I came across a recent statistic that 60% of people make New Year’s resolutions, and 8% of those actually keep them during the year. In fact, I’ve read most people abandon their resolutions by the second Friday in January, leading an article in The Independent to dub that day, “Quitters’ Day.”
I’ve long been interested in the practice of making resolutions and in the widespread difficulty that we have in keeping them. I myself have been prone to making a resolution to diet, only to abandon it within hours when a plate of cookies is set in front of me.
I have two theories about why it is so difficult for us to keep resolutions. One, we usually try to change too much at one time. The reality is our capacity to change is very limited. It takes emotional energy to change something about ourselves, and that energy is limited. Two, the things we often try to change don’t give us the joy and the pleasure we think they will. Most of our resolutions are about earthly things, which are not unimportant, but these areas of life don’t deliver lasting satisfaction. As Augustine wrote, our hearts are made for God alone, and they will not rest until they rest in God.
So as I’m considering my resolutions for 2020, let me share with you two things I’m planning that you might find helpful. One, I’m planning on making smaller, seasonal commitments. Because they have an end date (a few weeks at most), they aren’t as daunting as those long or indefinite commitments that we often make. My hope is that they will not deplete my emotional energy quite so much, so I will be more likely to keep them. I think there is a lot of value in re-assessing our life and commitments seasonally. In the church, we have natural rhythms and seasons for this. If you’ve ever given something up for the season of Lent then you are familiar with this.
The second thing that I’m planning is to ensure my first commitments are focused on my spiritual growth. This is the most important area of our lives, and is the most rewarding.
So if you’re looking at your resolutions, would you consider your spiritual growth as the most important area to improve? You might consider things like spending more time each day in prayer, practicing simplicity by staying off social media for a period of time, or a commitment to having a conversation about faith with a friend, relative, or neighbor, or a commitment to invite them to worship with you.
Those are only a few possibilities and suggestions as you plan and pray about how you’ll approach the beginning of the new year.
My hope is that we will make resolutions that truly last, and address the deepest needs we have. May you have a truly blessed New Year!
Rev. Clint McBroom is a regular faith columnist for The Tribune.