The beginning of a new year is traditionally perceived as a season for clean slates and new beginnings.
Depending on your perspective, you might consider the new year as a time to turn over a new leaf, to start that post-holiday diet, to begin that exercise regimen or to generally clean up your act and put your life in order.
I am not usually inclined to compose a list of resolutions for the new year, but as we welcome 2018 there are some specific things I want to work on personally and professionally.
As I welcome 2018, here are 10 goals I am targeting – more or less – that might prove helpful to others:
1. Eat less, 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, 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. Criticize less, encourage more.
Maybe I’m just weary of caustic political banter, but I have heard enough criticism and negativity in 2017 to last a lifetime. 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.
4. Judge less, respect more.
As a follower of Jesus, I am called to live out of the wellspring of my convictions and respect the rights of others to do the same. That means leaving the judging to the ultimate Judge and respecting those whose life choices and perspectives are different than my own.
5. Spend less, give more.
As I strive to be a more effective manager, I am persuaded that I need to spend a little less this year on frivolous things and to give a little more to organizations, ministries and missional groups that make a difference in the lives of others, especially the disadvantaged.
6. Worry less, trust more.
I am convinced that worry is a genetic trait handed down to me from previous generations. I know 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 address proactively those things 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, focus 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 and focus on the present moment, even if that means I don’t check every task off my to-do list.
8. Watch less, read more.
I enjoy good TV shows and good books. My personal downfall, however, is reruns. I spend too much time watching shows I’ve already seen, and that cuts into my reading time.
Reading exercises and stretches 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, disconnect more.
Electronic communication can be a technological 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 strategically choosing times to disconnect.
10. Reminisce less, engage more.
Reminiscing about the past can be inspiring and educational. But when I become preoccupied with the past, I end up becoming a curator of yesterday’s blessings rather than envisioning new possibilities 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 fully engage the challenges and opportunities that are knocking at the door this year.
As we welcome 2018, I hope we can all find ways to maximize the opportunities, navigate the obstacles and “press toward the mark of the high calling” with hope, optimism and determination.
Barry Howard serves as a leadership coach with the Center for Healthy Churches and a pastoral counselor with the Faith and Hope Center. He is a member of the Baptist Center for Ethics board of directors and recently retired as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Barry’s Notes, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @BarrysNotes.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.