It’s hard for me to say it, but fall is right around the corner. Even though as I’m writing this, the temperature is 105 degrees here in Texas. The truth is my wife is taking our kids school shopping as we speak. Next week, they head to elementary school, and for many people that is the unofficial start to fall.
As my thoughts turn to cooler temperatures (please, God!), shorter days and changing colors, my mind actually drifts to the New Year. See, the New Year is when most of us make resolutions, and plenty of those resolutions are peppered with promises to change. To grow. To mature. To reinvent ourselves even. What else is behind so many of our perpetual promises to “join the gym” and shed some weight?
But while New Year’s gets a lot of the “new year, new me” hype, I actually think fall presents a better opportunity for resolutions. Why? Because I think it’s a little easier to follow through on them at this time of year.
Take the gym example above. When you vow to get in shape on January 1, in order to do so you have to be confined indoors. Even in Texas where I live, any sort of outdoor activity in the dead of winter is undesirable. But make that same resolution now, today, and your options for activity are way more numerous, not to mention that longer days and more prevalent sunshine.
The point is that fall not only offers the opportunity for reset, but it actually might provide the best opportunity for doing so.
OK, so I’ve convinced you that if you want to reinvent yourself right now is the best time to do it. Great. You’re on board. So now what? What does that actually look like? How do you make it happen? And better yet, how do you succeed? Is it as simple as just making a decision and white-knuckling it?
I want to share with you what is the most important factor when it comes to following through with resolutions. And in fact, it’s why I think so many of the ones made around New Year’s fail as well. While I do think the fall season sets you up better for success, if you fail to grasp this one idea you’ll fail just like you may have this past January.
So what is it? In order to be successful when it comes to your resolutions – to reinventing yourself or charting a new path – you have to both understand and embrace your identity.
Yes, your identity. It all comes down to identity.
Last week, my wife and I went on a double date with some good friends. We were catching up on our lives after both having been busy with vacations and summer camps, and the wife of the couple mentioned a book she had recently read that was life-changing. That book was all about identity. I asked her to explain more. She went on to detail the wisdom found in “Living Fearless: Exchanging the Lies of the World for the Liberating Truth of God” by Jamie Winship.
Winship is a former police officer (30 years) who spent time overseas in Middle East conflict zones. He’s seen a lot. And during his career and travels, he understood something important: “All human conflict originates from fear, and fear originates from a false view of God, ourselves and others. Until we exchange what’s false for what’s real, we will never experience being fully alive, fully human and fully free.”
And how do we exchange fear for what’s real? By “unpacking the power of knowing our true identity in Christ.”
Full disclosure: I have not finished Winship’s book. But can I tell you something? I started reading it 24 hours ago and I’m already halfway through it. That’s how good it is. That’s how powerful it is. That’s how necessary it is. If I showed you the copy on my Kindle, you’d see that every page – and sometimes an entire page – has a highlight or a note. In fact, I’d probably be better off just highlighting the whole book and erasing a couple of sentences here and there because it would save me more time.
The basic idea is that every single one of us – whether we follow Jesus or not – has a God-given identity and yet so many of us either don’t know what that is or even run from it. When we find that identity and embrace it, everything else falls into place. And I mean everything!
Maybe your identity is to fight injustice. Maybe it’s to create beautiful art. Maybe it’s to be a host. Winship’s is to be a “militant peacemaker.”
Whatever yours is, when you embrace it, you are living your most fulfilled and God-glorifying life. And when you’re doing that, you are actually truly living.
As I’ve been completing the exercises in the book (yes, there are practical exercises and they are very enlightening), my own identity has become clearer. I am a storyteller. I’ve been a storyteller since a young age. And while I’ve known that and made it known before, this book has helped me cement that identity and thus (just in the last 24 hours) given me incredible clarity on some big decisions. I know what to pursue and I know what to reject. And the freedom felt in that has been amazing.
So, what does that have to do with reinventing yourself? Well, everything. Until you know your identity, you can’t change. Why? Because if you don’t know your identity, how do you know what to change from and what to change into? How do you know if what you’re pursuing is what you’re meant to be pursuing? And finally, knowing your identity gives you a greater purpose for achieving your goals.
Let’s take the fitness example one more time. You can say, “Hey, I want to look better so I’m going to hit the gym.” But you and I know that generally motivates you for about a couple of weeks, maybe a month max. But what if you had a greater purpose for doing it? What if you realized your identity was as a motivational speaker, and in order to better motivate others, you needed to first motivate yourself to do hard things? Your identity informs your purpose, and your purpose motivates your actions.
So this fall, if you decide that it is truly the best time to tackle a “new you,” I want you to spend time first exploring your identity. Who are you, really? What has God uniquely created you to be and do? What do you want to spend the rest of your life pursuing?
Answer those questions first and I think you’ll never have to make another resolution in your life.