What are you hoping to accomplish in 2017? Whether you set New Year’s resolutions, pick a word for the year, or simply choose a handful of goals to pursue over the next 12 months, the beginning of a new year is a perfect time to step back, reassess your priorities, and set markers to steer you in the direction you want to go.
There’s a reason we tend to do all that in January. My theory? All the new toys and gadgets we get for Christmas inspire us to carve out time to try new things, push us to re-organize our possessions to find room for everything, and motivate us to improve a skill or expand our understanding in some area. Plus there’s the whole “new calendar” vibe that encourages us to make a fresh start…
I don’t set “resolutions” per se, but I do try to pick 10-12 things each year to pursue. I should probably create a long-term goal list at some point, but I do know the general direction I want to head, and the particular areas I want to improve tend to change year by year. For instance, this is the first year that artistic pursuits have been on my goal list — a year ago, I had no idea that I had any talent in lettering or drawing! Other categories like reading books, studying Scripture, and improving my physical health are always on the list, but the exact goals for each fluctuate every year.
This year, I’ve chosen ten specific areas to work on, including pursuing art challenges and reading more broadly, exercising consistently each week, refining my morning routine, and making progress on my next book project. Right now they’re all somewhat generic and simplified, but I’m going to create micro-goals for each one every month. That will allow me to re-evaluate how things are going, and either implement a new strategy or pinpoint a handful of actionable steps to help me make progress in each.
If you’ve set goals for this year, they probably look a lot different than mine. And that’s great! But there are some things that ought to be on all of our lists every single year. How we pursue those ends will differ from person to person, and even from year to year, but they are things we dare not neglect.
Here are 10 things that we should all focus on doing this year:
3. Be a wise steward of your health. That means taking time to rest, eating wisely, being active, and even pursuing medical help when necessary. But it also means prioritizing spiritual well-being, rather than obsessing about physical improvement.
4. Give generously of your resources. Money, time, energy, affection… use what you have, whether it’s a lot or a little. Because other things don’t matter as much if we don’t invest in people along the way!
5. Read something good. And by “good” I don’t mean whatever’s on the bestseller list. Choose your own reading goal that will help you grow as a Christian and mature as a person, and work on them 1 chapter or 20 minutes at a time.
6. Focus on the eternal. Turn your eyes upon Jesus over and over again. Do not lose heart, and do not grow weary. Because eternity is our true reality, not the hamster wheel that we get stuck running on so frequently.
7. Practice gratitude. In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you. So make it a habit this year! For some extra help, pick up a copy of Nancy DeMoss’ Choosing Gratitude, or work through my posts about it here.
8. Be present. As missionary-martyr Jim Elliott famously said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Learn to focus your mind and ignore the distractions. It’s hard, but it’s worth it!
9. Add beauty to your life. What makes you smile? Choose to add more of it into your everyday life. Feed your senses and find pleasure in what God has created, within the boundaries of His will for you.
10. Learn from others. Find someone you already know who can mentor you in a certain area. Look for everyday heroes in your circles and even in the Bible. Discuss, don’t argue. Listen to understand, not just respond. Value the perspective and insight of others.
I’d encourage you to take 5-10 minutes and write out a personalized version of these 10 goals for yourself. For instance, you might pick a handful of categories or books that you want to read this year, a specific way you can add the beauty of nature into your everyday life, a certain Bible reading plan you want to complete, or a particular person you can start seeking out intentionally.
Then, find someone who can hold you accountable for some or all of these things! Maybe a family member or close friend can meet with you monthly to talk progress and help you re-assess your overall aim. Or perhaps you need to find different mentors for different categories — perhaps a book-loving friend to help you read more consistently, a godly leader at your church to help you spend more quality time with God, an artistic acquaintance to encourage you in adding beauty through art or music or something else that always brings a smile to your face. Or take advantage of the long arm of social media and reach out on Facebook or Twitter to find accountability partners.
Do you set New Year’s goals? What are you hoping to focus on this year?