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6 Keys to Making and Keeping Resolutions

Yes, you can hit your goals this year. Here’s how.
Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Did you know that the great 18th-century American pastor and revivalist Jonathan Edwards made 70 hard resolutions?

Every time I read his list, I feel ungodly—and I wonder if he may have secretly felt the same way.

His list reminds me of my old lists of resolutions from 30-some years ago. Like Edwards’, my lists were long and intense.

About this time every year, I’d write and commit to my new resolutions. When I blew them, I’d double down until I failed again. After several starts and stops, I’d bail on the resolutions until it was time to make a new list of resolutions the following year.

But over the years, through a little trial and a ton of error, I’ve discovered a better way to make and keep resolutions.

Here are my six keys:

KEY #1: PRAY FIRST.

Before you commit to anything, spend some time asking God: “What areas of my life do I need to focus on during the upcoming year?” Let Him guide you to what resolutions to make, and ask Him to help you follow through.

KEY #2: MAKE REALISTIC RESOLUTIONS.

Many of the resolutions I made as a young pastor were embarrassingly unrealistic. If I’d followed through on each of them, over the years I would have memorized the entire Bible, reached the world for Christ singlehandedly, and won several Ironman competitions.

Don’t make that same mistake. Instead, aim for targets you can reasonably hit in a year—perhaps memorize 2 Timothy, share the Gospel with 10 neighbors, run a 5K.

KEY #3: MAKE SPECIFIC RESOLUTIONS.

“I will spend 15 minutes in God’s Word every morning at 6 a.m.” is way better than “I will spend more time reading the Bible.”

If you want to lose weight, set a specific, numeric goal, as well as a date you plan to reach that goal.

KEY #4: MAKE A PLAN.

A resolution without a plan is like a car without fuel. It will get you nowhere.

Want to lose weight? Then figure out your workout and nutritional plan. How many times are you going to exercise every week and what types of exercise will you do? What’s your daily caloric intake going to be? 

Want to start sharing the Gospel consistently? Then how will you get trained to evangelize? (Hint: Dare2share.org 😀) What are the names of three people you’re going to start with?

KEY #5: MAKE SPIRIT EMPOWERMENT YOUR BIGGEST RESOLUTION.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18

If you get filled with too much New Year’s champagne, the alcohol will control you. What’s true of alcohol is true of the Spirit. When you’re filled with Him, He controls you. And when He controls you, everything else falls in line. The fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 will be evident in your life.

If you’re producing the fruit of the Spirit, you’re going to have great relationships (love, peace, patience, kindness), not overeat or overspend (self-control), and exhibit a more positive attitude (joy)!

It’s hard to imagine a successful resolution that’s not covered by the fruit of the Spirit. So, if we make being filled with the Spirit part of our daily routine, everything else will take care of itself.

KEY #6: GET AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER.

The Navy Seals have a saying they use during their super-high-intensity training: “Get a swim buddy!” Seals in training need someone to push them when they’re slow, temper them when they’re rash, and help them when they’re in danger of drowning. For Navy Seals, it’s a serious offense to get caught without your swim buddy.

What’s true of the Seals is true of the believer. We need “swim buddies” in our ocean of busyness. Every Monday morning, I have a 30- to 45-minute accountability session with my buddy Doug Holliday, during which we keep each other accountable to follow through on our resolutions. He’s my “swim buddy,” and I encourage you to find one of your own.

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I hope and pray that these 6 keys will help you make and keep better resolutions this year—all for the glory of God!

Unlikely Fighter

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