It’s the new year…again.
Around this time of year, everyone online starts talking about goal setting and resolutions.
How to make goals, how to keep goals, how everyone breaks their goals, and how this year you can finally be the most productive person on the planet.
I used to think all that was useless, but now I’m buying into to it BECAUSE I started thinking about this in terms of spiritual goals.
So, here’s a post on how to set spiritual goals for the year, get started on your spiritual life, and motivate yourself to become the most spiritually productive person on the planet (or at least spiritually productive). This is what I’m going to use this year to get off my butt and start praying more, although I’ll probably still be on my butt while I’m praying.
Big resolutions don’t work
About 12 years ago, someone in my Bible study group asked if spiritual New Year’s resolutions were a good idea or just a waste of time. My answer was—are any New Year’s resolutions a good idea?
Let’s face it, big change is hard, and resolutions to make massive changes don’t work. Why do we make them?
Because in the beginning it’s cool. Think about starting a new workout program. You visualize how you’ll look different, feel different, and be different at the end. However, when you start working out it just hurts. That’s no fun.
I think Olympic athletes must be masochists, or at the least they have an incredible tolerance for pain.
What does work?
I ran across this idea of Kaizen, a Japanese word for the process of achieving sustained success through small, steady steps. You do this by building a habit of doing something very small, tiny even, everyday without fail until changes takes place. You’re not even committing to the big goal. You’re committing to the tiny habit.
There’s a book on this by Robert Maurer called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. There’s also Mini Habits by Stephen Guise.
The problem is getting started is uncomfortable. Doesn’t matter what it is…working out, writing, praying. The hardest part is overcoming the inertia at the beginning.
But committing to a micro-habit isn’t that difficult. Think something on the order of walking ten minutes a day, writing 50 words a day, or reading a small section of the Bible or spiritual book.
Then, once you’ve started moving, it’s easier to keep going. After a while, you’ll likely stick around longer. Once you form a solid habit, you’ll start thinking of yourself as someone who does this particular thing. And then, you’re off and running.
My Kaizen moment
I experienced the power of small, incremental change first hand last year when I started P90X. Now at first this doesn’t seem like a good example, in fact it sort of isn’t. P90X is a big, honking, scary workout program that lasts for 90 days, and I’m not much of an athlete. But, they have this principle built in.
At the beginning, they don’t emphasize the number of reps you do, how strong you are, or even if you can finish. They emphasize moving and gradual improvement. They tell you to learn the exercises and go at your own pace. You can work harder later.
It worked! I just kept moving and stuck with it. At first I couldn’t imagine even finishing all the exercises in the first part, but eventually I could. Then when I started the advanced phase, I couldn’t imagine finishing those exercises, but eventually I could…with strength to spare.
Gradually, and incrementally over time, I did it.
This really resonates with me. I think this kind of goal setting will work. I seriously think it can work for spiritual goals and growing closer to God this year.
Getting started on spiritual goals
So what spiritual goals can you commit to this year? I’m going for at least ten minutes of meditative prayer everyday where I converse with God and listen to what he’s saying.
Something I’ve done for the past few years (that actually does fit the bill) is the Gospels in a Year program from Flocknote.com. Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll get a little snippet of gospels in your email inbox everyday. At the end of a year, you’ll finish all four gospels. Forget about reading the whole Bible. That’s a great goal, but it’s just too much.
There’s also a program for the Catechism.
Really, this is not that hard. Just read an email a day. All you have to do is click and it’s there.
What you do doesn’t matter. Just commit to something. Make it tiny and easy to manage. Don’t over think it or over shoot. That will undermine the entire thing. Make it short, simple, and sweet.
Here’s to spiritual goals and productivity.