Let’s be honest with ourselves; we probably won’t be faithful to our New Year’s resolutions. We try, year after year, and the story is all the same—failure. The goal to get fitter is something that many will make this year and have made every year that they can remember (and there is nothing wrong with that resolution). But ultimately, all but a few come up short. And the likelihood that you will actually keep a resolution is probably more dependent upon genetic factors like personality make-up anyway. In fact, we know these results so well that meme culture is no longer about poking fun at people who make the same resolution year after year but is rather about making fun of ourselves for failing in such a short period of time.
But when we boil down resolutions to their core, we see that we are after one thing—life change in a positive direction. So, if we know that we don’t have the fortitude to maintain a year-long resolution, then we should set our sights on a more short-sighted goal.
Resolve to Develop a Habit
Positive life change is the process of developing virtue. A virtue is a habit so deeply ingrained that it is a part of your character. If you’ve developed the virtue of daily prayer, you’ve moved beyond both the stage of sacrificial duty and the stage of daily habitual prayer. You’ve reached the stage where prayer is as necessary to your life as breathing; it is no longer something you have to try to do, or something that you do automatically, but meaningful daily prayer has become such a part of who you are that to not do so spins you into an identity crisis. If only that was what caused our identity crises!
When it comes to life change, virtue is the goal; habit is the means. But the old wisdom that it takes twenty-one days to develop a habit is probably wrong. New studies are now suggesting that it takes sixty-six days to develop a habit (maybe shorter or longer depending on how much you like doing the activity you’re trying to make a habit).
So, instead of losing all of our steam when we fail at the year-long resolution, what if we resolved to discover an activity that we want to make a virtue and spent three-months out of this year doing it every day? The three months is a lot more attainable than a whole year, and if you can stick with it for three months, then the chances that you will make it for 365 days is greatly increased. Make the New Year’s resolution to do something for three months!
Working Towards a Habit Is Better Than Not
If we want to be prayer warriors and Bible experts and more loving towards others (and even just fitter, happier, healthier), then being perfect every day for three months is beside the point. Even if you don’t develop the habit in sixty-six days that doesn’t mean that you aren’t making progress. We must always remember that in developing Christian habits, the Holy Spirit is with us to empower us, and he will use whatever we sew to him (i.e. inputting godly things through our eyes and ears and exporting godly good works) to sanctify us for eternal life (Gal. 6:8). And sanctification (being more Christ-like) is one of the two main-missions of the Christian.
So, in whatever way you desire to change your life positively, resolve first to develop the habit. It’s a reachable goal that will help you reach the ultimate goal of Christian virtue for the glory of God.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)