With the new year soon upon us, it’s time once more for making resolutions most of us won’t keep. It’s been said as many as 90% of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.
Obviously proclaiming a resolution isn’t enough. Without resolve, any resolution is little more than a wish. And it’s that lack of resolve that separates many of us from the lives we want.
That’s precisely why 90% of all New Year’s resolutions never see reality. Every moment we each have a choice. We can choose to move closer to our goals and dreams, or we can choose something else. It doesn’t matter what that something else is. Lack of results for any reason is still lack of results.
We’ll never live the life we want until we take action. The most transformative actions are the small ones in the small moments that fill each and every day. We need to have enough resolve to make the right choice in each of those small moments.
Actually, we need make the right choice only once. There’s no need to deliberate in each and every moment of choosing. We can choose wisely once and then exercise the resolve to follow through with that choice thereafter.
For many that follow-through is the weak link in the chain. Why do we lack the resolve to follow through on our choices? Or put another way, why are we so content with lives so very much beneath our potential?
I’ve pondered that question for some time now. Year after year I continue to be just a single as when I came home from my mission more than two decades ago. And that’s just the most important of my goals and dreams. Apparently some of my other dreams elude me as well. OK, fine — most of my other dreams remained unrealized.
Why? I’m too easily satisfied. I don’t have the resolve to achieve more because in the small moments — the moments when I need to follow through on my decisions to move closer to my goals and dreams — I find myself sufficiently satisfied. After all, why exert yourself through the pain of sacrifice when the reward presently before you is good enough?
Raise the bar
The answer, then, is setting a higher standard. What in the past has passed for good enough must now never be good enough. I need to demand more from myself before I’m satisfied.
Adopting a new standard will require new ways of thinking. I must remember what the future will bring if I don’t raise the bar. Do I want more of the same life I’ve had? That’s what I’ll get unless I change. The same choices made over and over again always lead to the same reality.
If we want a new reality, then we must adopt a new way of thinking. We must think differently about our own standards of acceptability in our own performance. What level of performance really is good enough?
If we don’t have the results that move us closer to our goals and dreams, then we’re settling for something less. We need to raise the bar before feeling satisfied. We must pursue the path to meet that bar. And we must do it come what may.
Find the balance
Raising the bar and pursuing its corresponding path will certainly take resolve. Yet we must have balance in our approach. We don’t want to become so obsessed with achievement that we miss the joy along our journey.
We can find that balance in faith. We don’t journey alone. Christ loves us so much He simply couldn’t be uninterested in helping us. By partnering with the Lord, we can make the right choices in the right moments and enjoy our journey along our chosen path.
If we keep raising the bar, sooner or later we’ll find our limit. We can’t go any further because we have nothing more to take us any further. At that point, we can accept our limitations and rest confident the Lord will make up the difference so long as we do our best within our limitations. The past is the past; we cannot change it. We can only resolve to do better as we raise the bar and then keep trying to keep that resolve for the higher standard.
As we give our all to Him, the Lord will give His all to us. That will make all the difference because He is the difference. Partnering with Him in our journey will help us make our lives more than they ever could be otherwise. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Anyone who knows me knows that Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love sharing good food with those I love. I love seeing everything lit up at night. I love the magic and feeling of goodwill that fills the air. With Christmas just a few days away, I’m loving it.
Of course, remembering the real reason for the season holds its own pleasures. Remembering His mercy, patience, and longsuffering towards me always overwhelms me. I know what an unprofitable servant I am. But I love Him because He loves me despite all my failings and imperfections.
Pondering on that love fills me with peace. That’s not unexpected at this time of year when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. Yet not everyone feels that peace during Christmas. They’re too focused on their own cares and relieving themselves of the stress associated with satisfying those cares to feel at peace.
With all the busyness that accompanies the holiday season, we must not be too busy to reflect upon the peace the real reason for the season provides. Amidst all the hustle and hurry of the season, we need to stop long enough to feel His peace.
Some people go through the entire Christmas season without ever feeling peace. What’s the point of anything we do at Christmastime if in the end we never feel His peace? Christ is the real reason for the season. But there won’t be any real reason to anything we do in that season if in the end we don’t feel peace.
That’s why I’m cutting this short. I’m encouraging you to use the time you would normally spend consuming my content to reflect on the real reason for the season and feel His peace. We can have that peace with us always when we follow the Prince of Peace by honoring our covenants and sharing the light of His love with others. When we do, we can feel that love lighting peace within ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
It’s no secret that I love Christmas. What’s not to love? There’s a general feeling of good will that pervades everything. There’s time with friends and family. There’s all the holiday goodies that aren’t so great for the waistline but wonderful for taste buds. There’s the lights that turn ordinary neighborhoods into works of electric art at night.
And of course, there’s the real reason for the season. There’s the opportunity to renew our discipleship by following Him more fully. There’s His peace that we can feel in our hearts. There’s His light that we can share with others.
Yet for some, Christmas is simply about tradition. They enjoy friends, family, good food, and all the external trappings of the season. They may even include something spiritual in their holiday habit. But they don’t really feel the season because they’re on autopilot. They just go through the motions. Once the season is over, they return to whatever lives they had before.
Seeing these people got me thinking. Do I just go through the motions of the holiday season, or do I allow the miracle that is Christ to change my heart?
You gotta choose it
Sometimes I catch myself going through the motions. It’s not that hard to do. After all, we’re designed to have habits and play them out without thinking about what we’re doing.
But the truly fulfilled life comes only with discipline in constantly making conscious choices. We must choose consciously what we say and do. And we can’t just choose anything if we want to maximize our joy in life. We must choose Christ.
This is admittedly not the easiest task to accomplish. We are after all designed to operate out of habit. That’s why it’s more productive to leverage our natural design than to fight against it. We need to adopt the habit of not living by habit.
One way to do this is by participating in the Church’s Light the World campaign. We could also make our own calendar with actions that we choose for ourselves. Or we could go through each day of the Christmas season just looking for opportunities to share goodness. We don’t necessarily need a set plan; just an openness to whatever opportunities cross our path and a willingness to take advantage of them.
You gotta feel it
Christmas is especially appropriate for random acts of goodness. That’s what I love about this time of year. It shakes me out of my usual year-long doldrums and gets me introspective. Am I really feeling the reality of Christ within me? Or am I just on autopilot?
That is the ultimate test for me. If I’m not really feeling it inside, then it’s not really working for me. And that begs the obvious question: Why do it?
I want real. And for me, real isn’t life on autopilot. Real is life with flavor created by consciously chosen experience. I can surround myself with the real reason for the season and maybe get something out of that. Or I can consciously choose to surrender myself to Him and certainly get everything out of that.
That’s life you can feel, not just a bare existence. So whenever I realize I’m not feeling it, that’s a red flag alerting me to choose differently. I need to break my habit of living on autopilot and embrace the habit of not living by habit.
You gotta live it
Living life by conscious choice creates awareness of the joy already around us. Living life on autopilot removes that awareness. All you need for life on autopilot is to follow a habit without thinking about it.
It’s the awareness that makes all the difference. Again, that’s what I love about Christmas. It provides enough newness to shake me free of the same old same-old that bogs me down. It reminds me of my need for awareness.
Once I become aware of myself, it’s easier to live by conscious choice. And living by conscious choice results in the realization that the joy of the season is around us all year long. We simply need eyes to see.
Seeing that joy makes it easier to feel. Feeling that joy makes life delicious and truly sweet. That’s the miracle Christ makes possible for us all. He saves us not just in the next life but in this one as well. It’s a reality you can have when you consciously choose Him.
Christ truly is the real reason for the season. Are we engaging our yearly traditions on autopilot? Or are we consciously choosing Christ and allowing His miracle to save us? Consciously choosing to keep Christ in the heart is the best way to savor the season. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
The Christmas season is now in full swing upon us once again. It’s time once more for yuletide cheer and merriment. This is my favorite time of year.
Of course, along with the traditions we each practice with the season, we should always remember the reason for the season. Good thoughts and deeds are always appropriate and even more so as we remember He who gave us the best example of good thoughts and deeds.
It was He who taught “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). To that end, last year the Church promoted a campaign aimed at sharing the light we have with everyone around us during the Christmas season. Appropriately, it was called Light the World.
This year the Church has renewed that campaign. And I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the real reason for the season.
As it did last year, Light the World focuses on individual action. The Church provides leadership in the form of short videos explaining ways to light the world during each of the 25 days of Christmas. These videos and the corresponding calendar show how we can individually light the world.
I just love this bare-bones campaign. It fosters an effort that depends upon us for success. And that encourages us to live the gospel — really live it by putting it into action.
The Master taught, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Our actions tell everyone who we really are. For what will we be known? Will those around us know us for the goodness we have? How can that happen if we don’t share the goodness we have?
Lighting the world will also light our world. Only by putting the gospel into action by living it will we ever know how real it really is. Only by setting that example can we light the way for others to know that for themselves as well.
I love the gospel more when I live to set that good example. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know God is good and will bless us abundantly. That goodness is easier both to see and to feel when we actively participate in spreading that love to others.
People don’t light candles to hide them but rather to provide light so all may see (Matthew 5:15). In like manner, we should freely bring goodness into the world so that others can see and feel the love of God in their lives. When we do, we can’t help but love our lives more.
Just like last year, the Church has provided help with their Light the World calendar. Each day has suggestions of ways to spread goodness and thereby light the world. In addition, we can adopt our own ideas for action.
I’ve discussed previously my tradition of closing out the year by studying the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve felt love in my heart grow as I’ve taken daily action in response to my Sermon on the Mount study. Most of my actions have been small in nature, but the added light I feel inside of me has been substantial. How can any honest soul not love that?
That seems to be at least some of the intention behind Light the World, and I love it. We make the gospel more real by actually living it. And anyone who has read my posts since 2014 knows I’m all about real.
Of course, that reality doesn’t have to stop with the coming of Christmas Day, nor should it. We can feel God’s love every day by continuing to share that love with others every day. The Church’s Light the World calendar is a great aid during the 25 days leading to Christmas, but what’s to stop any of us from making our own calendar for every day of December and any other month of the year? Only ourselves.
It’s only by living true principles that we come to feel their reality in our lives. It’s only by giving love to others that we can feel the full extent of love in our own lives. We can choose for ourselves what light we will give to others. When we live true to that conviction to bring goodness into the world every day, we’ll have more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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