The start of a New Year is usually perceived as a season for clean slates and new beginnings. Depending on your perspective, you might consider New Year’s Day as a time to turn over a new leaf, a time to start that post-holiday diet, or a time to generally clean up your act and put your life in order.
I am not usually inclined to compose a list of New Year’s resolutions, but in 2013 there are some specific goals I want to work on personally and professionally. As I prepare for 2013, here are my top ten resolutions…more or less:
1. Eat less and exercise more. My physician keeps reminding me that I can increase the probability of enjoying prolonged good health if I begin now to eat a little less and to exercise more.
2. Talk less and listen more. Several times in children’s sermons I have emphasized that God created us with two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we talk. As I grow older, I am discovering the need for me as an adult to limit my speech and to be more intentional and focused in my listening.
3. Meet less and minister more. In recent months, the church I serve has taken some strategic steps to minimize the number of meetings we ask leaders and workers to attend, and to increase the number of ministry opportunities we provide. Even as a church staff member, if I am not careful, my time can be consumed in meetings where my presence is not really needed. In 2013, I want to spend more time engaged in ministry action.
4. Criticize less and encourage more. Maybe it’s the after effect of an election year or maybe it is a side effect of teetering on the fiscal cliff, but I have heard enough criticism in 2013 to taste its toxicity. While constructive criticism may be of great value, negative and petty criticism tends to be contagious and demoralizing. Our local and national leaders, our ministers, and our neighbors need our prayers and encouragement more than they need darts of non-constructive criticism flying their way.
5. Spend less and save more. As I experience the challenges of the current recession, and as I think about retirement possibilities down the road, I am persuaded that I need to spend a little less this year on frivolous things and to put a little more in savings to provide stability for the future.
6. Worry less and trust more. I am convinced worry is a genetic trait handed down to me from previous generations. I know that worry is a waste of time and energy, but a little voice in my head is wrongly convinced that worry is productive. This year I want to proactively address those things that are within my realm of responsibility, to cease worrying about those things over which I have no influence, and to trust God for daily guidance and provision.
7. Hurry less and pace myself a little more. Because my task list can get long, I tend to spend a lot of time hurrying from one task to the next. This year I want to slow the pace, live the moment, even it that means I don’t check every task off of my to-do list.
8. Watch TV less and read more. I don’t believe that watching TV is necessarily wrong. I especially enjoy watching Hawaii Five O and NCIS. My personal downfall, however, is reruns. I spend too much time watching shows I’ve already seen, and that cuts into my reading time. By most accounts, reading exercises the mind more than watching TV. This year I am determined to spend more time wrapped up in a good book and less time watching repeats.
9. Connect less and disconnect more. I enjoy being connected to the people in my congregation, in my community, and in my network. If I am not careful, I can find myself staying connected all the time. Electronic communication can be a blessing and social networking can be the next best thing to being there. However, staying connected 24 hours a day can be counterproductive and may increase stress, reduce productivity, and incite attention deficit. This year I want to maximize the benefits of being connected by knowing when to disconnect.
10. Reminisce less and engage more. Reminiscing is a healthy exercise. But when I become preoccupied with the past, I end up becoming a curator of yesterday’s blessings rather than envisioning and working toward a positive future. Reminiscing helps me to treasure the experiences of yesteryear. But there comes a time to put the past behind me and the future before me and to engage the challenges and opportunities that are knocking at the door this year.
As I prepare to engage this New Year, there some things I need to do a little less often and others I need to do a little more frequently. How about you?
(Barry Howard serves as Senior Minister of the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.)