Do New Year’s Resolutions Work?–REVISITED

I just read this blog I posted two years ago and was encouraged to see that I had accomplished my goals–for the most part–especially, and finally, the doctoral degree.  I’m inspired to set new goals for the coming year, but only according to these guidelines.  A new year can be a helpful opportunity to look again at priorities and make helpful adjustments–assuming there is a plan formulated and implemented to achieve any goals that are made.  Happy 2012!
Do New Year’s Resolutions Work?
Dec 30 2009



It appears that the tradition of the New Year’s Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. January 1 became the beginning of the New Year in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar developed a calendar that would more accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars had. The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god with two faces. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new.

Even though January 1 is just another day, it is helpful to have opportunities for evaluation and fresh starts.  More than half of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions even though, much less keep them!

Someone said, humorously, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other.”  A resolution is usually not kept unless it is a realistic goal that is accompanied by a written action plan.

I’ve found over the years that I’m much more likely to follow through on goals if I:

1. Order Priorities

Think and pray about what is most important in life and what on that list needs to improve in my life.

2. Be Realistic

It is easy to get overly optimistic on January 1 and set yourself up for failure.  For example, “Get out of debt” is an excellent goal, but it might be an unrealistic goal if you are so far in debt that you really need a five year plan to accomplish it.  So, breaking it down to a doable objective is essential. Set goals for a few things you are committed to accomplishing, not for everything you wish you could do or become.

3. Create a Written Plan

Goals without plans are just wishful thinking!  Resolutions don’t get accomplished without “resolve.”  But resolve is not enough.  A written plan is a way to outline how to accomplish a goal—something that can be read, re-read, and evaluated along the way.

4. Put the Plan on the Calendar

How can I read the Bible through if I don’t budget time?  How can I get in shape if I don’t have specific times and days when I workout regularly?  How can I spend time with my wife if I don’t have a date night?

5. Tell Others

Accountability is one of the most important features of any plan for life change.  Very few of us have the personal self-discipline to make significant change without having someone we trust asking us how we are doing.

So in the spirit of telling others, here are mine:

  1. Read the New Testament. Last year’s reading plan was pretty aggressive—to read the Old Testament once and New Testament twice.  I made it through the OT and NT once, but due to the heavy reading schedule I was not able to keep up with my goal to journal on a key verse in each section. This year’s plan is only one chapter a day, five days a week.  That gives two flex days.  I plan to restart journaling using SOAP (scripture, observation, application, prayer).
  2. Implement “Life’s Healing Choices.” I plan to take seriously the study and application of Life’s Healing Choices (Jan-Feb @ Grace Place), do the homework assignments (individually and in small group), and continue working on the material throughout the year with the help of a monthly accountability partner.
  3. Improve My Fitness Plan. Continue working out with partners at the gym at least three times per week, but began and maintain a new eating plan with one day off each week (instead of seven!).  I refuse to agree with Jay Leno when he says: “Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average… which means, you have met your New Year’s resolution.”
  4. Read More Widely. I do a lot of reading that is specific to sermon prep and church leadership, but I know my mind is more challenged and I am more balanced when I read widely.  The way I intend to do this is by using the Amazon KINDLE for reading this year and take advantage of the opportunity of downloading free chapters to expose myself to a wider variety of genres that I might select from.  I will also have to budget time for this, and at the same time put limits on TV and social media.
  5. Finish Doctoral Degree. I know, I know, I have been working on it for a long time!  I’m about halfway done with the writing (80-100 pages so far with hundreds of footnotes).  But some of the research is dependent on what has been happening in the church, so I have been waiting to document and write up conclusions.  I plan to write up a progress plan for the year with my assistant, Mark Johnson, who will make a project plan and hold me accountable.

With realistic goals, a written plan, and accountability, New Year’s resolutions do not have to be just wishful good intentions.  They do not have to end up like Mark Twain’s assessment: “New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

10 Responses to “Do New Year’s Resolutions Work?–REVISITED”

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    Sounds great. Good on you, especially the drnwiag that’s lovely.My son has a girlfriend who I was able to give a sketchbook to for a Christmas gift (with a fancy cover) I would love to be more confident about drnwiag, it’s a great thing to be able to do.My January usually evaporates quite quickly into birthday prep four of us in about three weeks. Ridiculous. After that I take a holiday and try to remember what I wanted to get done this year

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