January. It’s always kind of a bummer month in Alaska. The holidays are over, I am paler than ever, and probably a few pounds heavier from the holidays. It is cold and dark, and shaving my legs has become a habit of old.
However, January holds one of my most sacred traditions — it is the month I dream and set and share my New Year’s goals. While it’s just another month to many, it is, to me, like a graduation ceremony, a symbolic culmination of one chapter and the commencement of the next.
I have always loved the cycle of seasons and new days the Lord lavished on us when he created the world and the way it works. He gives away new chances like they don’t cost him a thing, and they arrive to us as bright and beautiful as the recent freshly-fallen snow. His constant creation of newness drives me to dream of what could be.
When I was in college, I was a student to a very special professor. She has since passed away, but she inspired and helped develop a habit in my life that will be a part of her legacy. At the beginning of each semester, she challenged us to establish four goals. She taught us what kind of goals to set, how to set them, and then she prayed for us to pursue them. To this day, my college roommate and I call each other every January, set and discuss our four goals, and encourage each other to keep at them when we are forgetful or weary.
Because this dedication to goal-setting has been such a powerful practice in my life, I want to share with you some advice for resolution making:
- Categorize your goals. My professor required us to make four goals: one cognitive (something to challenge our minds or our professional lives), one relational, one spiritual, and one physical. This type of categorization recognizes that God created multi-faceted people, and each part of us– mind, body, and spirit– matters to him.
- Set a aside time to set your goals. This part looks different every year for me. This year, I prayed, considered, and determined my goals on a very long flight across the country. Setting aside a time to pray and meditate allows for meaningful goals.
- Set realistic and achievable goals. Goals should be measurable and attainable. Don’t just say, “Drink more water.” Set a goal amount you want to drink daily. Then you can measure your success at the end of each day. Your goals don’t have to be extravagant. They should be simple, meaningful to you and your family, and in line with God’s desires for your life.
- Share your goals. Every year, no matter the distance between us, I always call up my college roommate, who is also my dear friend. In mid-December, we begin reminding each other of the month fast-approaching and we schedule a time to talk. It’s a phone call we always look forward to. We share our goals and help each other shape each one into something that is meaningful and measurable. Months into the year, I receive short texts asking me, “How are those goals coming along?” I smile because I have someone who believes in this process as much as I do.
- Accept the process. They are called New Year’s resolutions because they may take all year to achieve or perfect. For example, a past goal to drink more water (64 oz. a day) was a daily battle, but it was one that resulted in me drinking more water than before. Whether the goal is achieved or not, the process of pursuit is where the beauty of transformation happens. Take one day at a time in the grand scheme of things.
This post is not meant to be “self-help” in nature. I believe Jesus is a dreamer who puts dreams inside of us. He seems to forever be calling people to do things they never thought they’d do. We may as well join him in his wild ways.
Goal-setting should always involve what He wants for our lives. I know He wants us to have healthy bodies. I know He wants us to be the best at our professions that we can be. I know He wants us to love our neighbors. I know these all stem from loving him well. When we begin to establish a vision in these four areas, there’s no telling how God will work in our lives.
Setting these goals has pushed me to do crazy things like run a marathon, and small, quiet things like read more middle-school literature so I can better relate to my students. I have read more of my Bible and established other disciplines, like that of rest.
While we may fail and fall on our face in pursuit of our goals (perhaps you’ve never set resolutions for that very reason), if we never think of bigger, brighter things, perhaps we will continue to stay the same. I encourage you to meditate on how God might be calling you to be better this year. Then, with your hand in His, pursue His ways in your life.