Happy New Year!
I have been wrestling with the habits I want to form throughout this year. Last year I worked on two habits that worked great for me. They worked so well, I have decided to continue them this year. One is related to writing and one is related to reading. More on those in another post.
Habits? Why Not Goals?
For most of my life, I have set a handful of goals at the beginning of a year. I usually accomplish some of them, but the list is often either unrealistic or I liked the idea of accomplishing a specific goal but was not really committed to doing what it took to finish the task.
I also have found that many of the goals I set tended to have a pattern:
1. Initial perfect achievement.
2. Gradual slippage.
3. Eventual abandonment of the goal entirely.
I am convinced it is more helpful to think about habits and formation than goals.
What is the difference?
A goal is a concrete and specific action that you work toward and then accomplish. You also tend to move on once you accomplish it.
Here is an example:
Goal: Run a half-marathon.
Habit: Become a runner.
Running a half-marathon is a great and worthy goal! But it is more valuable to become a person who runs than to be a person who has run a half-marathon but no longer runs. Note that becoming a person who runs does not mean that you cannot run a half-marathon. On the contrary, I suspect that people who see running as a part of their identity run in more races than those who set a one-time goal to run a particular race.
Do you see the difference?
I want to be a person who is continually growing in my relationship with God, in my commitment to loving and being present to my family, and in serving the church of Jesus Christ through my teaching, speaking, and writing. Put differently, I want to go on to perfection and continue growing in holiness. I want to become more like Jesus – only by the grace of God!
These things are not boxes that you can check off and complete, they are habits that form a life.
It is also helpful that habits have more room for missing the mark periodically while still making progress toward the desired destination. Goals are either achieved or not achieved.
So, I am working on habits that will form the kind of person I am becoming in 2020 and not goals.
Are there ways you can reshape your New Year’s Resolutions so they are habits shaping who you are becoming?
One of the habits I am working on in 2020 is becoming a person who regularly blogs. To work toward that I want to get in the habit of writing a weekly blog post that will be published on Tuesdays. So far so good.
Up next, I will describe two old habits that worked so well I’ve decided to continue practicing them this year. If you are someone who wants to read more or write more in 2020, these may be helpful.
One more thing: A newsletter and a blog you need to subscribe to right now
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Matthew Johnson, a dear friend and cherished brother in Christ, has started a newsletter called The Guide to Holiness. Here is his description of its purpose from the first edition:
Welcome to The Guide to Holiness. This is the first edition of a newsletter the purpose of which is to share testimonies of entire sanctification with those who are interested in earnestly seeking after it. There’s not a lot I want to add to that except to say if you signed up because you know me and have no idea what we mean when we say “entire sanctification,” shoot me an email. I’ll be happy to talk about it — it’s what I spent 5 years working on as the basis for my project thesis and something I desire more than anything else in this world.
The content is and will primarily be testimonies of God’s perfecting love. I hope you will read not for the historical content, but so that the desire for God’s sanctifying work will grow and abound within you. I’m not interested in putting this together as a mere history lesson; eventually, I want to share, your testimony of entire sanctification.
The most recent edition is my favorite yet, though they have all be fantastic. The entries are easy to read in one brief sitting and remind us that Methodism’s “grand depositum” of entire sanctification is not only an idea. Entire sanctification has been a doctrine that people have experienced through direct encounters with God’s sanctifying grace again and again throughout our history. Why not now? Subscribe here:
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I first met Matt Judkins because of an administrative error that was made when I went to licensing school. As a result, we were assigned to room together. This turned out to be one of God’s great blessings in my life. Matt has since become one of my best friends. He is someone I would be thrilled to have as my pastor. He knows God and walks with him in his own life in an intentional and disciplined way. Matt is also a gifted writer and he has recently returned to blogging. His most recent post on his one word for 2020 is worth a read. Who knows, maybe his one word will be your word for 2020 too? Join the more than 1,000 people already following his blog by entering your email address on the right side of this page.
Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you.