It still doesn’t seem like it should be 2014 already; it feels as though there should be another month left of 2013, really. Nevertheless, we’re two full days into a new year, which means we’ve all had at least two days to figure how what we’re doing with our lives and what we want to do with this year.
Not too long ago, I wasn’t a fan of New Year’s resolutions. More often than not, they were cheesy, purposeless, and usually image-based – seeking only to make one seem as though they’re getting their life together, but in reality, they’re not doing much of anything differently. I’ve been there. I’ve written that post before. Three years ago I said I was going to get a 4.0 so I could get into Western Seminary. I didn’t get that 4.0 and I’m not at Western.
What should these things be about, then? I think they should be about what we hope to do rather than what we will do. And I think they should present something specific rather than something ambiguous. Small, specific goals are easier to accomplish than large, vague ones. This is how I’ve approached my 2014 resolutions. Some are simple with the purpose of being wiser with my financial resources while others are much more difficult with the purpose of challenging myself to excel. Hopefully this year I can achieve better than three of seven resolutions.
1. Cut unnecessary spending
There are two sub-categories within this one: excessive and convenience.
a. Excessive: Throughout last year, I purchased four pairs of shoes. Granted, three of those pairs were more than 40% off the regular retail price (the fourth being 20% off), but the harsh reality is that I didn’t need a single one of them. And I still don’t. In addition to shoes, I purchased t-shirts, jackets, and hats that I never needed at any given point. Why did I buy them then? Because I had a distorted definition of “need”; they were simply “wants” in disguise. Such spending is foolish and when you’re living off of a part-time job and student loans, it’ll never bring you out of the red.
b. Convenience: I got real lazy with my food purchases last year. In fact, I think I spent more money at fast-food restaurants than I ever have before – maybe even equal to the amount I spent on groceries. Not only has this terrible habit negatively impacted my health, but it has produced a habit of lethargy – of cutting corners where I can, when I can simply to delay doing whatever it is that needs doing right then and there. If I’m going to succeed in seminary (or really at anything in life), then I cannot continue to allow this habit to control the way I do things. So when it comes to food, I hope to take the time and discipline myself into preparing my own food (honestly, it tastes better anyway).
2. Read 50 books (or more)
Over at Everyday Theology, Marc Cortez posted an infographic describing the lack of reading of the average person. He admits the information may not be accurate, but it is enough for me to push myself into reading more – both for scholastic purposes and leisure. Why 50? It seemed like a decent number to start with. Of course, I’ll find out exactly how difficult this will be as I wade into all the books in my ever-growing “to read” list (on Good Reads, which is a very helpful app for the book lovers out there, I have a little more than a dozen books in my “to read” list, but that’s about 1/4th of the books I actually want to read – I just don’t have time to scan them all in).
3. Write 100 blog posts (or more)
I tend to write more when I’m reading more, but there are plenty of times when I wanted to write something, but chose to watch something on Netflix or iTunes. That habit of lethargy extended well beyond food and infected my passions for reading and writing. I wish to change this for 2014 and beyond. Seminary has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my lifetime and yet I only have a handful of blog posts to show for it.
4. Write letters to at least 25 different people (or more)
I have saved the most challenging resolution for last. The idea came to me toward the end of last summer when I was preparing to leave Eugene. Having lived there for seven years, I came across plenty of friends who impacted my life in many more ways than I’ll ever be able to see. In those final days in Eugene, I chose to write a letter to a few of them, thanking them for their influence and wishing them well for their futures. And yet I also chose to write another letter to someone I have never met. Due to inspiration from being a fan of The West Wing, I wrote a letter to President Obama. Love or hate him, the guy continues to show up to his job despite vicious criticism – more vicious than I have ever received. To my surprise, he responded as did the First Lady, Michelle Obama.
So there they are – my resolutions for 2014. A common tendency amongst resolutions is to be self-centered or self-serving. While I cannot deny self-improving consequences within each of these resolutions, I don’t want them to be mere things I check off by the end of the year. I want them to change me from this point forward – into 2015 and beyond. When I sit down to write next year’s resolutions, I want them to be more challenging in different ways than these. But above all else, I want them to improve the lives of those around me. I want my time spent more with people and less with technology. And I want whatever little influence I might have on someone else to be genuine – sharing in the abundant life of Christ.
What are your resolutions for 2014?