A New Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

For the past 18 months, my wife and I have been working out together four to five days a week. This is the most consistent either one of us has ever been with exercise in our adult life. In the past, we had a track record of starting some new plan or regimen (P90X, training for a road race, and so on), but inevitably, once the structure was gone or the goal was achieved, the consistency fell by the wayside.

So what’s been the difference for us in this last year and a half?

Togetherness. Relational structure. Built-in accountability.

The mere presence of another person showing up to accomplish a shared goal makes the process that much more achievable.

The mere presence of another person showing up to accomplish a shared goal makes the process that much more achievable.

There are legions of examples of this phenomenon in our experience. If you’re climbing a mountain by yourself and the situation turns dire, it’s far easier to turn around and head back down.

But if you’re with a group of people striving to reach the summit together, you are far less likely to drop out, even when the journey becomes grueling. This is why government military operations are rarely formed with one person alone. Such missions are almost always a group effort.

Rethink the Resolutions

God has wired this reality into our essence as human beings. As creatures made in God’s image, we reflect the communal nature of God himself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist as an eternal loving community. Those created in his image, therefore, are designed to find joy, success, and strength to the degree we’re engaged in communal relationships. It is not good for humans to be alone.

The end of December brings renewed contemplation about new goals for the new year. But this year, why not consider a slight twist to the usual practice of New Year’s resolutions? Why not make all your resolutions communally shaped? Maybe it’s a Bible reading plan, or a new diet, or a new structure for spending time with your kids.

But how should we attempt to do this?

The first step could be gathering with God’s people and simply sharing some of your hopes for the new year. Make a list. Do a bit of brainstorming. Anything and everything is fair game.

Second, whittle it down to two or three things that seem to resonate collectively with the group. What are the common themes, the common interests, the common needs?

Redefine the Vision

New Year’s resolutions are typically based on our definition of what it means to be healthy. And these definitions are often based on what is good for us as individuals. We want to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, sleep better, and so on. But what if we asked the question: “How does God define health?” Consider these verses:

  • Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4)
  • My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. . . . This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov. 3:1–2, 8)
  • for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Tim. 4:8)
  • Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)
  • You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isa. 26:3)

Some of the “normal” New Year’s resolutions can be found in these verses, but are there ways we might better orient our resolutions in the direction of God’s definition of health? Are there adjustments to our goals we need to consider?

Remember also that God’s definition of health has much to do with humility. He “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). Beware of resolutions fueling an unhealthy preoccupation with self. If I achieve this goal, then I’ll be noticed. Accepted. Applauded. Loved.

But when resolutions are done in community, individuality goes out the window; accomplishment becomes connected to the group. Success becomes related to how well we encouraged one another and persevered together. Not only does this kill pride, it also reflects the communal nature of God, who worked in community to achieve the great act of creation: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). It becomes easier to be healthy, as God defines health, when we are connected to others in our resolutions. 

Recommit Together

Perhaps it’s committing to read a chapter from Proverbs each day in January, and attempting to memorize one verse a day for 31 days. Maybe it’s starting a book club based on an area of theological development and gathering once a month for discussion and prayer.

Why not try to memorize a whole book of the Bible by the end of the year? Your group could gather once a month, pair up and recite it, and then go to dinner together.

Or it could be a weekly date night with your spouse, with every couple in the group committing to share the date-night idea with the other couples. If you are single, it could be something with a roommate, family member, or co-worker. Maybe it’s the Whole30 diet. It could be marathon training. It could be anything! But the point is this: Do it in community. Commit to something with others and for others.

Commit to something with others and for others.

Finally, this could also be a strategic way to establish deeper relationships with unbelievers. Why not organize a New Year’s resolution group with your neighbors or co-workers? Invite unbelievers into your resolutions, and allow them to experience the aroma of Christ as you work toward a shared goal. Many gyms offer these kind of challenges or programs as part of their memberships. Why not think communally and evangelistically with your New Year’s resolutions?

In the end, there is great power in setting goals with others. Joy increases when we cross the finish line together. Maybe 2018 is the year to change your approach. If you link arms with others for the sake of your resolutions, there will be much benefit to all involved.


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