January is the season for resolutions, and if you are like most people, you probably have a few. Perhaps they’re related to self-improvement: exercise or eating habits, the amount of TV you watch, or your use of technology.
For a few of us, the resolutions lead us to a better life, greater intentionality, or a healthier body. But if you’re like me, you run into problems and end up dropping most of your resolutions by the start of February. I’ve got to admit that I faith to keep my resolutions every year; but, for some reason, I get to January and assume that something’s going to be different this year. I want to live a better life, and I think, maybe, I’ll be able to bring greater discipline or commitment to the process this time. I know I’m not alone in this! By the time March rolls along, the die is cast, and all we have left as evidence for our efforts are lightly used fitness equipment and unwanted credit card charges. While it’s great for the broader economy, it isn’t for our personal economy. (Though I guess an old dumbbell can sometimes come in handy!)
If resolutions aren’t going to help us make the change we want, then what do we do? Eugene Peterson, pastor and author of The Message Bible translation offers this suggestion based on the thought of ethicist Stanley Hauerwas: “If we want to change our way of life, acquiring the right image is far more important than diligently exercising willpower. Willpower is a notoriously sputtery engine on which to rely for internal energy, but a right image silently and inexorably pulls us into its field of reality.”
In other words, a compelling narrative or vision carries us farther than brute-force determination. So, we are well served to latch onto an inspirational story or a vivid picture of what could be if things come together. Because such images carry us forward.
What does it mean for me? One of my greatest desires is to avoid being distracted by my cell phone and infotainment, and to give more time to my daughter Jessie, who will be a teenager before I know it. To that end, I think about my father-in-law and consider the difference his attention made on my wife when she was a preteen. I concentrate on the smile on Jessie’s face that comes when she feels valued and deeply connected to me. When I hold those images in my heart, I can do anything.
What does it mean for you? Only you can decide that. But, to start, perhaps means setting aside recycled resolutions from last year so that you can concentrate on a vision for a better future, a picture of the good that may come.
Dr. Drake Levasheff is Senior Director of Azusa Pacific University’s Murrieta Regional Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.