The new year is upon us which means the accompanying New Year's madness is underway. Lofty goals and unobtainable objectives are staked high above us as the new standards and means to a happy life.
I raise you a more attainable and realistic goal setting method. It consists of three parts (how could I pass up an opportunity for the number three!) and is meant to help create sustainable and productive goals.
First, what is something you want to improve? The last year may have been difficult or it may have been perfect bliss. Either way, you are bound to come out of it knowing something better or new. You might learn how you feel loved, where your relationships are lacking, or have found a new favorite hobby. Whatever it may be, find something in your life you would like to continue improving in the new year.
Second, what is something you want to maintain? There are parts of your life that are good and remain good as they are. Finding a morning routine you love, praying the rosary everyday, or calling your mom once a week, for example. Though there is certainly room for growth in most everything, maintenance can be just as much work as improvement. It’s okay to focus on maintenance rather than a total reboot.
Third, what do you want to leave behind in 2022? There are bound to be parts of your life which kept you from holiness. A bad habit, an unhealthy relationship, or a lack of discipline in prayer life, for example. Take advantage of the new calendar year to say goodbye to the things that keep you from Heaven or lead you to temptation.
And finally, a few pieces of advice. For one, set specific goals! For example, if you are trying to improve your prayer life, establish concrete resolutions rather than saying it should be a vague "better." Find a book you would like to read, a devotion you want to pray, or decide to learn about a saint a week. It is also great to find an accountability buddy, especially one who can help you with the specific resolution you have made. If you are determined to leave behind a bad habit, find someone who can check in on you regularly or who you know you can trust for advice when you’re struggling.
Rather than listing goals that are a far-cry from what you were doing on December 31st, I encourage you to look to the new year as a chance to continue growing. You worked hard this past year and though there were likely difficult times, there is also much to be proud of! Consider how much you have been stretched, shifted, and grown. You have been tested and battered around and here you are, now, looking forward to a new year.
Though 2021 might have been full of pain and suffering, that pain and suffering contributes to the context of who you are. We grow from the pain and we grow in holiness through it. Remember that getting to Heaven is not a one-act-mission but a lifetime of baby steps. It is not attained from heroic New Year’s resolutions but the careful cultivation of virtue and the actions of our everyday lives.
Stay the course and remain faithful to the greater plan–God’s plan–and trust that everyday matters. Baby steps, friends! One day at a time.