The Joyful Life Magazine
A quarterly lifestyle print publication. Heart & Home Inspiration for Christian Women seeking the JOY found by inviting JESUS into our everyday lives.
The Joyful Life News
Sign up to receive Joyful Life Community news, weekly blog post updates, shop announcements, and exclusive offers for our subscribers.

I’ve never liked New Year’s resolutions.

I’d like to say it’s because I live such a disciplined life that setting resolutions for a new year is pointless. But, if I’m being honest, I don’t like New Year’s resolutions because I don’t enjoy facing failure—and that is the typical result of my resolutions: swift, inevitable failure.

I don’t think I’m alone in how I feel. There seems to be a shift away from resolutions these days. Some people set goals for the year. Others set intentions or priorities. Goals are often more specific than resolutions, with a higher likelihood of being accomplished. Intentions are more fluid, so our assessment of our success can be, too.

Regardless of what we call them, I think we all go into a new year with an idea of how we want our year to go, how we want to change, or how we want to make an impact.

Maybe I’m the flaw in the system, but even with the best intentions, I still find it difficult to commit to and accomplish goals or resolutions. For me, it’s not enough to know what I want to do. I need to feel committed to the reason behind the goal. And if there’s no deep, meaningful reason—I’m out.

For several years, I led a healing-discipleship program called “Freedom Session.” One part of the program prompts the participants to create a life plan. I was familiar with creating a life plan, but the way Pastor Ken Dyck walked us through the exercise was unique. He started by prompting us to identify who was important to us and why.

For me, determining first the motivation behind the goal rather than the desired outcome, provided a stronger commitment to consistent action. Months after completing my life plan, I discovered that I had changed my life in several ways—even in areas I hadn’t mindfully chosen to work on.

I believe there is a better way to set our intentions for 2021, and it starts with identifying our relational priorities.

RELATIONAL PRIORITIES

Centering our goals on our relational priorities ensures there is a deeper, intrinsic motivation behind them. It also helps keep our focus on relationships rather than material gains. Desiring to make more money or go on a vacation may be helpful goals, but identifying how they benefit our relationships ultimately keeps our focus on what matters most.

As Paul writes in Phiippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

This is weighty instruction, but we can take meaningful steps by keeping our true priorities in mind. For instance, as you’re looking ahead to the new year, instead of thinking about what you want to accomplish, start by listing who is most important to you right now.

If you’re a Christian, you will likely write God first. Also ensure to include yourself so you remember to value your own growth. Next, choose two to four other priority relationships. These can include a spouse, children (grouped together or separate), friendships, extended family, church community, etc.

Remember to only list your top priorities. All relationships are important, but we need to be honest with ourselves about which relationships need our greatest attention and focus in this season of life.

RELATIONAL VALUES

It’s not enough to say that someone is a priority; we must identify why the relationship is a priority. To do that, we can consider and write why we value each relationship. This is the step that solidifies our commitment to each relational priority. For example:

I value God because He is my Creator, Savior, and Lord.

I value myself because God made me with a purpose and for a purpose.

My heart knows who is important to me, but sometimes I need to remind my conscious mind. When I struggle to read my Bible, or exercise, or spend one-on-one time with my kids, it’s often because the importance of those people is no longer top-of-mind.

SPECIFIC ACTIONS

When it comes to goal-setting, I have found that vague or less clearly defined goals are often more difficult to reach. Having a specific, defined, and measurable plan gives us clarity for our commitments, allows us to see our progress, and helps us define our success.

Consider these examples:

• I will spend more time with God.

• I will read my Bible for five minutes every day.

The first example is vague and difficult to measure (and sounds like a New Year’s resolution, doesn’t it?). Its vagueness makes it difficult to put into practice.

If we ask ourselves: “What does spending more time with God look like?”, the answer to that question gives us a goal that’s specific.

Setting specific goals gives us clear actions steps for how we will make each relationship a priority. Here are two past examples from my life:

I value God because He is my Creator, Savior, and Lord.

• Therefore, I will make Him a priority by starting my day in prayer and reading my Bible at least five days a week.

• I will write what I hear God speak to me so I can listen and obey to the best of my ability.

• I will trust God with my money by sticking to a budget.

I value myself because God made me with a purpose and for a purpose.

• Therefore, I will eat food that I know gives my mind clarity and my body energy. Treats will be for enjoyment, not emotional fulfillment.

• I will exercise at least three times a week to strengthen my body.

• I will read daily to pursue wisdom and growth.

Did I do any of these perfectly? No. Was I able to put these all into practice at the same time? No, again.

One of the greatest results of this exercise was seeing how much progress I made on my goals simply because I took the time to focus on what was important to me. When I centered my mind on what I value, I more naturally worked toward those outcomes. While I wasn’t always consciously working on all of my relational priorities at once, my choices and decisions shifted in the right direction and I made progress overall.

SEASONAL GROWTH PLANNING

Now, as much as I think this New Year’s planning exercise is helpful, I don’t think we always ‘get it right’ the first time (or ever). Sometimes the goals we set aren’t specific enough, don’t fit with the season of life we’re in, or aren’t serving our relationships as we intended.

That’s why I shorten my planning from annual to seasonal.

Being able to identify what isn’t working and make changes shows growth. When we change a New Year’s resolution, we label it a failure; by using this exercise as a seasonal growth plan, we give ourselves permission to change without feeling like failures.

From season to season, some things in my plan will stay the same, but others will change to adapt to my life and relationships—and that’s good! Proverbs 16:9 says: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Flexible, relationship-driven goals allow God to be the ultimate Architect of our lives.

***

Looking ahead to a new year can fill us with optimism, apathy, or dread—often depending on our track record on following through with our resolutions. My hope and prayer is that you’ll start 2021 with enthusiasm for where God will lead you and grace for yourself as you continue to pursue relational growth.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
2 comments
  1. I love this gentle perspective on resolutions and goals. I can’t set resolutions for similar reasons and I don’t pick a word of the year, but I do try and live according to who I value. My way is usually a bit random, but I love how you laid out a plan to be more deliberate. Blessings!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *