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New Habits for a New Year

A year-end sermon or lesson is fun to present, due to the wealth of material available on the looming new start each of us will have as the present year gives way to the new one. There are so many worthy options available to us for self-improvement, we can become overwhelmed, and in the rush to be better, we will miss out on a couple of irreducible minimums that will determine if we succeed or fail in achieving our goals. One easy thing to overlook is the reality that all of our goals must be seen as being spiritual if we want to be successful in achieving them. What? Yes, no kidding, losing ten pounds or giving up burritos can be spiritual goals, even should be spiritually-based goals, and if they are, we can pray for the additional fortitude to recreate our bodies into the healthy vessels God can best use (and use longer). Second irreducible minimum is to be extremely patient and to calendar our daily commitment. Far too many people give up far too quickly. I’m really hungry! One mile is a lot further than I thought it would be! Why did God put Deuteronomy and Leviticus so early in the Bible, I’ll never get through this stuff! What, me talk too much, what are you talking about, I don’t use too many words in one day, why I know this person and all they do is talk, talk, talk and they drive me nuts with all their talk and then someone suggests I talk too much and use too many words and well, there is just no way I talk too much and say too many words and to think that I do is just an insult and let me tell you about insults…Well, maybe there’s three irreducible minimums: Not being ready to admit we need to change is one as well.

In the excellent book “Better Than Before” author Gretchen Rubin has created the Habits Manifesto. This is her set of irreducible minimums required to break or change a habit, which is what most of us are trying to do with our New Year’s Resolutions. They are as follows:

What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while

Make it easy to do right and hard to do wrong

Focus on actions, not outcomes

By giving something up, we may gain

We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important

It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves

We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change

We manage what we monitor

Once we’re ready to begin, begin now

I loved the book and used it in sermon and seminar preparation but realize it wasn’t meant to be used for expressly spiritual applications. If this were a spiritual list it would be led off with “Entrust each and every goal and desired new habit or despised old habit to God and together seek to make progress.” So that’s a given for us, but past that her ideas are sound. When we change, people will notice and they might be influenced. If we focus on every day, step-by-step actions, the outcomes will take care of themselves. It’s true we manage what we attend to and monitor; so keeping score (journal, notes, accountability partner) is a plus. There is no such thing as a future-us. When the future arrives, it will once again be the present-us, so begin now and don’t continue to wait for the perfect moment. And keep plugging at your goals every day, but give yourself a treat now and again, like a burrito while you’re reading Leviticus after you’ve been to the Gym!

Michael McCullar
Formations Pastor
Johns Creek Baptist Church

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