New beginnings or same old story?

As a new year has begun, change is in the air. Times of resolutions, new days, breaking old habits, and begin again’s has come. Researchers say that we decide to change something in our lives at the beginning of things. Whether it be Monday’s, the 1st of the month, or the start of the year, each is a time we make conscious changes.

Some set easily attainable goals. While others stretch themselves to reach to the moon, yet, no matter where we fall on the easy vs. hard spectrum of “new year, new us,” many will fail to reach the mark.

Goals/resolutions must be three things.
1. Clear (we must know exactly what it is)
2. They must be attainable (can you realistically achieve it)
3. Must be time-sensitive (When is it going to be done by)

There’s a saying my father always says, “Having no plan is a plan to fail.” As much as I hate to say this, my dad is right. We fail with the “new us” because we have no plan!

If we want to change something about our life, a plan is only the starting point. We also need, in the words of the Beatles, “A little help from our friends.” We all need community and accountability. As the old Italian saying points out,

“The one who drinks alone, chokes.”

If we want to reach our goals and not have a repeat of all the years before, it is a must. Jobs had Wozniak; Bill Gates had Paul Allen; Jesus had the disciples; Apostle Paul had Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy. We need people—people who will support us, people who challenge us, and people who love us no matter if we reach our goal or not.

Most importantly, what we need to kick our new beginning off is discipline. You need to want the new more than the old. Jordan Peterson points out,

You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored.”

More acturate words haven’t been spoken. When life gets hard, maybe your progress seems stalled. When you feel like there isn’t a point to continuing, you do. Why? Because of discipline.

Discipline says that despite the adversity you continue on. Discipline says that you push away distractions so that you focus on what is essential.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about being disciplined in our pursuit of Christ.

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

1 Cor 9:26-27

While I believe that the pursuit of a life in Christ is most important, this passage conveys the essence of what it means to be disciplined. Intention, discipline, integrity are just a few things we can take away.

New beginnings or the same old story? That’s what we need to ask ourselves, and it’s what we need to decide between. Are we going to accept the comfortable—settle into what we know and have lived thus far? Or are we going to push, push toward the prize? Sure, we might not see the goal happen the way we think, or at all, but in the worlds of Coldplay, “if you never try, you’ll never know…”

As you seek to become new you this year, let’s do so with clarity of what we want to be. Let’s be realistic with what we can attain, deciding when we want it done. Let’s invite others along for the journey and let’s be disciplined knowing that nothing that is worth it comes easy.

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Don't Confuse Goals With Purpose

As 2020 approaches, it’s the season to set your New Years’ resolutions. Lose weight, be the real you, go for the career you always wanted, eat less deep-fried wontons—whatever it may be that is going to revolutionize your life, or at least help you to be a better you.

Our goals can be fantastic! I love setting mine. Maybe, at times, I love them too much.

Goals are crucial because they help you have something tangible that shows progress. If my goal is to lose ten pounds, but I have gone through half the year and gained ten, it tells me that there is something that is amiss between how I live and what I say that I want. Of course, they do need to be clear, attainable, and within a time frame.

Though they are important and though they are necessary, it is all too easy for them to become our god. How many people personally and professionally worship at the feet of almighty goals. It’s a god shaped in the form of their self-interest, yet it makes them slaves to a self-imposed expectation that profoundly affects their self-worth.

We morph ourselves from human beings into human doings.

No longer do we live lives of love or hope. We no longer have time for friends and family. We miss the pleasures that everyday life can bring. All too often, I connect with colleagues who are stressed out, overworked, feel like failures, and are spiralling down a staircase of self-doubt, depression and anxiety. The crazy thing about all of it is that much of the stress is self-imposed. It’s because of their goals. If we cannot enjoy the journey of self-improvement (whether we reach that goal or not), what’s the point?

I’m not saying that goals shouldn’t be hard or that sometimes they are not enjoyable. I believe that anything worth doing has a challenge to it. And if there’s a challenge to it there is a chance of failure. As G.K. Chesterton writes,

“Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong.”

When we tie our goals to our purpose and then fail to attain our goals, our “being” that has morphed to “doing” becomes human-failings. I know I have been there. I have felt my being slip away as my goals—some self-gratifying and others Kingdom-oriented—changed me into doing. When everything is going well, it’s…well, going well. Then as soon as there is a slip, the failing creeps in. Instead of learning from failing, we are dragged down into a vortex of self-loathing due to our incompetencies.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. However, I think it’s not far from the truth.

Jesus once said,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Matthew 6:24

While in this context, he was referring to money, this statement is also true when applied to anything. The reality is whether your goals are inflating your ego or leaving you wrecked and ragged, both compete with what God has said about us.

I write about this in my book Hidden Faces,

“We turn our lives into commodities. Yet all we’re selling is our accomplishments, whether they be good, bad, amazing, or delusional.”

And point out,

“Our skills, talents, abilities, looks, intellect are all finite. They’re all perishable. The constant that always remains—that endures indefinitely, the one thing that will never fail us, is Christ. When we define ourselves by who Christ declares we are, we cannot help but live in the future that He has prepared for us.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jer 29:11

Don’t confuse goals with purpose. You were created to enjoy the God who made you, the world He’s put you in, and the people that come across your path. God created you to be a being and not a doing.

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