A Fresh Approach to New Year’s Resolutions
by JJ Gutierrez
One of the most common traditions to kick off the beginning of a New Year is to create a resolution. A resolution is simply a personal decision to do or not do something. It is an act of the will that often fails somewhere between January 1st and January 31st. Many New Year’s Resolutions include losing weight, eating healthier, saving money, making career changes, or spending more time with God.
I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions because they lacked success which usually left me feeling like a failure. Most likely it was due to my inability to “will” myself into accomplishing them. However, there is enormous value in re-evaluating life, setting goals and re-prioritizing at the start of each year. It’s a natural time of reflection and one I embrace fully.
Several years ago I decided to abolish this age-old custom that didn’t produce much fruit and replace it with something new. I decided to take a fresh approach that would actually help and not hinder my desire to follow God and achieve goals in the new year. This will be my fourth year practicing this new tradition and it has become one of my favorite end-of-the-year activities.
Creating a personal motto is my new annual tradition. I couldn’t be more excited to share this with you because it actually works! And it’s easy to make one of your own.
A motto is a short and very specific phrase that can easily be remembered and repeated. It’s used to convey a message with few words. It is a quick, go-to phrase that becomes an over-arching theme. Mottos are widely used for groups and organizations to draw attention to a cause, but a personal motto is for the individual. It is useful for self-encouragement, a personal pep talk or to change bad thoughts into positive thoughts. Mottos supply courage and strength, and most importantly they can direct our attention back to God and remind us of our goals and priorities.
In my years of creating a motto, all of my sayings stemmed from an area of personal growth- a much needed character improvement or an attitude transformation that supported the work God was doing in my heart. By focusing on character and attitude development instead of willing myself to accomplish a New Year’s Resolution, I have found success. The self-will is weak and prone to temptation, but a motto can weave truth into our hearts all year long, producing lasting change.
Recently my husband, daughter and I moved to a brand new city. We left behind family, friends, established networks, Bible studies and well-known routines. Our new surroundings are unfamiliar and different. Nothing looks or feels the same and the temptation to want to replicate the old, familiar way of life is strong, but God has directed our path to something new. This year’s motto is in response to this recent change and I am excited by the perspective it will provide all year long.
My 2020 motto is Finding a New Normal. Each time life feels out of place or I am tempted to look back on what was I will whisper to myself, “I am finding a new normal.” Within these few words lies the power to renew my mind and redirect my thoughts back to truth. Instead of giving into feelings of awkwardness, loneliness or fear I am able to embrace the new path God is paving. It’s a reminder that feeling out of place is only temporary and that God is equipping me for the road ahead. I am also reminded of Noah after the flood, Abraham after leaving his country, and Paul after the road to Damascus…they too had to find their new normal.
If you’ve found little success with New Year’s Resolutions, then maybe it’s time to try a personal motto. Always start with prayer. Asking God for insight and direction is critical. He knows our heart better than we do (Psalm 139:1, Psalm 33:15) and we can trust Him (Psalm 9:10, Psalm 33:4). Be open to areas of character growth, attitude adjustments or ongoing struggles. Focus on what is within your control. Many things are beyond our ability to govern so leave those out of your motto…you can’t do anything about them anyway. Scripture can be very useful for mottos too. If you cannot think of one, adopting a Bible verse is a great place to start!
To learn more about JJ Gutierrez and her book Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith releasing March 24, 2020 visit HERE.