Monday, December 28, 2015

Resolutions for Life

This article started as a polished Top Ten Resolution List for the upcoming year.  Lose 10, add 10, and you get the point.  According to Forbes magazine, only 8% of people actually achieve their resolution goals.  Printing my list would inevitably lead to 10 people who read the article asking me 10 questions about how I'm doing in achieving my goals, forcing me to offer 10 impromptu excuses why I'm falling short.  Perhaps the article should be about the beauty and grace of not developing a list?

Jennifer Breheny Wallace, journalist for the Wall Street Journal, recently discussed the art of setting personal policies as a guideline for decision-making.  She writes, "On the surface, [personal policies] offer a gentler way of saying no… On a deeper level, they encourage reflection, help to define priorities and aid decision-making, especially with in-the-moment requests.”  Developing personal policies that align with our core values may be a much better investment of our time than drafting cavalier resolution goals.


Wallace outlines an approach for setting personal policies.  "Begin by defining a priority (like making it home for family dinners), name the sources of stress that interfere (such as evening work meetings), design a personal policy around it and then let others know: “I don’t take meetings after 6 p.m.”'  She continues, "When the late literary critic Edmund Wilson was asked to do things that took him away from his writing, he replied with a form letter.  It started with “Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him to:” and went on to list 21 items, including “read manuscripts,” “give interviews” and “contribute to or take part in symposiums or ‘panels’ of any kind.”'  These personal policies made it very easy for Wilson's yes to be yes and his no to be no. 


The wording of the personal policy is critical.  Wallace notes a wellness study where some participants were to tell themselves "I can't skip the gym" versus another group who told themselves "I don't skip the gym."  The "I can't" group stayed with their goal about 10% of the time while the "I don't" group stayed committed about 80% of the time.  How we identify ourselves matters.


To that end, I've scrapped the resolution list and defined ten (I couldn't resist) personal policies for 2016, in no particular order.


1.  I am intentionally joyful, finding what's right about people and places.

2.  I am fearlessly confident, not because of who I am but because of who He is.

3.  I find contentment not in people or circumstances, but in being a beloved child of God.

4.  I give my wife the first fruits of my time, energy, and attention - not the leftovers.

5.  I make running a priority for physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

6.  I will invest in youth as the main focus of my out-of-work commitments.

7.  I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.  (Bethel Music)

8.  I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.  (Romans 1:16)

9.  The legacy that Kristin and I leave may not be in the careers we build, but in the children we raise.  We are parents first.  (Andy Stanley)

10.  I look ahead with eager expectation.   "The Greatest is still to come."  (Jonathan Edwards)


To be sure, these are policies that seem unattainable at times.  However, each represents a personal choice that I can make which, over time, shape my personal policy and determine the direction of my life - all pointed toward the One who calls me to the life that's truly life.


May your New Year be bright,

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