In the top drawer of my desk, which is located in our dining room, sits a couple of sheets. They are worn and crumbled from much use. One reads at the top: RESOLUTIONS 2021. The next: RESOLUTIONS 2022. And we have just added a new sheet with the words—I’m sure you’ve guessed it—RESOLUTIONS 2023.
It’s become a tradition in our family at the end of every year, certainly not an uncommon practice. Many people make New Year’s resolutions. Resolution is a word the American Heritage Dictionary defines as “a firm decision to do something.” It contains a sense of urgency, purpose, and intention. A goal, in contrast, is an end, which one may or may not feel a strong desire to reach.
So to make a resolution for 2023 means more than just hoping to accomplish something; it means you will set out with a firm purpose to do it!
In our family, each person makes one or more resolutions. My husband and I try to encourage the children (as much as ourselves!) to focus on three different areas: physical, mental, and spiritual. Physical resolutions span the gamut from learning to walk (our one year old) to learning to ride a bike without training wheels to running a 5K in 25 minutes. Mental resolutions involve things such as setting a goal for how many books one will read or learning a new language or achieving a certain grade in school. As for the spiritual resolutions, we try to focus on the areas where we each struggle the most: for me, it’s patience, so I’m resolving not to lose my temper around the kids (wish me luck!). Our oldest daughter is resolving to read the Bible each day, setting aside quality time for prayer.
We also make a “family resolution,” which is something everyone contributes to and benefits from. Last year this was quite practical: get the kids to bed on time! This year, we made it more enjoyable: have quarterly “family days” where we spend the majority of the day together doing something fun, whether it’s something simple like taking a walk and playing board games or going on a day trip.
We keep the list of our resolutions nearby because we review them as a family at least quarterly. As the summer rolls around, we pull out the resolutions and check in with each person: “We’re halfway through the year! How are we doing on our resolutions? Have we made progress?”
The Deadline Benefit
There is something in human nature that appreciates a new beginning and a fresh start. Similarly, setting one’s sight on a certain objective brings purpose and intention to what we are doing. For the competitive among us, it gives incentive to “keep the streak alive” by accomplishing the resolutions of each year—or to improve upon last year’s efforts. Harvard Medical School professor, Dr. Kevin Majeres (also co-founder of OptimalWork), refers to the “deadline benefit.” An example is by the end of the year, I resolve to do X (for example, forgive my friend, spend more time with my spouse, publish my book, etc.). By setting a deadline, we have a parameter to work within; the goal becomes specific and, indeed, moves from a goal to a resolution. Some positive pressure is helpful!
A few weeks ago was Christmas. In that scene, we find a model of intentionality within the spiritual life. The shepherds went to look for the newborn Infant with haste. This doesn’t mean they were chaotically running hither and thither. It means they acted with resolution! How will you seek God in 2023? Will you do so with haste? Is there something you can do or sacrifice that will help you set your sight resolutely upon God as we move through the year?
Of course, sometimes we don’t reach our resolutions. That’s why, however, our family holds onto the resolutions of prior years. Maybe we didn’t achieve what we set out to do … yet. We have one family member who has carried over the same resolutions for the past three years, albeit with some modifications. And that’s okay! The point is that we are moving forward, improving and continually striving upward. As Pier Giorgio Frassati said, “We must never exist but live.”
A New Year’s resolution affords us a whole year to move forward, improving ourselves in every area. Will New Year’s Eve 2023 find you and your family closer to your ideal? Let’s resolve to make it so!