By Ryan Dunn
Beyond this paragraph, I will not mention New Year’s resolutions. Many people greet the practice of New Year’s resolution-ing with hostility. Honestly, I think that says more about the person than the practice. After all, we all set goals for ourselves, therefore we all implicitly practice resolutions.
We are all goal-setters. Achieving goals requires commitment. Commitment is easy to come by when a goal is first set. But come mid-January, the parking lot at the proverbial gym of commitment begins to thin out. In February it’s nearly vacant.
Good news: It’s never too late to get back to the proverbial gym of commitment… And there are some helpful practices to aid our commitment, even in the waning days of January.
What are some keys to commitment?
1) Define your real goal.
Perhaps you’ve set a goal to practice daily Bible reading. That’s a great goal. There’s probably a reason you’ve set such a goal. Do you feel like you’re missing some of our religious story. Do you feel disconnected from God? Do you feel like you are lacking a healthy relationship with the Divine?
Goals like daily Bible reading, or even a daily trip to the gym, are means to achieve our true goals--which are often results of particular self-perceived shortcoming. So it may help to identify your real goal by repeatedly finishing this sentence: “I am doing this because…”
I am reading the Bible because I want to know more about God’s story.
I am visiting the gym every day because I’m tired of feeling lethargic.
I am reading a book a week because I long to feel more knowledgeable and challenged.
A goal like reading the Bible daily can actually be a bit superficial, and therefore makes the practice easy to quit. But learning more of God’s story and why we believe what we believe is something that is inspiring. Keep looking for the “because” in your goals until you define a truly noble goal that will keep inspiring.
2) Keep the noble goal in front of you.
It pays to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Remind yourself why you’re undertaking your new actions. Post goals on your bathroom mirror, on your dashboard, in your journal... or bind them to your hands, forehead, and doorposts (Deutoronomy 6:8-9).
3) Divide into bites.
Those who are in 12-step recovery groups often utter the phrase “one day at a time.” There’s some deep wisdom in the simple phrase. A person who says “I’m never having another drink of alcohol as long as I live” faces a monumental task. But someone who is focusing on staying sober today and doing what it takes to be a sober person today faces a far more achievable task.
Taking our goals one day at a time gives us reason to daily celebrate our accomplishments. When I coached distance runners, I often warned the runners that they weren’t going to achieve their fastest run times every single day. A bad night’s sleep or some bad food could derail a day’s performance. Some days, the ultimate victory was in running the fastest race. Other days the ultimate victory was merely in showing up to run. Take your goals one day at time, and celebrate those days that you attend to your goal.
4) Expect some failure and practice forgiveness.
Some days, you are going to fail. Those days of failing do not make you a failure. Ultimately, you will only fail if you give up. Forgive yourself the days or weeks of missing the mark and allow yourself to keep moving towards your goal.
5) Share the journey.
Accountability is huge. Share your goals with someone. Whenever possible, share the means, too. It becomes a lot more difficult to give up on the goal at hand when you feel like you’re letting someone else down in the process. So broadcast your goals on Facebook, find a reading buddy, or share your goals with a trusted loved one.
In 2019, Ryan Dunn is attempting to stay committed to deepening his understanding of how God is active in the world today, making his community (Nashville, TN) a bit more heavenly, and celebrating special moments with his wife and son.