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Revive Those Resolutions
Keeping That New Year Energy Going
Most of us are familiar with the idea of a quarter when it comes to measuring time: whether it’s something you’ve heard about through work or investments (“quarterly reports”), following the changing of the seasons throughout the year, or even the way we run programs here at Checkpoint Church. These chunks of three months (or twelve weeks, if you prefer) are the right amount of time to figure out if (and how) something is working before making a long-term commitment.
So, keeping that in mind, as we’re approaching the end of March and thus “Q1” of this year … how are those New Year’s Resolutions going?
WHAT’S IN A RESOLUTION ANYWAY?
Now, I promise I’m not bringing this up to dredge up any feelings of guilt, shame, or disappointment. I too have struggled with my goals for The Year of Our Lord Twenty-Twenty-Three. I’m asking this as a form of spiritual and personal practice.
For many of us, resolutions are a sore spot or a source of frustration. When we make them, often in the heat of the moment on December 31st as we look forward to the promise of the year to come, they’re coming from a place of excitement, aspiration, and anticipation. At least at that moment, they are some of our strongest desires. It’s no wonder the same types of things often make their way onto these lists: losing weight we put on over the Fall and Winter, making more time for exercise or going to the gym, spending more time on reading or hobbies, or learning a new skill. We’re closing one chapter and starting anew with a fresh, blank page, and that is (understandably) very exciting!
So when we’re a few weeks into it, it can be discouraging when things don’t necessarily go to plan. Perhaps that aspiration of going to the gym every day before or after work only lasted a week, until work and life got busy, or a winter flu or cold knocked us out and made us miss a few sessions. Or we picked a book and set a time each day to read, but instead find our minds drifting towards other thoughts, or into sleep, tired from the trials of the day. Before long, that excitement shifts into anxiety; for many of us, those resolutions falter and fade after just a few weeks. It’s no surprise there’s a trope of gyms loving January for all the new memberships it brings in and the regular gym goers loving February for when all the equipment gets freed up again after those memberships lapse.
ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
But things aren’t so dire (or else, why would I be writing about this for the theme of “revival?”). The hope here lies in the fact that this moment — right now, at the end of that first quarter of 2023 and, fittingly, the beginning of the Lenten season for those of us in the Christian community — is the exact right moment to be asking these questions. To ask, “How are my resolutions going?” and “Could they be going better than they are?” To think about what parts are going well, to observe and name the thoughts and feelings that emerge when we think about those goals we set for the year.
Because here’s the thing — if you weren’t aware, the year isn’t over yet! There is so much time left to take the answers to these questions, sit with them, and incorporate them into how we might change the ways we’re doing things to revive these resolutions and breathe new life and energy into them — and ourselves — in the process. Sure, there may be parts we must leave behind or change to make them more achievable. Still, the reality is those resolutions are often indicators of the things we want most for ourselves in life — our aspirations, our priorities. They are important, and if that’s the case, then there’s hope for them yet.
So it’s time to ask yourself: are these things still, and honestly, important to you?
If so, we’re faced with the next question: what will we do about it?
LOOKING FOR A RESOLUTION REVIVAL
Once we know what questions we’re asking and where our priorities are, it’s time to consider what it looks like to move forward. Reviving these resolutions isn’t the same thing as resuscitating them — as in, bringing them back to the state they were in and just hoping we’ll go about it differently this time. If it’s important to us, and we want to continue, we need to think about how things will change this time.
For example, if our resolution was to “get back in shape by going to the gym every weekday,” we might start by asking, “Do I like going to the gym?” Perhaps the answer is “No,” that environment doesn’t inspire or excite us, or it intimidates us. In that case, changing up to at-home or outdoor workouts might be a consideration. On the flip side, if you do enjoy going to the gym, but found the timing didn’t work between home life and work, we might consider what it looks like to go just two or three days a week regularly, on days when timing is less tight and demands are less critical.
If certain things encourage or inspire you to step forward, you can set yourself up for success by making those part of your routine.
These questions are super important because they ask us to consider the emotional, spiritual, and physical elements and limitations that are at play in helping or hurting our chances of prioritizing these activities in our lives. If there are barriers in your way, this can help you remove or move around them. If certain things encourage or inspire you to step forward, you can set yourself up for success by making those part of your routine. Because at the end of the day, you’re trying to establish routines and rhythms — what you’re doing with those resolutions is creating good habits.
HABITS ARE A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
Something that often gets lost in the language of New Year’s Resolutions is that they are primarily about forming habits. Sometimes we get there, like setting a goal to read the Bible every day or go to the gym so many times per week. But often, we get lost in focusing on the goal rather than the journey: finishing a full read-thru of the Bible, or losing so many pounds, or getting good enough at the guitar to play our favorite song.
To be clear, having goals isn’t bad, but when it’s the main focus, it often has us miss the point of what we’re trying to do here: do something regularly and consistently! When focusing on the end result, the lack of visible progress can be demotivating, especially if the first days or weeks went well. But if the goal itself is to show up and do the thing on a regular schedule, we’re achieving small, meaningful goals regularly and still getting the same benefits, improvements, and growth we strive for with those loftier goals.
Comparing this to “a marathon, not a sprint” might be a bit corny, but it’s an important reminder. Forming habits and consistency often doesn’t happen quickly, and even when it does, the point isn’t how quickly the habit is created, but rather how long we can sustain it.
The idea is this: if you’re struggling to do something with consistency, limit the activity to only two minutes.
A concept in productivity circles was coined in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which he called his “two minute rule.” The idea is this: if you’re struggling to do something with consistency, limit the activity to only two minutes. Two minutes of exercise. Two minutes of reading. At first, it might feel silly, even counter-productive. “Am I really going to get dressed and drive to the gym just to do two minutes of exercise?”
But here’s the thing: if you do go to the gym to workout consistently, you’re now a person who goes to the gym every day (for two minutes). And then what’s to stop you from being someone who goes to the gym every day for 15 minutes? or 30 minutes? You’ve now unlocked a whole new level of possibilities to explore, and underlying it is a solid, foundational habit you’ve created for yourself.
PLAYING THE LONG GAME
If there’s a central thesis to this article, it is that resolutions are possible to achieve when we consider what about them is most important to us and then set ourselves up to successfully build habits and rhythms that will help us pursue and achieve them. Much like cultivating a garden, this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, attention, and care. It requires knowing what’s going on — not just in your garden bed, but above, under, and around it, and responding to any changes as they arise.
As we find ourselves wrapping up “Q1 2023” and starting both “Q2” and the Lenten season, we can take stock of what has changed and adapt accordingly. Perhaps consider how we can adjust the Lenten practice of “giving something up for Lent” or taking on a daily Lenten practice to help us focus, set our intention, and get into the rhythms that will bring us closer to those goals.
This isn’t the last time we’ll check in on things, though, so think about how you might help yourself come Easter Sunday, or at the midpoint of the year. What reminders can you give yourself to ask these questions again, to reflect on how you’re feeling, to think about what is and isn’t working for you?
Maybe think of them as (wait for it…) checkpoints, a place of rest and reflection, an opportunity to think about your achievements and challenges, the lessons learned, before setting off on the path ahead with renewed energy and resolve.
The journey is only just starting, after all.
Perhaps Checkpoint Church can be one of those checkpoints for you on your journey! If you find yourself seeking others in your community to help you out with that, I’d encourage you to hop over to the CPC Discord. We have been exploring some really awesome ways of encouraging each other, whether it be words of encouragement in our #prayer-requests channel as we face struggles and challenges, setting up a group effort to get out and walk (or run, or bike) every day with our Mileage Mania program, or sharing our creative work with each other in the “Let’s Get Creative” section of our server.