I recently asked people (via social media) if they set new year’s resolutions. It was about a 50/50 split between those who did and those who didn’t. Many expressed that they didn’t want to wait until the mark of a new year to make changes. Some didn’t like having big goals, rather smaller, more achievable ones. Some admitted to not wanting to set resolutions because of failing at them after a short amount of time. That, my friends, is the category I used to fall into.
Year after year I would make new year’s resolutions of getting better at X, stopping Y, or achieving Z. And year after year it felt like I always missed the mark. Until one year I decided not to even bother, and that has been the trend for the last couple of years. Why even try if I know I’m going to fail?
I’m not proud to admit it, but I let the fear of failure get the best of me. This wasn’t just the case at the beginning of the new year but became a way I would approach goal setting at any time of the year. I wanted to do many things really well, I had an all-or-nothing mentality. Being a perfectionist led to unnecessary anxiety and resulted in not even trying. I couldn’t fail, if I didn’t even try, right?
Want to know a secret I learned? I am going to FAIL at one point or another, and that’s okay! I’m human, and no human can climb up a mountain without stumbling and falling a few times. My high school yearbook quote was one by C.S. Lewis, “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” Although I didn’t fully understand it at the time, I can clearly see how facing failure and choosing to move forward builds resilience and ultimately success. It’s the same with our spiritual lives. Every time you sin (which will happen more often than you’d like) you must get back up. Repentance is the only way up.
I also learned that instead of putting all my energy and focus on accomplishing my goals, it was better to ask God to help me gain the virtues I need to achieve these goals. For example, instead of obsessing over the weight I wanted to lose, I asked God to help strengthen my self-control so I can take better care of the body He gave me. Instead of beating myself up over not doing my daily prayer or Bible reading, I asked God to help me with my discipline. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with all that I had on my plate, I asked God to bless my time so I can divide it wisely. Instead of focusing inward, I focused upward on how God can strengthen me.
I don’t want you to think I have it all figured out. I’m far from that, very far. Life is a struggle, as it is expected to be. But knowing that I’m living for a bigger vision, a bigger goal, a bigger resolution, and that I have God Himself on my side, ignites me and fills me with hope. I have to always remind myself that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
It is always better to do your part and let God do the rest. Like when you study as hard as you can and the exam turns out to be something completely different. When you apply for a job that you meet all the qualifications for, but the position is extremely competitive. When you dedicate yourself to a meaningful project, but don’t know if it will impact anyone.
When I started my blog this year, (if you’ve been following from the beginning, thank you), I prayed for God to use it as He pleases. No matter what the number of readers was, I was determined to keep going. I focused on my part, showing up with a new blog post weekly, then eventually bi-weekly. The rest was up to God, who He wanted to reach and the words He needed the reader to hear. I’ve been blessed and privileged to receive so many messages on how this blog has had a positive impact on someone's life in one shape or another. I can’t take credit for that. That is purely the Holy Spirit working! Had I been afraid of failure, I would not have had the opportunity to see God’s hand bless my effort, and use it for His glory.
It’s also important to examine your goals and ask yourself, “Is this for my glory or God’s glory? Am I using these accomplishments to shine my own light or His? Are the dreams I’m chasing for my own desires or to fulfill the call God has for me?”
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
In a nutshell, don’t let your New Year’s Resolutions or goals any time of the year be merely a laundry list of things to do. Dig deeper, see what traits or characteristics you need to acquire to fulfill those goals, and ask God for them. Be ready to do the hard work it requires to gain those virtues as they will aid you in many ways in your spiritual life as well. Search upward and tune in to hear God’s voice in your life. It will help you gain the clear vision you need to set well-intentioned goals. Don’t let your goals be just earthly goals, but spiritual ones that take the lead on everything else you do.