5 keys to make new year resolutions that can actually succeed! (Part 2)

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In the last blog post I suggested 5 keys to help dramatically increase the likelihood of success with your new year resolutions, or any attempt at change in your life at any time of the year.


Part 1 was about the theory and principles.

But how on earth can we practice this in the world that we live in?

I shall give you two personal examples and take them through the filter of these 5 keys. I hope they will be helpful to you in your own personal situation.

The first example is my long standing desire to read the Bible consistently throughout the year. This has been a struggle for me for over 20 years. Invariably, I would  start the year with good intentions and then get  bogged down or distracted by about early March.

1. Choose your resolutions carefully.
I made my decision carefully, as I have concluded that knowing the Bible  is the best way to understand the mind of God. (How I came to that conclusion is explained in an earlier post and video). I want to be able to love God with all my heart, mind and strength. The Bible makes staggering claims about itself as the eternal word of God, and if that really is the case then I need to be saturated in what it is saying and teaching. It is easy with such a big book to just focus on passages and sections that are simple or easy, or that I like, and to avoid those sections that are more challenging. Reading the whole Bible gives me the opportunity to make connections, as well as challenge my own prejudices and blind spots.

2. Get outside help and support
I am part of a church and a fortnightly Bible study group, but I also need something to personally keep me on track day by day. I finally found daily help and support by getting an app on my iPhone that enabled me to read the Bible systematically using what is called the M’Cheyne daily reading plan. I carry my phone with me everywhere I go and so am able to access the appropriate reading at any time and place. This immediately does away with the problems of not being near a Bible and ensures I can read when and where I want to.

3. Have some kind of outside structure to fall back on.
This reading plan also provided a structure to fall back on as I could easily access it any time of the day and if I fell behind I could catch up as the  app provides a facility showing how far I have got. In the past I would manage to read for a few weeks, before getting discouraged or distracted or simply forgetting where I had last left off.

4. Create small steps and celebrate on the way.
I do not take much longer than 5-10 minutes to actually read the passages each day. I read in combination with a longer time of meditation (the subject of a future post), which provides a continuity and consistency for me. The Bible is a huge book and so the regular discipline keeps me on target. (I am not sure how I can celebrate on the way and need to think about that more. Any suggestions welcome!)

5. Distinguish between outcome goals and process goals.
I am still not sure how it works in this example,  except that I have to be careful not to think that just by reading the Bible regularly God will somehow love me more. The Bible reading (a process goal) is more about creating a space where greater intimacy with God is possible. Just reading the Bible of itself does not mean I love God more or that He loves me more (outcome goals). But knowing and reading the Bible is an important foundation to my life.  One of my favourite Bible teachers, Tim Keller in an article on Long Distance Spirituality puts it this way:

“The one hundredth time through the Psalms or the Proverbs (of the Bible) will yield astonishingly sweet comforting and convicting insights, because the more you know the Bible as a whole, the more sense its particular parts make. And the more you know your own heart the more you know how to work on it, how to move past your discouragement, your peevishness and your self-pity. But it takes years of relentless discipline. It is similar to how it takes years of practice to enjoy the power of playing the piano beautifully, but what we are talking about goes beyond even that in complexity and depth.”

I talk more about my struggle to read through the Bible in a year in my post on Harnessing the power of technology part 2. However, in summary, the effect for me has been dramatic. From over 20 years of getting regularly bogged down, I have in the two years from October 2010 to December 2012 been able to read the Bible from beginning to end on 4 occasions by using this method of morning and evening reading. I say this not to impress you, but to impress upon you that change is possible.

The other personal example is to do with my attempts at reducing weight.
Over the last few years I have noticed my weight steadily increasing and getting to the borderline of overweight on the BMI (Body Mass Index). I tell myself that I need to be in shape, but getting round is not the shape I want!

1. Choose your resolutions carefully.
 I want to lose weight to keep healthy and prevent further future health problems. I am aware that I am at future risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes – all of which are more likely if I am overweight. I want to be able to have energy for the next few decades (assuming that is what I will be given) to enjoy life, have energy to travel and serve God, and spend time with my children, future grand children and great grandchildren (might as well dream big!).

2. Get outside help and support
Having said that, I am also aware, I have other priorities that prevent me from creating lots of time to develop this, but I do aim to find time to exercise. I go to a health club and swim regularly.I also make efforts to walk more and climb stairs when the opportunity presents itself.

3. Have some kind of outside structure to fall back on.
I have monitored my weight under the same conditions and on the same machine for the last 3 years or so. I have carefully recorded the results in all their gory details and noticed in the long term how my weight has increased by 15kg since 1990.

4. Create small steps and celebrate on the way.
This is not about some dramatic dieting programme. It is about a sustainable lifestyle change. I have gradually lost weight from 76kg in July 2011 to 72kg in January 2013. These are certainly small steps, but at least in the right direction!

5. Distinguish between outcome goals and process goals.
I want to lose weight to be healthier and fitter, but that does not mean I may not get other illnesses or unforeseen setbacks in the future.

So my goal for this year is to reduce from my current 72kg in January 2013  to 66kg by December 31st 2013 and aim to stay in that area. There! I’ve said it and published it!

What are your thoughts and reflections?

Is there anything you want to commit to or share for this coming year? You can make this into an accountability page to check on during the year.

4 thoughts on “5 keys to make new year resolutions that can actually succeed! (Part 2)”

  1. Dear Sunil

    Thanks for sharing this I always find your posts thought provoking and comprehensive.
    The steps you mention are helpful.
    I find that I struggle with measured goals as in your reducing weight from one weight to another. We live in a society that measures everything school league tables, exam results etc. and I find personally put under pressure at having to get somewhere or reach something which invariably puts me off altogether. I prefer to give myself a pat on the back daily when I\\\’m managing to fufil my life choice rather than measure it in concrete terms.

    1. Thank you for your insightful comments and encouragement Beverly.
      I can see where you are coming from about the dangers of measuring goals and how society tends to make us compare ourselves to others which is often unhelpful. I think what I am suggesting is to find what is helpful to you – so a daily pat on the back is fine if that is what you are comfortable with. Also as long as the goal/ target is not a burden to feel guilty about, but rather a marker for what you want to do and measure progress by then that is more likely to be ok. I am not in competition with anyone, but with regard to the weight issue I am aware I need to be careful about the trajectory of my weight. I don’t want to get over-involved in that and it seems appropriate to set a goal in my case to help me know whether i am on track or not. So in summary, if the goal serves you then use it, but if it doesn’t then that’s fine as well.
      I appreciate you developing these ideas out further.

    1. New year greetings to you as well Ulf!
      Thank you also for sharing the behavioural economics slant on new year resolutions. Its good to see some overlap with my comments as well!

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