Candy Ellie kicks off her new, three-part series by looking at how we can create long-term change
We are at the start of a new year, which is a time when many people take stock of their lives and try to implement changes. In this mini-series I will be looking at some of the things that can stop us from living our lives to the fullest, starting with New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe that changing our approach to them can lead to more positive and longer-term benefits.
Towards the end of the year, for almost a decade, I would go through the same routine of critically assessing my lack of progress or change in certain areas of my life. During the euphoria of New Year’s Eve services, I would make all sorts of declarations to myself and petitions to God only to fail miserably within a short space of time and end another year with very little (if any) of what I set out to accomplish. I simply couldn’t change my behaviour and got fed up with trying.
Resolutions: positive or negative?
Each year many believers still take on the mammoth task of setting goals with positive intentions but little or no preparation, which means most fail before February. According to research from the University of Scranton only eight per cent of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
When we don’t meet our goals and end another year without the things we were trusting God for, the feeling of failure or disappointment can adversely affect our emotional wellbeing and overall sense of happiness.
Why can’t I change?
Many of our expectations around behaviour change are very unrealistic. The five stages of behaviour change are: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Depending on our personality type, this process can be as short as 90 days or take many years.
When we are detached from our usual stressors and temptations, we tend to get carried away with the romanticised idea of ‘new year, new you’. We decide what changes need to be made and go straight into ‘action’ mode, affirming self-condemning thoughts and making ourselves fully responsible for achieving goals that may in fact need specialised prayer ministry, long-term mentoring or support.
Did God forget about me?
So, what about the things we were trusting God for and how are we supposed to deal with these disappointments when another year goes by and they don’t come to pass?
I don’t have any magic answers here. This is where trust and faith come into action. True love cannot exist without trust. If we truly have faith and believe that God loves us, we can be honest about our disappointment and struggles with waiting. Such disappointments also present us with the opportunity to get to the root of things that affect our faith and trust in God’s willingness to provide the things we need, and bless us with the things we desire.
In my own life, my foundations were deeply broken through church hurt, abuse and parental abandonment. I didn’t really trust God or believe he loved me for me. I asked for a husband, relevance and all sorts and seemingly got no response. When I told God how angry I was about all that had happened and asked him to heal my heart, a new journey of love and trust began. I am still waiting for many things but it feels so much better when you trust the one you are asking, knowing he will do what’s best for you, over and above what you ask.
Setting godly goals
I still firmly believe that resolutions are a good way to aspire to a positive end result and motivate yourself to change for the better, but only when they are created and implemented with healthy expectations.
For me, the ability to break free from certain behaviours was a process that took years. Change came through understanding why those issues were there in the first place and receiving help to address the root cause of certain difficulties.
Here are some tips to help you make and maintain healthy resolutions:
Set achievable goals - There is nothing wrong with aiming high but, after taking into account all of the above, it might be worth reviewing your resolutions. Start with small wins that you can build on as the year progresses.
You don’t have to do it alone - Change is not easy. It is important to recognise that you may need specialised prayer ministry or counselling.
Sometimes, it truly does take a village - Moving forward you may also need longer-term mentoring or support as you learn to walk in new areas of freedom. This can be in the form of a prayer partner that you can freely share with and give permission to ask you how you are getting on or though follow-up sessions with a counsellor, coach or mentor.
Rome wasn’t built in a day - Be patient with yourself, plan positive things to look forward to and work on becoming your own biggest cheerleader. And make sure you celebrate each step of the journey