As the calendar flipped to February, the gyms are already emptying out from all the well-intentioned but ill-fated New Year’s resolution failures. It’s the same story every year – time to lose weight, get more organized, balance the budget, or any one of the countless other resolutions that a person might make. Unfortunately, most of the time those resolutions are rubbish, just fantasies that make the declarer feel better but won’t result in tightened budgets, waistlines, or anything else.
The New Year is a natural time for taking stock of our lives. Rather than empty declarations and resolutions, try making some tweaks and changes and setting real goals. It’s often said that a person’s character is the sum of their habits. It could easily be restated that our lives are the sum of our habits, so examining our habits is a great place to start. As a chaplain, I’m particularly interested in the habits that lead to our spiritual fitness.
Almost every week, I meet with young Marines who have been introduced to spiritual ideas at Parris Island. Then, they struggle with their spirituality on their leave before they come to me at the School of Infantry – East. I reassure them that it’s normal for them to struggle as they didn’t have well-developed habits to help them be successful.
First, identify the habits that would give you the fitness you desire and make an honest assessment of how you are doing. Next, choose a habit to improve and set some measurable goals. Many times in my tradition, I encourage people to develop their habit of prayer. A great tool that can help you to be successful is likely in your pocket or your hand – the calendar on your phone. My wife has set alerts reminding her to pray for different members of our family. It always encourages me to see the banner pop up on her screen with the message, “pray for my husband.” If you want to pray three times a day, set three alerts. As you successfully reach your goal, your confidence and spiritual fitness will naturally develop.
I would also encourage you not to be harsh with yourself and to grow your habits incrementally. You’re more likely to be successful by making tweaks to your habits than by expecting wholesale changes. As your habits get stronger and your confidence grows, your transformation over time will deliver you the fitness and outcomes you’ve been wanting. You will have set yourself up for continued success. I’m focused on your spiritual fitness, but these principles are useful for change in any area of your life. With focused effort, the sum of your habits will be the life you want to lead.