Friday, January 06, 2012

Do Not Dismiss Resolutions

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 6 Jan 2012
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." (Col 3:1)

KEY IDEA: Our society is generally fatigued with regards to the making of the New Year Resolutions. Should Christians join in the crowd to be dismissive about the whole resolution thingie? In this article, I argue that believers in Christ need to set their own bars high. If something is worth doing, it is worth resolving to do it.

At the beginning of each new year, the famous question pops up once again.

"What are your New Year resolutions?"

Some of my more cynical friends will be ready with this worn-out reply: "This year, I resolve not to make or keep any resolutions." If we chime in with the happy throngs of laughter, are we unwittingly laughing ourselves through the gates of mediocre living? Will we be content to live a life that is non-committal, aimless, and meaningless? Nay. Not doing it is already a decision in itself. If we are content not to aim at anything, we are guaranteed to hit it.

A) Being Dismissive and Liking It All

Such a dismissive attitude toward New Year resolutions is increasingly accepted uncritically. No resolutions mean no commitments.  No commitments mean no accountability to any resolution. No accountability means that one can live casual, carefree, and cold without guilt. After failing to keep most of the resolutions year after year, one can get tired of seeing the year end with goals not set. Priscilla Shirer describes this well:

"And yet once a year, around mid-December, millions of us start to think about the fresh resolves we need to consider, even if these new leaves and high ideals make no more than a cameo appearance on the stage of our minds. Some of us, for our own varied reasons, ultimately decide they're not worth the effort." (Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women, Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2011, p1)

Not worth the effort? Indeed. This is a general symptom of the culture at large. People find they have more things to live with, but less purpose to live for. They are giants when it comes to accumulating material stuff but midgets when it comes to finding meaning and purpose. Resolutions are undesired, unattractive, and unwelcomed. People like the spur-of-the-moment approach. They like casual instead of schedule. They like freedom to talking about planning instead of acting on planning something. As the saying goes, more and more people are becoming living testimonies of the maxim:

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

B) Why 'Resolutions' are Not Worth the Effort?

As I try to think about reasons why people are increasingly disillusioned about resolutions, I am mindful of three possible reasons. Firstly, maybe people are plain busy. They do not need resolutions to increase their level of busyness. The oft-quoted busy and fast-paced society is a catch all for telling people to buzz-off. From the dismissing of the door-to-door salesmen to the unsolicited advertisements on the telephone, people do not like to be disturbed. They want to be left alone to do their own things. They want their privacy. They protect their own turf. Busyness or statements of busyness are tools to aid that protection of their individual time and personal space. The question is then not about what we are busy with, but what are we busy FOR?

  • What is the purpose of rushing from one place to another?
  • What is the reason behind packing all our daily calendars with appointments and meetings without any sense of purpose?
  • What is the true meaning behind the words: "I'm busy"?
  • What are the fruits of our busyness?

Secondly, perhaps, people are comfortably apathetic. They prefer to think that humanitarian appeals on TV to fight drunk driving, child abuse, animal rights, environmental concerns, are scams. Moreover, several of these organizations are always asking for money. With their bloated administration and commercials that attempt to manipulate the heart to give, why should anyone pay any serious attention to them? What if the donations end up in the pockets of corrupted officials and siphoned away somewhere else?

In apathy, one asks why should people know when they already know so much? With the Internet, anything can be googled. Why should people care about local matters? Isn't the government supposed to take care of the poor and the vulnerable in society? Are there not enough non-profit groups to go around supporting all the needy?

Thirdly, maybe people do not see the need to care at all. After all, if they care, what happens if nobody cares for the carers? Seeing no benefit in return, many simply chooses to go ahead and do their own things that will generate some kind of returns for their time, energy, and money. Some civil servants tend to be some of the most nonchalant people I know. When asked about anything, a famous response is this:

"If I bend my back to help you, who bends their back to help me?"

With one dismissive statement, the civil worker goes about his/her own work, preferring to obey the rules instead of creatively thinking of ways to go about helping the person in need. I know of some civil servants who are truly diligent in their public service. Yet, I cannot help but lament at the culture of 'playing by the book' being placed at a higher ground before the needs of the people.

C) The Need to Be Purposeful

The three reasons above can be called the ABCs of purposeless living. In A=Apathy, we basically do not know and do not care. In more serious cases, one does not even want to know or care. In B=Busyness, one is simply to busy and harried to know or to care about anything. In C=Care-less-ness, one asks the question:

"If I care, who cares for me?"

My point is this. Simply because our previous year's resolutions have not been kept fully or perfectly, does not mean the whole resolution thing is useless. Think about the school curriculum at the beginning of every school year. Imagine if school teachers on Day 1 of each semester say that there is no need for any curriculum. Will it not wreak havoc on the expectations of parents, and stunt the standards of education in schools all over the country?

Think about a business that does not have a mission or a measurable business goal. If that is the case, on what basis are business policies and strategies going to be based on? Subjective reasons? What about the key standards of operations for transportation schedules? If airlines, trains, and public buses do not adhere or improve on their specific standards of service, the public will be in for a lot of inconveniences.

For us personally, are we going to set a bar so low, (or no bar) for ourselves this year, that we do not improve ourselves at all?

Resolutions may not be perfect, but they set a certain path and guide us in our own standards of excellence. Doing away with any key objectives may even mean a license not to accomplish anything!

D) Resolve Purposefully with SMART

Let me suggest the SMART way to resolve purposefully. If you are intending to do anything for the new  year, use this as a guide.

S=Specific: Be clear about what is the resolution. (Example: I resolve to read more books.)

M=Measurable: Your objectives need to be quantified either by time, a target, or a number. (Example: I resolve to read 10 books from at least 2 different genres.)

A=Attainable: Our goals need to be achievable and realistic with the amount of time we have. (Example: I resolve to set aside 2 hours per week to read.)

R=Relevant: Doing something for the sake of doing something is silly. When we make resolutions, we want it to help us be better persons. Thus, the resolution needs to be relevant to our needs. (Example: I resolve to read about how to lose weight, cook, or practice a new skill)

T=Timing: This is the all-important time variable. A year is 365 days long. If we have no schedule or timing, we may be caught up in the year end rush, like shopping, work commitments, family responsibilities and so on. Plan ahead. (Example: I resolve to read at least 5 books by June, and another 5 by December)

Be smart. Resolve to do something meaningful this year. Do not be swayed by the dismissive manner in which our society treats resolution making. Let them laugh. Let them ignore the importance. Let them pooh-pooh away its significance. For us, we have work to do. Let us work SMART. If something is worth doing, it is worth resolving to do it.

May our hearts and minds be centered on Christ, that as we work SMART. Set our bars high for our own spiritual journey. Set our minds on bars higher: Things above. May each action this year, be a testimony of us seeking Christ deeper.


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