Know what’s always messed me up with New Year’s resolutions? New Year’s Day is a holiday. So all those goals and new beginnings typically start around January 2 and I’m already a day behind. Then I need to put up Christmas stuff and I’m two days behind. I’m getting tired just thinking about it. So I need some mental rest from the holidays. Three days behind.
So this year I brightened up and decided that this will take a bit more planning and thought. And yes, I’m talking slap-dab in the middle of the Christmas holidays.
So I’m writing this to myself, but inviting you to come along for the fun. Here are ten suggestions to prepare for the coming year – do all these by December 31, and you can have New Year’s Day off. I know, I know! You’re welcome!
1. Establish a spiritual quest for the coming year.
Spend some time thinking, talking and praying about one meaningful spiritual quest for the coming year that you would like to pursue or accomplish. Ask the Lord what He would like you to focus on.
The Apostle Paul was a great New Testament example of this. His whole life was a journey from one quest to the next. His letters are filled with goals or quests in ministry.
How about you? What one thing would you like (or do you feel led) to pursue? Maybe it’s a new spiritual discipline like fasting or scripture meditation. Maybe it’s a mission trip or memorizing a book of the Bible. Maybe it’s a significant spiritual retreat or pilgrimage of some sort. Whatever you sense God’s leadership to focus on, begin ordering your life around the fulfillment of that quest, with His help.
2. Make a few lists of your year in review.
News people do this. Radio people do it, too. Pretty soon you’ll start seeing people’s top ten of this or top fifty of that for 2012. It’s one of the ways people make sense of their world and the significance of that time period.
How about you? As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big list maker. It helps me think. Here are some lists I’m thinking about. What are some lists you could make to help you mentally process your year?
- People I have met
- Places I have gone
- Things I have done for the first time
- My five biggest accomplishments
- People I have lost or lost touch with
- Lessons I have learned
- Purchases I have made
- Changes big and small in my life
Okay, your turn.
3. Empty your emotional garbage can
Tim LaHaye once said that whenever somebody comes to him for counseling, the first thing he tries to discern is, are they angry or guilty? That may be an over-simplification, but he makes a good point. All of us accumulate some emotionally-charged baggage along the way, and most of it is in the form of anger or guilt – certainly two emotions we were never designed to carry long-term. The good news is, we don’t have to.
Maybe it’s time to start living as someone who is actually forgiven. Maybe it’s time to really forgive someone else and lay that burden of anger down once and for all. Wouldn’t it be great if you could start the new year with a clean emotional slate?
4. Decide on your one word or theme for the coming year.
The idea has been around for a few years and it has been life-changing for many. Rather than focusing on a list of resolutions that are powerless to produce personal change, focus for a year on one word that most represents what you hope God will do in you.
Now in January Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen are releasing their book titled, My One Word. Check out Mike’s explanation here:
5. Schedule a physical exam.
I heard both of those responses – the one that said, “Well of course!” and the one that said, “Ugh.. mind your own business.”
Okay, I get it. I am horrible at anything that resembles maintenance. Why go to the mechanic if your car’s running fine, or to the doctor if you don’t feel sick?
Do I really need to answer that?
Also, different ages mean different kinds of physicals. Deal with it. If that means you’re getting pushed, pulled and squashed flat in some machine or somebody’s about to holler “Up periscope!” just do it. Oh, and check your insurance policy – there may be advantages to scheduling that before the end of the year, if possible.
6. Do something on New Year’s Eve expressly for the purpose of feeling good about yourself.
Complete the following sentence: I feel really good about myself when I __________. You may have several answers to that – some involving doing something by yourself and some involving time spent with others.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you woke up on January 1 with the feelings of confidence, satisfaction, or fulfillment rather than the feelings of being hung over, tired or lazy? What a way to start a new year.
7. Do family – past, present, future.
That often involves Christmas, of course. But it can mean other things as well. Spend some time enjoying memories this holiday season, especially of family members who are no longer with you.
Make time for family somehow this year – Christmas or otherwise. Our family is in a unique season where five out of the last seven years we have someone new in it. Do something with that. Enjoy it.
While you’re at it, visit some Christmases to come. Our family is already talking about an out-of-the-box plan for 2013. Dream a little – not just about Christmas, but about ways to experience family in the future.
8. Find your own “fiscal cliff” and by all means, jump!
Let’s see… increase income, decrease expenses. That may mean some awkward things to the politicians, but for you and me, it sounds like a pretty good plan.
Maybe this would be a good time to reexamine how much you’re spending on the four – and only four – budget categories you’ll ever need, and plan to make some adjustments. Maybe it’s time to look for ways to earn extra income or eliminate some debt.
Also, think about making year-end contributions to your church or charity, as well as other year-end requirements for tax purposes. The main thing is, don’t just coast through the holidays and plan to “get back to business” on January 2. Create a financial focus and put some thought into it.
9. Thank one to five people for their friendship.
Somebody has been good to you this year. Maybe you’ve made a new friend or two. Maybe it’s a time-tested relationship forged through years of facing joys and challenges together. Maybe it’s somebody who walked into your life when everybody else walked out. Whoever it is, keep it simple.
Pick up the phone. Write out a note. Use email or texting as a last resort. And just say in your own way, “Thank you for your friendship.”
This is one I’d keep away from Christmas itself. You may or may not be the kind of person who gets all your friends “some little something” for Christmas. But sometime before the new year starts, thank somebody personally for being your friend during this one.
10. Do a vocational inventory.
“Vocational” doesn’t always mean “professional.” The word comes from the Latin word “vocatio,” which means a calling.
A vocatio is a call or calling to a given way of life. It grants an individual a particular standing and position in relation to others within a community. Moreover, it defines how one meaningfully participates in and contributes to the life of the community. Our vocation tells us who we are within our social structures of life and what kind of duties we are to be about for the welfare of the community.
This would be a good time to reassess your calling and your faithfulness to it. What changes do you need to make “for the welfare of the communities” you are involved in… your workplace? Your family? Your town? Your church?
Does this involve your job? Of course. But more than that, it involves your life. What are you doing with your skills, gifts, life experiences, or the needs around you? What changes do you need to make in the coming year?
What’s cool about this list is that it can be done in a matter of a couple of hours, or it can become a major undertaking. It’s completely up to you. But even in starting to answer some of these questions, you may find yourself already ahead of where you were this time last year.