This post is instead of publishing New Year’s Resolutions.
I’m not talking about over-achieving early resolutions for 2018. I’m talking about for the year that is now three-quarters over. Try not to laugh at me. OK, fine, go ahead.
As a human, I wallow in the same problem that many of us do: not sticking to strict but well-intentioned resolutions. The last few years I’ve begun noting the seeming futility of making resolutions, only to have rolled back to the start line well before Easter. Maybe even Valentine’s Day.
Bearing in mind this futility, I failed to muster the traditional excitement for creating them this year and flopped into 2017 with a bit of a whimper and no formal resolutions. But all along I’ve been thinking about what could replace those things, which seemed doom to fail.
I decided that coming up with “personal commitments” seems like a fine compromise. Like mini-mission statements for my life. I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution, but so far I think I can get behind it. Things that say, “This is me. This is what I intend to be and do.”
So, now that we are nearly to Halloween, here are my top five personal commitments for this year – and for henceforth.
1. Practice Gratitude and Contentment
When I pause to consider the goodness in my life – family, friends, job, home, health, cat, reliable transportation, far more than my basic needs met, to name a few – I know that I have it so good. I am so very grateful for all the Lord has blessed me with, sometimes I feel like my head might explode with joy.
As long as I can maintain that gratefulness on a regular basis, it helps put the hard stuff life throws at me in its proper perspective.
2. Seek God First
As a Christian, this one feels obligatory. I should say, it felt obligatory in the past. Years of Sunday school pounded this truth into my head. There were probably dozens of times in church small groups throughout my school years when I earnestly pledged to my friends, “I am going to start putting God first in my life.”
Regretfully, for many years it was just lip-service without much action. But through the persistence of prayer (asking for a desire to love and follow God more), and the Holy Spirit, God has been faithful to begin giving me a greater and greater devotion to Him.
It feels odd to say that, and maybe even a little boastful. In reality, however, the opposite is true. It is God who has done all the work in me (Philippians 2:13) and continues to do so (Philippians 1:6). I can take zero credit for it. But it does give me just one more reason to thank Him.
3. Live for Others
As a natural result of #2, I commit to finding ways to serve others around me. The more I love God, the more love He gives me for others. It’s a non-vicious cycle.
Life is too short to strive for only that which makes me comfortable or happy. Selfishness comes easy, and putting it aside is hard. I commit to battling it every day.
As I look beyond myself and my circumstances (my default posture as an introvert is to focus internally), I see friends, family and church members who have needs that I could meet. It has become a joy to me to do what I can to meet those needs, even when it means giving up things I cherish such as my time, skills or money. This commitment comes by the grace of God alone, and by His grace, I will continue down the path on which He has set my feet.
4. Laugh More
This fallen world is full of tragedy. It seems like it gets worse all the time, and 2017 is setting some kind of gross record. This has been a particularly rough year in my extended family, with a stunning amount of deaths in our ranks, including one of a dear friend.
While I take the time to grieve these things, I also realize that there is so much sorrow all around us that if we focus too much on tragedy, we’ll all remain very unhappy people.
Laughing more didn’t start out as an intentional commitment. I just found myself doing it. In spite of a year full of tragedy, I seemed to find more things that make me giggle, and also, discover the hidden humor in normal situations. Even finding more amusing ways to word sentences or using various intonations to generate mirth has become a little game I play.
Since I noticed myself doing it, now I have decided to make it a commitment. Is there such a thing as laughing too much or having an excessive amount of amusement? Please.
5. Make Myself a Priority (Take Better Care of Myself)
On the surface, this seems like a contradiction to #3. But I don’t think it is. I can still serve others without neglecting myself.
I’m coming out of a long season of not making myself a priority (neglecting eating healthy, exercise and personal development). Some effects of this are obvious, like what I call the “bonus version” of me. Some not so much. But I know the impact it has had across the board, and it is not good.
If I’m not taking care of myself, learning and developing personally, the me that is left over won’t have nearly as much to give to the other priorities I’ve identified.
For instance, I am making the mental switch back to “I feel great after I exercise, and it improves my life across the board. Therefore, doing it is taking care of myself. It is an investment I am making in me. I enjoy it, and it is important.” From, “Exercise is a chore to be accomplished … or avoided because I have too much to do.”
This list isn’t comprehensive, intentionally. It is just a few things I’ve identified as that with which I choose to define my life. Commitments seem more positive and less harsh than resolutions. In the end, it may be just a matter of semantics. But it works for me.