God loves you right now. No exercise or devotional plan will get Him to love you more.
Romans 5:8 reminds us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He didn’t wait for us to have it all together.
One big way to increase your likelihood of sticking with a resolution is to connect to an identity. When it comes to our faith life, we don’t have to pretend to be a Christian in order to do what a Christian does. There’s no need to “fake it ‘til you make it.”
When it comes to life change, God made the biggest change happen with giving us new hearts. In Ezekiel 36:26 God tells us that he will “remove from you your heart of stone and give you a new heart.”
One of my all-time favorite verses comes from an early Christian hymn that is quoted by Paul in Ephesians 5:14, “Awake O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
This verse gives me hope for the resurrection, but it also reminds me of my baptism, and that daily, I’m called to die to sin and to live in Christ.
If you don’t have a daily practice of going to God’s Word to hear His direction, concern, love, grace, and forgiveness for you, it’s never too late to start. If you can, commit to studying with others. It’s a great way to have the accountability and encouragement of other believers.
If you’re looking for study resources, check out WorshipAnew.org to find daily devotions, articles, and Bible studies.
My prayer for you is that you may never feel discouraged by all there is to do, but instead feel strengthened daily in your faith as the Holy Spirit works to grow you to be more and more like Jesus.
A Tip from Atomic Habits
One of the best books I’ve come across on starting and sticking with a new habit is James Clear’s Atomic Habits. In the book, Clear encourages identity-based habits over outcome-based habits.
-Decide the person you want to be.
-Prove it to yourself with small wins.
Deciding who you want to be can feel daunting. We typically start with outcome-based goals instead. So, start with that. Ask yourself questions that turn outcomes into identity. “What are the characteristics of a person who talks to her daughter every day?”, “Who is the type of person who keeps a list of others to pray for?”, and then work backward. The goal is not to learn an instrument, it’s to be a musician.
Identity change comes with a downside. It’s easy for us to buy into stigmas that would keep us from change. You may have a voice in your head right now saying ...
“I’ve never stuck to a reading plan.”
“I always forget birthdays.”
“I’m just not a social person.”
The reason you have that voice in your head is because there’s some truth over time that has instilled that belief. Start the journey toward the new habit today.
It takes a while to change the voice in your head, but the sooner you start giving yourself new evidence, the sooner lasting change will settle in.