(Disclaimer: this is in no way an attack on anyone who makes New Year's resolutions! It is just my own experience with who I am and what works for me.)
After many years of making New Year's resolutions, I have resolved to stop.
Am I against evaluating my life and making changes? No! Not in least! But I am finished with yearly resolving. I have resolved changes in every area of my life at some point, but my resolutions have started and ended as resolutions.
Too often, I have left issues that I knew needed changed in my life until the New Year whereupon, I have made great and small resolves about the problem and then promptly continued as I was.
Oh, I have sometimes managed to carry some new pursuit into February or even March, but it never really became a part of my life.
Why the lack of success with resolutions?
1. I am not a very self-disciplined person (and I do not think I am alone). If left to myself, I would consume prodigious amounts of chocolate (Lindt Dark Chocolate, please); would never exercise; would spend most of my life with books and Internet; would be grumpy, short-tempered and intemperate; would hardly ever speak to other human beings; would in short be totally sensual: driven by my senses.
2. Jan. 1 is not a magic date. When I wait to January 1 to act on an issue that first came to my attention months before, the impetus of action is destroyed. By waiting for a better date to start, I declare my resolve not to be resolved. If I make a note in May that I need to lose weight, but spend the next eight months steeped in my old habits, January 1 will not suddenly endow me with self-control and constancy.
3. Resolving Unrealistically. When I sit down with only the resolution to resolve, I am predisposed to be unrealistic. I will come up with a list (at least 10 goals, no doubt) of the most impervious resolutions imaginable. I am always an optimist with a blank piece of paper.
So what to do about it? Am I going to just be content with my present state with never a hint at change? NO! (that was a yell from my family :)) This is what I have substituted New Year's resolutions with:
A daily openness to what God's Spirit has to say to me through his word, through my conscience and through my husband. I know when the Lord pricks my spirit because of my temper with the children, my time on the computer, my priority with hobbies or my self control with eating has crossed the line. Do I listen to the promptings every time? No. But one thing I resolve at any time of year, is to be obedient to these little promptings.
When I see a need in my life, I try to evaluate right away what changes need to be made. The action I take is then stimulated from the impetus of the need. It is fresh. It is in the "day" I heard of it. I will be able to respond with more wisdom and resolve because the need is fresh (even if it is August 5th and not January 1st). So, while the beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect and resolve, so is the beginning of every new day, hour and minute.
Ultimately, I have started to view my life as one driving a car, steering a ship or walking according to a compass. I need to be constantly correcting my course, always checking my compass to stay on track. Never would a woodsman check his compass once a day, let alone once a year! He would be checking every few minutes in thick timber, and in open country, he would check, set a landmark for a guide and check again when he get to that spot. The same works in my life. I find I must be checking daily, sometimes hourly my "compass" to stay on track. This keeps me motivated, realistic and resolved.