I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. People who make New Year’s resolutions mean well. But when we make New Year’s resolutions, we show that we fundamentally misunderstand human behavior.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for folks trying to do whatever they can to better themselves.
However, New Year’s Resolutions are predicated on the belief that you and I can simply “will” ourselves to change. Such is the proverbial cart-before-the-horse approach to life. “Try” with all your might, and you’ll almost never change your life, no matter how lofty your goal or big your dream. You simply don’t have enough “will power” to change your life.
That’s why I believe 80% of all New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Simply trying to change your life is no way to actually change your life. We need something more than a cheap resolve to do better.
We Need New Values
Jesus said it is “out of the abundance of the heart that a man speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Or in other words… what’s going on in the inside of you will eventually find a way to get outside of you. Achieving life goals and making changes to our behavior must begin with changes we make on the inside before we will see changes we desire happen on the outside.
For example, if you want to lose weight (something I’ve been working on), the key is not simply watching what you eat and getting a lot of exercise. That is important of course. But you’ll never have the follow through necessary to lose weight until you actually value a healthy lifestyle. If personal fitness actually becomes something you value on the inside, and becomes part of the fabric of your identity, then over time, you’ll begin to work out behaviors in your life that are in keeping with what is going on inside of you, and you’ll make the choices necessary to actually live a healthy lifestyle.
The same goes with personal finances. No matter how hard you try to get control of your finances, you’ll never save, invest, and build wealth until you make some changes needed on the inside. The odds are, you don’t have a money or spending problem as much as you have a heart problem. If your heart is always set on getting a new pair of designer blue jeans, eating out, and having a new car every couple of years, you’ll find the ability to build up your savings and invest for the future to be near impossible. To save and invest, you must begin to value the “future you” more than your current self, and the pleasures of the passing moment, which do nothing but eat away at your ability to save and invest.
Changing Your Thinking
Of course, new values just don’t spring up in us overnight. They only find a way to lodge themselves in our hearts once we discover new ways of thinking. You must change the ways you think about things, and once your brain starts thinking new thoughts, your heart will change with it.
For example, if you aren’t entirely sold on “being healthy” as a good thing, you have to consider the alternatives. Not being healthy means you’ll probably have a shorter lifespan than you would otherwise have. It also means you’ll probably gain weight and not look as attractive as you could otherwise look. And if you gain a lot of weight, you’ll probably eventually experience a slow trickle of painful medical issues that will limit your ability to enjoy life and plunge you into all sorts of other problems.
And what are the upsides of valuing your personal health? You’ll have the opportunity to live longer. You’ll probably be more physically attractive. And you’ll find you aren’t limited in the things you can enjoy in life.
A New You
But none of this will happen until you start thinking new thoughts, and allowing those thoughts to trickle into your heart. And only once you start thinking in fresh ways and holding to new values will you begin to take the actions necessary to truly transform your life, one baby step at a time.
And because of this, I am ultimately not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I want to make meaningful choices in my life that improve my life. I want to make changes in my life that come out of decisions that have captured my heart, and not simply because I saw some sort of late night TV commercial after eating an entire pizza.
That’s not to say the New Year isn’t a great time to take inventory of your life and think about possible changes you want in your life. Calendar junkies like me, who live and die by what’s on their calendar for the year, will find the New Year to be a welcomed season. It’s a chance for me to go back through the past year, and to boldly measure my failures as well as my personal accomplishments.
But I don’t want to be a person who simply gets caught up in the drama of the the moment with the rest of society, and end up making fickle New Year’s resolutions doomed ultimately to fail by February. I want to make meaningful changes, and do so out of beliefs and values that I hold closely in my heart. I want to love new things, and hate anything that is out of step with the things I truly value. And only then will I be on my way to becoming a “new” me.
Hopefully, you’ll be one of those people too. Happy New Year!