My favorite moment of school was looking through the course descriptions as I tried to arrange my schedule for the next semester. I loved the anticipation of knowing that I was going to be good at something new, or understand something new, in only a few months. I feel the same way about New Year’s resolutions. Who am I going to be at the end of this year?!? How fun to plan it out! (By the way, if any of you have good web skills, I have a great idea for a website. Make us both rich.)
I’ve heard that a good way to go about planning your goals for the New Year is by following the scripture in Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”. So he got smarter, stronger, better at relationships and closer to God. That’s it, just four new goals. I’ve had some years with 10 new goals, and I tend to get overwhelmed by the enormity of my task and give up all together. But four goals that I actually can accomplish doesn’t overwhelm me, it just makes me excited. So I’m going to make a goal for wisdom, stature (physical fitness), interpersonal relationships and spirituality.
Making goals based on outcomes that are not totally in your control is a recipe for frustration. You can’t control how many inches you lose, or how many pounds you shed. You can’t control if someone else is going to accept the gospel, or if you child is going to come back home, or if you are going to get a $10,000 raise. Don’t make goals based entirely on outcomes, but on the process that will naturally lead to the outcomes that you want. So instead of “I will lose 10 pounds this year” how about “I will exercise 4 times a week and only eat sugar on the weekends”. That is totally within your control, and the desired outcome will probably follow, though it may even be better than just losing 10 pounds. Instead of “I will help one person get baptized” how about “I will be open and conversational with people about my religion every chance I get.” Or “I will pray for the missionaries and for myself as a missionary every day and act on the promptings that come immediately.” Again, probably the same outcome, maybe even better–but all within your control.
Another thing to consider is that if you are trying to create new habits first focus on consistency and then, once consistency is in place, add some depth or intensity to your goal. Examples of consistency: I will read my scriptures every day, I will run 10 miles a week, I will call my grandma every month. Examples of depth: I will read and understand Crime and Punishment in Russian. I will pick apart Isaiah until I understand every verse. I will learn to oil paint and do a self portrait by the end of the year. If you are trying to develop a certain habit, take this year to make it consistent. Then next year, add a twist of depth or intensity to it. Here are some ideas to get the juices flowing for goals in the four categories.
- Read a hard book. Something classic and timeless that may even take an entire year (War and Peace, Les Miserables, etc.)
- Write a blog. Come on. Publish once a week.
- Brush up your math skills by looking at videos on Khan Academy
- Memorize poetry. One poem each month.
- Learn a new skill: sewing, photography, painting, drawing, soccer, landscaping, Chinese, computer programming, fashion design, jewelry making, quilting, etc.
- Exercise four times a week.
- Eat meat only once a week/month.
- Run a half-marathon in September.
- Be able to bench press ____ lbs. (I don’t even know what a good number would be. For me it would be like 30.)
- Do hair and makeup every day.
If consistency is still an issue, then make a goal to read and pray each day. Seriously, it will change your life. Do this first. If you have got consistency down, then do something grand this year. You are supposed to read every day anyway, its more interesting to have something you are working towards, something to be proud of, rather than just reading through chronologically again and again and again.
- Memorize the Sermon on the Mount
- Read through every Conference talk again twice before the next conference comes.
- Illustrate the Book of Revelations/Isaiah/Old Testament as you read through. One picture per chapter.
- Memorize 50 hymns this year.
- Bear your testimony 4 times this year.
- Paraphrase the Book of Mormon in your own words, one chapter a day.
Relationships with others
- No gossip (This is mine. Hold me to it.)
- Help someone at the grocery store every time you go.
- Be patient with your kids. When you feel the blood rising, take a breath and decide to react with control. Parents know the difference between getting mad in control and out of control. Stay in control this year.
- Visit or home teach each month with a lesson prepared. Pray for them each week.
- Show love to your mother-in-law by writing her or calling her once a month just to chat.
Obviously, these are a miniscule sampling of possible goals, but think of your own–what kind of person do you want to be at the end of this year? What new habits do you want cemented in? Write them down and post them somewhere visible. Even if you get off track in March, it will remind you to start again in April. Focus on the process and things that are in your control. Happy New Year! Can’t wait to see who we all are in December 2014!