If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, the week before the new year is the most dishonest. It’s when resolutions are made, most with the conviction of a wet noodle in a windstorm. Gym memberships go up, gyms fill up (at least through the first two weeks of January), and all sorts of plans are made up.
Instead of making a bunch of resolutions you find either too ambitious to achieve or that you don’t really plan to keep, here’s an idea that might help.
Don’t make a list of resolutions. But do make a “stop doing” list.
What are some daily habits or regular practices you need to quit in 2018? Sometimes it’s easier to stop something than to start. For instance, I’m a notorious key-loser. I’m clinically diagnosed with ADD, after all! But last summer I stopped randomly putting my keys different places with one little thought: “When I walk in the door, I will hang my keys on the key hook by the door.” I have literally not lost my keys one single time since. I stopped choosing random and followed a plan. That likely saved me about 8-10 hours of stress looking for my keys.
What might you stop doing as a pattern in 2018? Here are some ideas:
- Social media and the Internet: These are great tools for life, but they can add stress as we compare ourselves to others online or develop the immature habit of knee jerk reacting to things that bug us. Some ideas: (1) Stop looking at your phone first thing in the morning. Spend time in the Word, pray, workout, do something else. (2) Stop push notifications; instead, limit how many checks a day for twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. You can be actively engaged in social media without living on your phone. (NOTE: Read 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Reinke if this is a problem). (3) Stop immediately responding online. Before you post any kind of reaction to anything you see online, wait 10 minutes. This is the social media equivalent to waiting 24 hours before a major purchase. (4) If necessary, take one day a week and stop social media totally.
- Spiritual Growth: Stop randomizing your walk with God. Get a plan. Stop flying by the seat of your pants spiritually and develop good spiritual habits, like a devotional plan. Think about where you might be spiritually if you stop “just having a quiet time” and instead study the Gospels to learn how Jesus related to people (for instance) so you can know him better and relate to others like he did. Is there something specific in the mornings that keeps you from a consistent time with the Lord? Stop it, whatever it is.
- Health and Fitness: Instead of trying to become the poster child at getripped.com (I don’t think that’s a real site), what is ONE thing you can stop doing that trainwrecks your health? Perhaps stop buying that one snack you eat too much (you are an adult, right?). You don’t have to join a gym, lift a small house, or eat kale sandwiches. Just stop one bad eating habit and stop one thing that keeps you from exercising, like waiting to the end of the day to do so. Studies show you are far more likely to work out consistently if you do so in the morning. Can’t join a gym? Go to fitnessblender.com and try some of their free, body weight only exercises. If you simply do enough to work up a decent sweat five days a week you are on your way.
- Your Personal Witness: Think about this–what is the primary reason that keeps you from sharing Jesus consistently? Take the rest of this year (you have 3 days, right?) to ponder this. And then, stop that one thing. If it’s fear of knowing what to say to people, stop doing nothing about it and get some help (I know this guy who wrote a book called Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out that might help). If it’s the fact that you just don’t have many opportunities, think of one activity a week you can stop, and replace that with time to talk to people. I had to do that a few years ago. I had to stop meeting with students as much (although I love my students!) so I could have time to develop friendships with people who don’t know Christ. Perhaps you are so busy doing church stuff in the church building (I’m looking at you, pastor) you don’t have time to do some outreach. Stop one thing. The church will not cease to exist.
- Priorities: All this leads me to the last one. Covey was right–you don’t prioritize your schedule, you schedule your priorities. Stop, please stop, just facing life without a plan. A few years ago I stopped living this way and developed the habit of regularly (though not always) taking a little time on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings to assess the upcoming week, and to make sure the calendar I actually lived was consistent with the priorities I have. I’ve certainly not been perfect, but I’ve learned doing this cuts out a ton of wasted time, decreases stress, and helps me reflect better. I’m actually making some changes in 2018 based on a far-too-hectic-late 2017, so I’m still learning and growing here myself.
What do you need to stop? I could have also listed some darker things, like a besetting sin, unhealthy relationship, or foolish habit. But you get the idea. Stop some things to see what you can do for the glory of God.