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My New Approach to the New Year

Doug Bender

January 01, 2022 | 3 minute read

It’s the end of one year and the beginning of another. And there’s a good chance that you are one of the 189 million Americans who will set a New Year’s resolution this year. I, myself, am a veteran resolution maker. For years, I approached the New Year with intense planning, ambition, and optimism. I had spreadsheets, sticky notes, action plans with numerous categories, research, and schedules. But even if you have much more modest aims this New Year, approaching things with these basic principles will help you have a banner year and meaningful personal growth.

Calendars Don’t Matter.

One of the first lessons I learned about New Year’s resolutions is that the calendar had nothing to do with my success. Just because one day it’s 2021 and the next it’s 2022, will not make change any easier (or harder, for that matter). If you’ve got change on your mind, know that any day will do. If by January 2, you already find yourself a failure, know that January 3 is just as good a day to begin again. Or as the Bible puts it, God’s “love is new every morning.” 

What happens if you miss this principle: When you fail at your resolution (which you will), you will be tempted to think the year is lost. Instead of using the next 11 months and 29 days to keep working at your goal, you’ll give up.

Doing Matters. Knowing Matters More.

Most people make “doing” type goals. Do more exercise, more reading, more sleeping. Or similarly people make the “not doing” type goals. Do not eat sweets, do not fall asleep to TikTok videos, or the like.These types of goals can be good as they tend to be tangible, measurable, and easily tracked. But they don’t actually move you as a person to a better place, at least not on their own. For that you have to involve your mind and soul. Knowing certain deep truths and being a certain type of person as a result of those truths will always be the bedrock foundation for all meaningful growth. Again, I’ll quote the Bible when it simply says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  

What happens if you miss this principle: Without a knowledge of God, your goals will tend to be selfish as it is the belief in God that provides meaning beyond yourself. If you are your own biggest goal, then the best you can hope for is that you succeed in achieving ever more selfish goals. And we’ve all met those kinds of people, do us all a favor and give up now.

Love Wins.

My early resolutions involved health, money, and productivity. Turns out, that’s how most people approach goal setting. 66% of resolution-making Americans have health related goals next year, 52% are aiming for improved finances, and 41% hope to be more efficient and productive. But on their own these goals are meaningless and short-sighted because none of them last. They all fade with time or end when you die (which everyone does). Only love can break through the barrier of death. The Bible explains it this way, “Suppose I give everything I have to poor people. And suppose I give myself over to a difficult life so I can brag. If I don’t have love, I get nothing at all.” Anything you achieve outside of love will ultimately go unrecognized and unrewarded by God. Love, therefore, is forever. Love wins.

What happens if you miss this principle: You can spend all your life and energy on goals that ultimately get you nowhere at the end of your life.

Know the Beginning and the End.

Life is short. It begins and then at some unknown point in the not-so-distant future it ends. All your goals must have this in mind. More specifically, all your goals must have in mind what happens next. When you meet Jesus, will all your resolutions and goals help you in that moment or hurt you? Will you have spent your life achieving selfish aims and worthless wealth or will you have something Jesus actually considers worthwhile? Love is the only goal Jesus set for us and the only thing he promises to reward. Love him and inherit all eternity. Love your neighbor and be rewarded forever. That’s it. He is the Beginning and the End. He is what matters now and what will matter then. There is nothing else. Or to let Jesus speak for himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” 

What happens if you miss this principle: According to Jesus, “This is the second death.”

I’m one that’s done a lot of resolution setting, but more and more I am setting Jesus centered goals for the simple reason that they are the only ones that matter in the long run. I still have goals to be more healthy, but only so I may better serve Jesus. I still have money goals, but only so I may better invest in Jesus’ work. I still have productivity goals, but only so I can do more for him. I’m still not succeeding at all my goals, but I know that I’m at least making the right ones. 

Doug Bender

Doug Bender

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. He also works with I Am Second's parent organization, e3 Partners, as a church planter and pastor in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and the US. Doug and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Bethany, Samuel, Isabella, and Jesse.

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