It’s February and that means, if the statistics are true, 80% or more of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions. I decided this year that it’s just better to not make any and not be disappointed.
Here’s the thing about goals and resolutions: We want the result, but often despise the process. We want to get in shape, but don’t really want to commit to the long-term lifestyle change that it requires. We set a goal of reading through the Bible in a year, but our enthusiasm wanes somewhere around the book of Numbers. We like having clean laundry, but hate the never ending cycle of wash-dry-fold-repeat. Or maybe that’s just me.
It’s not much different when it comes to our family life. We want our kids to do well in school, but we don’t prioritize reading and learning in our own lives. We want them to have healthy boundaries with social media, but we struggle to put down our own phones. Or we make it a goal to stop yelling at our kids, but we neglect to address the anger in our hearts and replace it with peace. This is about more than just modeling good behavior. It’s about the kind of people we want to be. It’s about rightly aligning our hearts. It’s sanctification.
I love checking boxes and feeling that I’ve accomplished something. But very little of our lives gets wrapped up in a tidy little box labeled, “goals accomplished.” Our habits form our lives. Whether we realize it or not, almost everything we do is the result of a habit. Our thoughts, actions, and even preferences are all influenced to some degree by the habits we have built into our lives, whether intentionally or unintentionally, good or bad. I’ve been learning in my own life that the process of sanctification often requires small, incremental changes in my habits and it doesn’t always happen in leaps and bounds. Too often I want to realize the goal that can only be accomplished in me in Glory, but I despise the slow process of training my earthly body to be conformed to His likeness.
This year, instead of focusing on goals and resolutions that I would inevitably fail at, I have been choosing small habits that I can implement or change that will make me more like the person I want to be – more like the person God wants me to be. Let me give you two examples of what I mean:
I’ve always wanted to be a person of prayer. I can’t tell you how many times I have made a goal of spending regular time in prayer only to give up and move on. But for the last month or so, I have had a short, 30-second prayer written on an index card and taped above my coffee maker. Every morning, before I start my coffee, I pray that 30-second prayer. I am making it a habit to spend 30 seconds in prayer every morning. Doesn’t that seem insignificant? What difference does a 30-second prayer really make? It has really made all the difference. Now, no matter what else happens in my day, I am a person who prays. Habits shape our lives and they influence our identity. Because I am now a person who prays every morning, however briefly, I know I can also develop the habit of being a person who prays in the afternoon. And pretty soon, the small seed that was 30 seconds before I started my coffee grows into a heart that is sensitive to the Spirit’s leading all day long.
I’ve also been able to help my kids form some small habits that have made a big difference. Our 7-year-old has a tendency to be pretty negative, especially during these winter months when he has less freedom to be outside as much as he would like. Some days he’s pretty difficult to be around. I wanted to see if we could replace his habit of choosing to see the negative with something better. So now, every night before bed, we tell each other three things we are thankful for. That’s it. Just three things. Again, it takes probably 30 seconds. But we are building a habit of thankfulness together. And gratitude is a seed that God causes to grow into joy. We have started to see that fruit in him already.
Are there goals that you are chasing for yourself or your children? Plant the seed of a small, daily habit. We serve a faithful God who promises to take our tiny seeds and cause them to flourish and grow.