New Year’s resolutions. Mention the topic and the responses will likely be an enthusiastic, “I don’t make resolutions anymore because I always break them… Life is tough enough with COVID-19. I can’t take on anything more… I end up feeling bad about myself when I don’t achieve them.”
Yet our decisions to strive towards personal goals and live a more satisfying life are well worth making. Here are a couple of things that can help:
Include a mix of easy and challenging resolutions. The “fear of resolutions failure” comes up because most people take on only difficult goals which they don’t achieve precisely because they are difficult. But why only make tough resolutions? For example, I like to cook and have a shelf full of cookbooks, but I tend to make the same favourite dishes over and over. For 2021, I’ve resolved to make one new recipe each month. That’s manageable.
Discuss your resolutions with a friend. It’s hard to stay motivated towards challenging goals when you feel alone. My wife meets with a close friend every December to discuss progress towards the past year’s goals, resolutions for the coming year and why they were chosen. As the year unfolds, every few months they discuss their progress. Instead of each of them striving alone towards their resolutions, they share their challenges. I plan to share my resolutions with my men’s group and give an update on them halfway through the year.
Here are other resolutions I’ll be working on in 2021:
Resisting pandemic-based pessimism. Yes, life is difficult these days, with the rise of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Canada and abroad, a desperate shortage of affordable housing, poverty that forces more than 840,000 Canadians to rely on food bank handouts each month, and much more. But succumbing to a bleak mood only strengthens it. We need to take to heart the truth that God is bigger than everything, including COVID-19. We can fight the darkness of our times by choosing to be the light, by focusing on the best of what is happening around us, not the worst. Is this easy? No, of course not. But we can draw strength from our forbearers in faith. Paul’s letter to the Philippians says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, Rejoice… The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.4: 4)
What an incredibly upbeat letter from a man in prison! Paul is showing us that peace is created in our hearts, then lived out in our lives. Our actions can help massage into existence the peace that our hurting world needs now more than ever.
Another way in which I’ve resolved to help create peace is by reducing my news consumption. I will be taking a “news fast” on Sundays as part of my Sabbath observance. Several friends have told me how they feel better by following the news less than before, not because they want to hide from the world, but because they don’t want to get dragged down by relentless news about the pandemic, and want to create space in their souls for hope. Fasting from news can be a meaningful way to observe Sunday as a day apart.
Inviting a lonely neighbour to join me on my dog walks along our street. COVID-19 is especially tough on isolated people.
Deepening my prayer life. I’m going to join a weekly centering prayer service launched by my parish, with social distancing. Centering prayer is a type of meditation used by Christians that emphasizes interior silence in the presence of God. In the past, I have found it both calming and rejuvenating. I also plan to be a more regular attender of the “Praying with PWRDF” virtual gatherings that feature guest speakers, including PWRDF partners from around the world. All Anglicans are welcome. People can register for Praying with PWRDF by visiting this link https://bit.ly/PWRDFPrayers, or emailing PWRDF staffperson Kim Umbach, [email protected].
As Anglicans, we’re familiar with this beautiful passage from Ephesians: “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” It can inspire us to make the changes we want to make in 2021.