Every New Year’s Day, we reflect on things we didn’t get done, failed at, or wish we had accomplished. Many times, we have the best of intentions, but a new shiny object distracts us from which we never recover. The reason why is often because we are focused on end results rather than the path to get there.
Making an Attainable New Years’ resolution
The difference between these two are called lead and lag measures. Here’s an example. Losing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Stepping up on the dreaded scale to find out we are gaining weight rather than losing it is a lag measure. The scale makes no difference. It just shows you the results of the path you walked. However, making a commitment to jogging twice a week is a lead measure. As long as you follow through you will see results on the scale.
So here are three resolutions the Christians often make; lose weight, know my Bible better, and have a deeper prayer life. The problem with these goals is that they are all lag measures. If that’s your goal list as its stands…you will likely find yourself at the end of the year wondering why nothing happened.
Instead, let’s set some SMART goals. A SMART goal is an acronym that stands for the criterion a goal should have; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Making a goal a lead measure combined with these characteristics will increase your likelihood of accomplishing them.
So let’s begin…
Be Healthier (1 Tim 4:8)
An admirable goal we usually fail at. Let’s face it. How many times have you tried this only to bomb after making some initial progress? Paul says that “For physical training is of some value…” It is not the most important thing as we will see but it is of value. God wants you to be healthy. Being healthy is taking care of the resources he gave you…your body. But to do this, we need some SMART lead measures. So here are some ideas….
Skip the Fad Diet
Skip the fad diet…track calories instead. Diets are popular and can have results. But at the end of the day, losing weight means burning more fuel than is ingested. Calories do count. A strong lead measure would be to track your calories daily. If you eat less, you will see results in your lag measure of the scale. There are plenty of apps and tools out there to assist you. I personally use the fitness app from Under Armor.
Secondly, commit to some exercise. To be a SMART goal, it needs to be attainable. Don’t join the gym when you don’t have the money or the time to go. Find something that gets you moving more than before. Take a walk every night. Use a stand-up desk at work. Do some push up against the bathroom sink in the morning. The point is to increase your activity not to win the next decathlon.
Track these goals daily, and your lead measure will show lag results.
Know Your Bible Better (2 Tim 3:16)
What Christian doesn’t want to know their Bible better. But unless you have the time and money to go to seminary, that will never happen. Stinks for you right? Of course not. But the breakdown here again is this high goal is a lag measure. To know your Bible better means you have to…wait for it…read it. But you may have sat down on New Years Day will a cup of coffee to begin this process of Bible reading only to fall asleep by the third chapter of Genesis. For those aspiring to be Bible marathon-readers likely gave up by the time you reached the 9th verse of the first chapter of Leviticus. “You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water…” Lev 1:9a
Why is this? Because the goal was not time-bound (daily) or Relevant. You were reading to just meet a goal that became difficult. Instead, I suggest you follow a Bible reading plan that breaks up your reading.
Setting a Realistic Goal
let’s instead set the goal to read the entire Bible, but in a way, that’s headed for success. If you decide to read it from front to back or even chronologically, you can create a condition where you lose the relevance of what you are reading. Instead, I recommend you follow a plan like the M ’Cheyne reading plan. Why? Because it grabs text from the different parts of the Old and New Testament giving a more holistic picture of the scriptures. I like using this in the You Version Bible App on my phone.
Next, you need to decide, do I have the time commitment to read it in one year or two. There are plans for both. Be realistic. If you take on too much, you will fail. It would be better to read a little consistently than a lot sporadically.
Create a Deeper Prayer Life (1 Tim 4:8)
We mentioned earlier that physical training has some value. But then again Paul goes on in that verse to say, “but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Tim 4:8 Your prayer life is directly tied to godliness. How can you live a life that brings glory to God if you don’t speak with him? But we all know we should pray more. That’s not the problem. The issue we typically have is that when we do pray, it’s the same thing over, and over, and over again. Our prayer life is in a rut.
Getting out of the Prayer Rut
So, what is the lead measure goal that will get us out of this rut? Well, here is one to consider. Pray using the Psalms once a day. Ok…what does that mean you’re asking yourself. Well, part of the problem with our prayer life is we seem to lack the words. We don’t know what to say. We, therefore, end up being repetitive, dry, or repeat stuff we have heard since a child, like a poetic dinner prayer or phrases such as “hedge of protection.” (Do you even know what that means?) Instead, the psalm gives us new life in our prayers and prompts us with new words and reminders of what to pray for. Here’s an example from Psalm 133:
Psalm 33 Example
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
This may prompt me to pray for my brother or sister or to praise God for my church. It could remind me that I have not shown unity to my fellow brothers in Christ and ask for forgiveness.
“It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!”
Ohh…this verse sounds tough. But what if this reminds me to give thanks to God for my pastor and pray for him. Aaron was called by God as a priest, and now this verse has reminded me that God also called my pastor.
“It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there, the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”
Ok, …you may not know what Hermon is or the reference of Zion. But it doesn’t matter. What I’m reminded of here is how God has blessed us with eternal life “life forevermore.” Something I may have neglected to reflect on with God in some time.
So, leave your Bible open on your table, bar, kitchen counter, and pray using some verses from the Psalms as a prompt to enrich your prayer life. But…do this consistently.
A New Year Resolution Conclusion
Will these lead measure SMART goals lead you to be healthier, increase your Bible knowledge, and deepen your prayer life without setbacks? Of course not. But you can have confidence that if you persevere, next year you can look back and see real results. Go set your self some worthwhile goals.