Friday, January 29, 2016

2016 New Year’s Resolutions: An Introduction

[A Series Stemming from the 2-Part New Year’s Article, “Shape Your Life.”]

This series of 6 weekly articles will be posted on Fridays and will explore how we can be successful in accomplishing New Year’s resolutions with an emphasis on down-to-earth considerations and suggestions. The New Year holds great possibility of changes and improvements leading to a more satisfying life.   Yet many individuals have experienced the disappointment of broken resolutions, along with feelings of failure and defeat. A leadership seminar speaker emphasized the need to have a plan to execute our goals noting that, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Yet, every year, many people make New Year’s Resolution lists without a concrete plan to achieve them. It comes as no surprise, then, that 50% of us have given up on our resolutions by the sixth-month mark. This year I am taking a new approach via exploring the elements that produce the positive goal-achieving results we all desire. May you also find what you need to achieve your goals.

The “The Bucket List” (2007), starring Jack Nicholson (Edward) and Morgan Freeman (Carter), was a sad, yet heart-warming movie about two men that met in the hospital after both had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Carter began writing a list, but tossed it in the trash after the doctor advised him that he had less than a year to live. Edward retrieved the list, questioned Carter about it, and discovered it was a ‘bucket list’ (i.e., things Carter wanted to do before he ‘kicked the bucket’--died). The film inspired many to create their own bucket lists. The concept became so popular that ‘bucket list’ appears in the dictionary: “A number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime,” (OxfordDictionaries ). Experiences often happen at warp speed in movies, and to recount the story of two men dying of cancer requires such a pace. This resulted in the “bucket list” resembling more of a ‘to-do’ list, where experiences were quickly crossed off before hurrying onto the next exciting adventure.

Alternatively, resolutions are sometimes treated like bucket lists. How is a bucket list different from a resolution? The Oxford Dictionary describes a resolution as, “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” So is a list of resolutions different than a bucket list? Yes! To summarize the distinction, New Year’s resolutions are something that we need to do (e.g., lose weight, get in better shape, develop better job skills, etc.), while a bucket list a list of the fun things that we want to do (e.g., skydiving, skiing, hiking, etc.). Bucket lists are often preferred, because the focus is on new and exciting experiences. Conversely, many folks perceive resolutions as negative endeavours (e.g., things we need to give up or stop doing, such as losing weight, eliminating fast foods, or to cease drinking diet soft drinks).

I wonder if this bucket-list-approach to life is hindering our resolution to make essential life changes; because in our microwave-minute mentality, we want to see quick results. However, in spite of the propaganda of sleek informercials, resolutions take time, planning, and implementation. In other words, we shouldn’t pin our hopes and dreams on media-promoted rapid and easy weight-loss, painless and effortless solutions to fitness, the ease of quitting smoking, the speedy achievement of financial freedom, nor instant spiritual growth. Therefore, realistically, we need to devise a plan of action for each of our resolutions. The reason that so many of us give up on our resolutions within a few weeks or months is that we fail to devise a plan of action that breaks each goal into manageable and achievable steps.

Jesus taught about the importance of having a plan of action. He noted that builders need to determine costs before beginning construction.  He also emphasized that kings assess their military resources prior to deciding whether to engage in battle or aim to forge peace treaties.  These examples were to notify His disciples that they needed to count the cost of following Him (Luke 14: 28-34). These truths also apply to our decision-making: we must count the cost of either pursing or setting aside our goals and live with the results of our choices.

Join me to discover some of the essential elements of resolution success, including  Choices, Changes, and Challenges—and, of course, a Conclusion.  Many blessings. 

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

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