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The message at church tonight focused on the annual ritual of setting new year resolutions or goals. Most of us do it, and have done so year after year with little or no lasting impact.
Why? Because only 7 percent of new year resolutions actually come to fruition, and most are abandoned by mid-February.
That’s because we usually focus only on changing behaviors and the way we do things.
We set goals to exercise every morning, and do so until we sleep in, find that it’s raining and we can’t run or walk, the gym is too crowded, or we have to work earlier than expected. Soon, we start missing a few days and fall back into the old rut.
Or, we set goals to eat healthy, and we do so until we’re running behind and reach for convenience store snacks or fast food.
After a few failures, we surrender and beat ourselves up. Our enemy tells us we’re failures, weak and incapable of doing anything right. So why even try?
Tonight, the pastor encouraged people to shift thinking away from what to DO and instead embrace WHO we want to become. Once our identity changes, it is easier to adopt the characteristics of that type of person.
Want to give up smoking? Then tell yourself you’re no longer a smoker. That way, if someone offers you a cigarette, you don’t say you are trying to quit, which means you have a 93 percent chance of failing because it is based on actions to avoid.
Rather, you respond by saying you’re no longer a smoker. That reinforces your new identity.
It’s that subtle shift toward creating a healthy identity that works to establish positive habits associated with that identity.
What to give up pornography? Rather than vowing not to look at it again, and risk failure by trying to avoid a behavior, simply remind yourself that you’re a Christ follower. When faced with a lustful temptation, you ask, “Would a godly person do this?”
When I was much younger, I nearly flunked out of college. After one semester, I had a D+ grade point average. My father died a few weeks into the second semester, and I had to withdraw from classes and quit school on my own. Yet, I considered myself to be a college dropout.
Many years later, I returned to school and vowed to do better. I told myself I was not a college dropout, but rather a successful student who was eager to learn and would excel in every class.
Rather than wearing shorts or old jeans to class, I wore business casual clothing because that’s what successful students wore. Rather than sitting in back of the room, I sought seats in the front row. I participated in class discussions.
It wasn’t long before I started getting mostly As on quizzes, tests and assignments. In fact, I wound up graduating with a 3.8485 grade point average and missed earning highest honors by just 0.0015 percent. (As a father of three, I got a B in a one-credit sex education class. I said we needed more take-home lab assignments.)
The point being that I became successful after my identity changed from that of a struggling failure who found it difficult to comprehend what was being taught, to a competent student who enjoyed learning.
Like my pastor noted, our distorted identity works to sabotage our success. Our enemy wants us to connect our repeated failures or constant struggles and past mistakes to a false identity.
The key is not trying to change behaviors, but rather to put systems in place that work to change behaviors.
I am taking a class offered by business mentor Darren Hardy called Insane Productivity. The main premise of the course is realizing that if I want to succeed, then I need to put systems in place that put me on the track to success.
Rather than individual goals, I now have a system in place where I wake up at 6 a.m. and immediately take a 3-mile walk while listening to a sermon or audiobook. When I get back, I am wide awake and alert. Next, I read a chapter in the Bible or another book while having breakfast rather than visiting some news website. Then I tackle the most important thing I need to get done that day.
Before lunch, I have already exercised, prayed, studied the Bible, listened to an inspirational message, read part of a book and completed my top priority for the day — all because I adopted a new system for getting things done.
In the past, I had the habit of stopping at a convenience store to get a giant diet soft drink while on the way to the post office. However, I would frequently pick up a donut as well since the display case was conveniently located near the soda fountain. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to will myself to stop eating donuts?
What changed was adopting a system of avoidance rather than resistance. I took a new route and simply stopped going to the convenience store. In doing so, I not only avoided buying an unhealthy diet soft drink, but I never saw the case of tantalizing donuts.
I saved money, cut back on caffeine intake and avoided shoveling a fatty donut into my body all because I created a system to avoid passing the convenience store.
My identity changed, and so did my behaviors to correspond to that new identity.
So, as you contemplate setting new year resolutions and goals, why not pause and ask God WHO he wants you to become in 2020.
Then, adopt that identity to match God’s image of you, and your behaviors will fall in line to support that vision.