|"Happy New Year" ... CC BY 2.0 Retna Karunia ... Source: Flickr|
I've heard many conversations this week about New Year's resolutions. I think they offer good potential for self-improvement, so long as we are careful with them.
Before making my own, I consider challenging questions: why do I want to do this? How will I make it a reality? What resources do I need for that to happen?
I find these help me to ensure I'm keeping the focus where it will reflect my interests, lifestyle, and values; and that I have a strong chance of success. I make attainable resolutions for my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. These require intentionality, introspection, and commitment; are based on a solid knowledge of myself. I'm aiming for smaller goals (for a better chance of success) rather than setting myself up for failure.
For example: knowing that I'm a short-distance and intermittent runner, rather than resolve to run a marathon (which I have no interest in doing), I'm establishing a more regular and regulated running programme. I have a wall calendar to mark my runs, the equipment I need, and I will investigate some fun-run events. This is, for me, do-able; and even if/when I slip for a bit I can get right back on track. I also resolve to be gentle with myself!
This process of basing feasible future goals on honest self-reflection is not neither new, nor limited to the secular, nor restricted to one arbitrary day of the year. The Ignatian Examen, for example, applies a spiritual lens to life; inviting people to consider "Where do I see God active in my past? How do I witness God's influence today? Who is God calling me to be tomorrow?" This journey, ideally with the resource of spiritual direction, assists one to live into the fullness of who God has made us to be.
I am hopeful that folks will be considering resolutions to include a spiritual component, and include practical plans to support the journey. Want to read more scripture? Plan daily goals or join a bible study; start with 5 minutes a day. Want to pray more? There are several apps of daily office available, even for commuters. Want to do more outreach? Speak to your local church about the social justice ministries they engage in and try a few. Want to worship with others? Try a Sunday morning with a faith community, we'll welcome you wherever you are on your faith journey.
I hope that as we all start January 1 with high expectations, that we are kind to ourselves as we experience the bumps or hiccups along the way. As with any resolution, it takes time and practice and ongoing reflection to find out what works for us - whether it's running or a spiritual journey. The important part is that we return, and recommit, and live that resolve.
Whatever your resolutions, I wish you every success. I hope 2018 will be for you a year that includes a will to be closer to God, a practical way to live that relationship, and a supportive community for the journey.