Written by Teresa Goodnight
It’s such an invigorating time of year. It’s crisp outside. Things feel new as the year breaks through. We start on our new path. We buy a new journal. Maybe set new goals. Then life rolls around. It doesn’t hit all at once. However, very slowly we ease back into our old ways. They’re comfortable. They feel less stressful. Truthfully, they feel just easier than these new goals. Most of us simply slide into failure. It just feels like home. Mmmm. Cozy. Not really though.
Familiar? It’s just easier to stay in patterns of thought and behavior than to turn over any kind of a new leaf. Is it any wonder, when we try to walk with God why we slip back into old sins? Find ourselves becoming less and less offended at our offenses? We dull and lull ourselves back into what feels the easiest. Same old same old.
Can we Change our Core?
As a reigning queen of the #EPICfail New Year, I know the pattern all too well. However, last year—I decided to do something about it. I made one big change. Just one. Funny enough, it wasn’t even at the New Year. It was at the end of November.
I’m sure it’s not a big deal to most of you. I hesitate to write it. But, my fellow Sodaholics will know my plight. I went from a few sodas per day to zero. Anyone who knows me knew that was just not ever going to be possible. Dr. Pepper was my end all be all crutch for a stressful day for over 30 years. I knew which states didn’t serve it and consistently offered a root beer when I asked (as if it were even close to the same!). I knew where to get it overseas in France, Italy, China—you name it. I could find it. I could easily distinguish between a Mr. Pibb and a Dr. Pepper for those who tried to pass it off as the same. I’m not proud. I’m just saying—it wasn’t an easy break-up.
I called it “When my Daddy took away my last Dr. Pepper.” (not intentionally but it became an extra funny part of my goal!) He literally held it for me at the hospital one day and I could not figure out where he put it. I kept asking everyone if they knew. It was funny. He didn’t intentionally hide it but it popped into my head as a fun way to stop drinking it. Why? Because I liked saying it. It makes me laugh. I also love to see him crack a smile in the corner of his mouth when I say he took my last one. I actually partnered him with me on the journey not really realizing what I was doing. It worked!
So, I’m sitting here a year later quite proud of myself. It’s certainly not a game changer, but it did prove to me I could do it. I can make changes. I can break difficult habits. My keys to success?
- Pick it. Pick one thing or just very few (2!). 2020 is about focus and we can’t focus with 15 goals in 15 directions. It just doesn’t work. Get laser-focused on a goal and stay on it.
- Plant it. Be really specific and plant that seed in your heart and mind. Don’t just decide “I’m going to be a better person in 2020.” Decide “I’m going to be a more financially generous person.” Or, maybe, “I’m going to read my Bible daily even if it’s just a verse.” General goals are nice, but they don’t give you specific plans for success. Plant the specific seed you want to grow.
- Present it to God. Get yourself what you need to grow the seed. Bring it before God. Pray. Ask for His help. Read what His word has to say about your issue.
- Partner Up. Ask Him for accountability partners (or a fun unintentional partner like my dad!). God uses others following Christ to help us get where we want to go. The “following Christ” part isn’t really optional. You need people who are lined up with God’s word to speak truth to you straight from the Bible. They pray with us and for us. They keep us challenged. They make sure we are staying focused. They nudge (or jerk) us back onto our path as needed. They are on board with keeping the seed growing with you.
Whatever you do, be realistic. Many make a list of resolutions as likely to happen as trying to get the Democratic and Republican parties to agree on their political agendas. Instead of making a list even the mightiest of willpower giants couldn’t accomplish, think a bit smaller. Few people can handle massive amounts of change. (Woohoo for those who can!) But if you find yourself reigning in my “#EPICfail” kingdom with your very own crown—why don’t you try a different approach?
Narrow down your list to a few things that simply must change. To reference Kristen Marie’s mantra “Choose Life.” Select YOUR one thing you want to change. Then, decide THIS thing will become a thing of your past (or these 3 THINGS for our overachievers who just can’t live within a limit (but please don’t overdo it if you want to have success).
Maybe this is the year that you want to “Choose Life” by becoming a giver. Write it down. Be specific as to what that would look like for you. Pray about it. Pray for a gardener, an accountability partner, to help you keep the seed growing. I told people I gave up soda. I made sure people around me knew my plan so they could watch me. I even brought my dad in on it, because I enjoyed the proud smirky smile on his face that he had been part of my little journey. Partners to keep you growing strong are absolutely a big factor in your success.
Then, start immediately. Set out to answer all situations you enter as the giver you want to become. Maybe you defined that as when you see a charity making a difference, you will pick an amount of money or time and just give it. Write it down. When the next one comes along—do it again. Write it down. Maybe challenge yourself with the number of times you want to accomplish your giving goal for the year. Then, take the opportunities in front of you (or seek some out!). When you look back at your list at the end of the year, you will find a sense of accomplishment along with the joy you received each time you succeeded. Somewhere along the way, your seed becomes your heart. It brings forth a beautiful change transforming you more into who God made you to be. It just becomes who you are. Then, you have a journal to remind you of the journey.
I know Dr. Pepper isn’t a big problem. Maybe for you it’s something a little more life impacting. Maybe you have a sin that has been kicking you and possibly your family, that you need to kick back. Maybe you have lost your patience with your family and need to find some grace again. Maybe your relationship with your spouse has been strained and it might be your fault. Maybe it’s a substance abuse situation. Maybe you have found yourself wrapped up in a porn addiction. The list could go on and on. Whatever it is—the solution isn’t THAT much different for a serious problem. You have to “Choose Life.”
Do you want to make a change?
Do you want to choose life?
Some bigger problems have very specific accountability groups that can offer the exact kind of support you need—groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, for example. You can march yourself into an AA meeting and find a system proven to work. If it’s something like porn addiction, download a software system like covenanteyes.com and then find some accountability partners. Whatever you do “Choose Life” and get God involved in your decision.
These bigger items are better tackled with a team, but rest assured, you CAN beat them. You do need a team in your corner. God’s got the foundation. Build on it with Godly men and women who can help hold you accountable. Get real with them. (Check out Accountability Partners in this issue!). Trust me, you are not alone. You are NOT the only one facing that kind of problem. You just aren’t.
What you can’t do this year is try it the same ways you’ve tried before and fail.
Once you know how to be successful, the question really comes down to do you want to make a change? do you want to choose life? If you do, pick it, plant it, present it to God and get on down that road with some partners in your corner. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow to get it right. We are guaranteed that God will never leave us and never forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. He’s right there to take this journey with you—to kick the soda or to kick the habit before you kick the proverbial can. Just kidding. (Kinda). Seriously, not kidding at all. Some of these problems are very big deals and if you have one afflicting you, it’s absolutely time to make a change.