“I’m not setting any big goals this year,” I told a friend at a New Year’s Eve party last year. Usually I would go overboard with goal-setting, but I had lately felt convicted to focus more on God’s step-by-step leading than my own long-term planning.
As it turned out, 2020 was probably the perfect year to scale back on goal-setting. Jokes aside, my lack of an annual goal helped me be flexible in a year of constant change, and I feel like it was a good exercise for me to avoid continually measuring my weekly progress against my own pre-set goals. I learned more about releasing control and trusting God for my next steps, and I saw Him work in ways I would not have expected.
However, I feel like I drifted through a lot of the last few months, lacking direction and perspective that a bigger goal could have provided. Sneaky habits like sleeping in or procrastinating on Bible study homework have stolen more of my time and energy than I’d like to admit, and I know there are some areas I really need to focus on.
Since there are still a lot of unknowns about 2021, I need to stay flexible this coming year and continue (as always) to put God’s leading first. But I also have some work to do in developing self-discipline in order to be ready for whatever God has next.
Helpful habits are for everyone
Multibillionaire Warren Buffett gave some advice to graduating seniors last summer: develop good habits and weed out bad habits. “You can get rid of it a lot easier at your age than at my age, because most behaviors are habitual,” he said. “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”
The 90-year-old investor is well-known for his own frugal habits, such as eating one of his three usual menu choices from McDonald’s every day on his way to work. “I tell my wife as I shave in the morning, I say either ‘$2.61, $2.95 or $3.17.’ And she puts that amount in the little cup by me here [in the car],” he says.
A habit is doing the same thing consistently, and it makes the success of our goals more or less likely. If we want to learn a new language, we are more likely to accomplish our goal if we spend time studying French every day. Thirty minutes a day goes a lot further than a four-hour stretch once or twice a month. If we binge on Disney+ every night or consistently scroll through social media instead of conjugating verbs, we will not get much past bonjour.
Ready for when God calls
I think we’re all approaching New Year’s Day 2021 differently than we have in the past. We know now, more than we did a year ago, that anything can happen and our plans may be thrown out the window even in the first quarter of the year.
In one of Paul’s last letters, he encouraged his protégé Timothy to stand firm in his calling and weed out the lesser qualities in his life:
“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
As a Christian pastor under Roman rule, Timothy faced a lot of uncertainty. He would have had no way of knowing what the next year — maybe even the next month — would look like for him. In all those unknowns, Paul counseled Timothy to focus on readying himself for service and trusting God to decide what that service would be.
We don’t know what 2021 holds. Not a clue. But as we take stock of where we are personally, I think we all know of life areas we should be working on in order to be ready for whatever God calls us to in the next 12 months. We can focus on preparing ourselves for service and following God’s step-by-step leading for what that might look like.
In January, the first habit I’ve picked to work on is getting up early. This one habit may spill over and influence other habits, helping me exercise more often or spend more time studying the Bible. That would be great, but my main focus this first month will be on consistently getting up early. The rest will build on that.
Which habit will you pick first?
Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.