How to Start the New Year Off Right

This is 2016!   A NEW YEAR. . .

a new year of possibilities or

    a new year of discontentment and the same old thing.

Today we have:

    349 days to whine or to worship.
    349 days to give or to hoard.
    349 days to encourage or to criticize.
    349 days to express hope, joy and power.

We CAN make the most of this coming year.

As you approached this year of 2016, perhaps like me you are jaded and discouraged when it comes to setting unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. You may have set yearly goals in the past but have thrown in that infamous towel at day 11 … or day 16 … or day 21.

Rarely, if ever, has a New Year’s resolution of mine survived to day 365 or day 366.

Perhaps you have resolved never to resolve again because it only makes you feel like an abysmal failure. I know that feeling so well.

We all make New Year’s resolutions with all intentions of keeping them, but then they fall by the wayside (sometimes before New Year’s Day is even over). National statistics say that just 8 percent of people keep their resolutions.

We’ve all done it: made resolutions to work out regularly, to stick to a budget, to eat better. Those are all great goals. And they can pay off if we stick to them. But the thing about strict resolutions is that when we break them, it can feel like we’ve failed, and it becomes easy to ditch them altogether.

There are lots of reasons we don’t keep these resolutions – most of them are that the resolutions were unrealistic to begin with. We can’t make major changes in our lives at once. And often our resolutions are based on do’s and don’ts – not small habits that can make a difference in our lives—even if we don’t do a good job of always sticking with them.

Here are some suggestions what will make 2016 a better year for each of us, and as a result a better year for those around us.

First of all:

1. Be Realistic

    Ambition is a good thing, but if we set the goal so high that it’s nearly impossible to reach, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. No one likes giving up chocolate or going to bed earlier every night; none of us like to deprive ourselves of things. Think of something that you like to do (such as read a book) and make a resolution to read more books. Or if you like to sing, make a resolution to join a community choir. These are realistic resolutions – ones that we have a possibility of completing – and ones that will make us feel good about ourselves.

2. To Complain Less and Do More

    We’re all guilty of it from time to time: We see something broken—in culture, the Church, the government, in our own personal relationships—and our first instinct is to vent about it instead of thinking of ways we can help change it. Complaining may make us feel better, but working on solutions to the problems in our world can actually fix the things that are broken.

3. To Spend Less Time Worrying

    Any time spent worrying is time wasted. It’s also counterproductive. There are things in our lives that we cannot control; worrying about them does not make any difference, except to make us feel less in control. Remember the Parable of the Lilies of the Field (Luke 12:13-40)

4. To Challenge Our Own Presuppositions More Often

    We often hear, ‘Well, you know’ followed by a statement based on someone’s personal opinion. We live in a time where politics has polarized people and some people have to prove that they are ‘right’. Let’s take this year to stop and think about what has been said and determine for ourselves what we think or feel about the situation. It is good to stand up for what you believe, but make sure that it in fact what you believe, and not something someone else told you.

5. To Spend Less Time on Your Phone

    We cannot have meaningful relationships with our friends and those we love if we are glued to our cell phones. There is NOTHING important on the phone that should keep us from having face-to-face relationships. We need to spend more time enjoying the people and places around us. You miss a lot of beauty in the world if you nose is stuck on a cellphone screen. In fact, leave your cell phone behind in a safe place for a day. Voicemail can take care of any messages and see how freeing not constantly look at the phone can be.

6. Accept Compliments With a Simple “Thank You”

    We all desperately need compliments, but when we are given a compliment, we often deny it. Or we quickly dismiss it with some trite comment. (I am especially guilt of that – compliments make me feel uncomfortable). But, what I didn’t realize and probably you didn’t either is that putting down the compliment, in a sense, say that we think the person is lying. That is definitely NOT what we want to convey when someone gives us a compliment. Start by simply saying “Thank you.” You’ll be surprised by how good it feels (and you might even begin to believe it) and how the other person feels valued when you do.

7. Let Go of Your Guilt and Shame

    Stop hanging onto and replaying your mistakes. We all make mistakes and carry guilt and shame because of them. This is a new year – bury all the mistakes and guilt and shame. It is in the past! Life only moves in one direction, and that direction is forward.

8. Be Willing to Say, ‘I Was Wrong’

    No one likes a person who constantly makes excuses. Refusing to admit you are wrong does not make you any more right. “To err is human”, and we are all human. There is power in admitting you make a mistake – and you will gain the respect of others if you are willing to admit that sometimes you get things wrong. And that gives the other person the opportunity to forgive you – “To forgive is divine” has a lot of meaning to it, not only for the person forgiving, but for those who are being forgiven. Give someone a chance to acknowledge that you are a big enough person to say when you are wrong, so that they can be a big enough person to forgive and let by-gones be by-gones.

And most of all:

9. Remember That Resolutions Are Not Legally Binding Contracts

    Making new year’s resolution is a voluntary thing; no one is holding a gun to your head if you don’t observe the resolution. Resolutions are designed to remind us that there are things in our lives that we would like to change, and want to start on that path to change. Most New Year’s resolutions don’t require us to publicly broadcast our resolutions to the world. We are not going to be sent to jail or slandered in the news if we don’t succeed.

With each new year, we have the opportunity to start fresh and make a better life for ourselves. We want to move forward, and making New Year’s resolutions that sabotage us is a good way to stop us for further growth.
NOTE: this was to be delivered on 3 January 2016, but because I had two Sunday funerals, it was delivered on 17 January
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 17 January 2016

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