New Year’s Reservations

I hold reservations about making new resolutions each year. Not just because the new resolutions often sound much like the old ones, and not just because of the deafening sound of resolutions shattering all about us by January 3rd

It’s more about how our resolutions are often unrealistic and unsustainable. 

Resolutions are often unrealistic and unsustainable.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of goal setting. Goals can give us direction and focus, not to mention the all-important dopamine hit when we actually get them done! But many goals can feature unrealistic deadlines or targets, or they don’t factor in important things like exhaustion, boredom with our less-than-shiny resolutions, interruptions and unforeseen crises. 

Like illness. 

Illness is the ultimate curveball. It is capable of taking the best intentions, the most well-formed plans, the most admirable goals, and smashing them to pieces. Because of illness, I have found my goals need to become far more elastic than previously. Major projects often need an additional twelve months’ extension to render them realistic for me. 

Illness is the ultimate curveball.

Living with chronic illness isn’t all bad. Having ‘elastic’ goals has forced me to relinquish some of my deep-seated perfectionism. I cannot adhere to self-imposed deadlines because I get sick so frequently, and at times can only work for short bursts. So I have to let a lot of things go. 

Cutting myself some slack has been an invaluable lesson. 

It has also taught me the value of letting go of goals. I still have ambitions, but I no longer set myself deadlines. I pass those finishing lines so often as to render them meaningless. Setting resolutions for myself would only add to the pressure of the Inner Perfectionist, rather than releasing it. 

So I live by hopes instead. I have hopes for the things I want to complete, and I have hopes for completion dates, but I’m not married to them. Chronic illness means curveballs, and I deal with them better when I anticipate delays and cut myself plenty of slack. 

I live by hopes instead.

I express my plans in terms of hopes. ‘I hope to be there!’ ‘I hope to have an answer for you soon.’ ‘I hope to work on my new song over the next few weeks.’ ‘I hope to release my new book this year.’ Hopes give me breathing space while promoting the same focus as the dreaded resolutions. Without the added pressure. 

I don’t know about you, but I could certainly live with less pressure in my world. 

I was reminded recently of the importance of hope. Take it away, and what have you got? Hopelessness. That’s life-killing. But hope speaks of new possibilities, comfort, and a better tomorrow. Paul said, ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV) Hope is foundational. It is powerful. And God can speak into our hopes, breathing his own energy and imagination into them.

I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions for 2024. But hopes? You bet. I hold no reservations about that. 

Do you have hopes for 2024? What are you hoping for? How can God help you with those hopes? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

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