The New Year is approaching, friends, and that means making unrealistic resolutions! It’s time to haul out the yoga mat, pledge to lose 10 pounds, vow to eat more vegetables, promise to journal every day, and take an oath to be a “better person” in 2017.
If we were to convene on February 1st, most of us would admit that we failed to make good on most, if not all of our resolutions. Why? Good intentions do not equal intentional living. Dr. Randy Carlson, a Christian radio host and psychologist coined the phrase “Intentional Living.” In essence, this philosophy focuses on Christ-followers being proactive with our relationships, money, and time. We can announce our best of intentions but unless they’re rooted in the painstaking, intentional, everyday work of accomplishing those goals, we’ll find ourselves in the same disappointing cycle next year.
This year, I’m making intentional resolutions while strengthening others I put in place last year. Will you join me?
- Be honest about your time. “I wish I had more time” is a common mantra, but we all get 24 hours each day. Subtract the 8 hours experts say should be spent on sleep, and 16 hours remain. What commitments are designated during those hours? If 8 hours are spent at your job, 8 hours are left in the day (minus preparation and commute times). Do you have enough time to sit in a chair and unwind at the end of the day? Do you have too much time to unwind and could devote a few hours to community service? Are you double-booking your after-work activities? Is your Bible gathering dust while your Candy Crush levels keep advancing? Only you can determine how your time is spent and with whom it’s spent.
- Carve out time. Once we’re honest with our time, the activities are assigned a spot. I jot down a schedule with all the activities required of me (this includes non-negotiables like my jobs, dropping the kids off at school, helping them with their homework, and grocery shopping). Non-negotiable commitments look different for everyone. Then, see what responsibilities you can relinquish or delegate to free up more time. For example, my husband gives me a break by picking up the kids from school several days a week, or everyone is on their own for dinner on Thursdays. (Chef Boyardee makes a palatable canned ravioli.) This gives me an honest overview of how much time I have, how I spend it, how I waste it, or how it could be better spent.
- Change your vocabulary. When a joyful or tragic event occurs, we often say to our friends, “Is there anything I can do?” It comes from a heart-felt place, but it’s rarely helpful since many people who are grieving or entering a new stage in their life don’t know how to answer this question. “This is how I’m going to help” is a better approach. Take a meal to a friend who just had a baby. Offer to drive her older kids to school a few days a week. Shovel your elderly neighbor’s driveway. Give a family member a ride to a doctor’s appointment. Put an extra $5 in your child’s classroom party fund so classmate who is struggling doesn’t have to pay her share. Needs are all around us; we can intentionally identify them and meet them quickly.
- Do it now. I no longer wait to pray for my friends and family at the end of the day (which used to be my normal prayer time before climbing into bed.) Instead, I do it when they cross my mind, they mention it to me, or I see the request on social media. That way I’m able to commune with God all day, carrying on conversations about my loved ones and their needs like I’m chatting with a good friend. Plus, it allows me to invite God into all facets of my day, rather than simply the ones I designate for him.
- Stop saving things for “special occasions.” I’ve stopped saving scented candles, beautiful dishes, cute dresses, and fancy jewelry for company or a “special” night out. Why should I wait? I get one go-around on this earth and I want to enjoy it with the ones I love, not strangers who need impressing. I burn my special candles while reading with my kids. I wear my diamond earrings on a work day. Cute dresses don’t get saved for a wedding reception. Instead, they get worn on a date with my husband to a chain restaurant. I may look ridiculous to everyone else, but the one who matters thinks I look hot. “Special occasions” are the ones we create with the ones we love, and I want to enjoy those moments each day.
The New Year will be here soon, but we don’t need the stroke of midnight to signal the beginning of new habits. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” You can make a resolution to be God-honoring with your relationships, commitments, and time, and you can do it at any point during the year.