Ahhhh, a new year! January 1st. Just speaking the date invokes a sense of renewal, doesn’t it? A time to evaluate priorities, nurture goals, and begin a quest toward organization. Like a schoolgirl in fall, the outing to purchase my new 2016 planner is a mission in itself. It must be a certain size, with tabs (very important) for each month, a section for future year plans, and pages for notes.
These requirements are non-negotiable. I have tried to manage with different formats in previous years, and well, the frustration…it’s just not worth it. I have a system to my madness; and for the year to start right, I must sort through shelves of calendars to find just the right one. A beacon in the piles of planners, it shines through, offering up its guarantee for a successful year. Do you understand this feeling? Maybe instead, you prefer sorting through the latest calendar apps on your phone, but, you know too, you will feel elated when you find the ONE certain to make this a great year.
We all have our tools and idiosyncrasies which we believe help us accomplish our goals for the coming year. Year after year, however, I learn that being organized and well-intentioned still leaves me falling short of achieving some goals. Over the holiday season I did some thinking on why that is.
I started by thinking about the goals I have set for myself in the past, which ones I was able to accomplish, and which ones I did not. Of course, sometimes I set myself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations like exercising every day and eliminating sugar (really, no way!). But, assuming realistic expectations, what did I find was the difference between achieved and unachieved goals?
Whoa, you may say, she’s blaming other people for not allowing her to reach her goals! No, no…quite the opposite. I am taking responsibility for not involving other people in the pursuit of accomplishing my goals. You see, when we look at it from a scriptural point of view, the Bible tells us:
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22 New International Version
Throughout the Bible, it becomes clear that God intends for us to thrive through fellowship with others. Too often in our busy lives, we fail to engage with the people around us. Absorbed with discovering our own talents, we easily forget that working together yields greater results for everyone.
Over the past several years, I have set a goal to deepen my faith. I received daily email devotions, attempted to understand the Bible, and tried to attend church more regularly. I convinced myself I was meeting my goal, but something still felt unsettled. This past year, I stopped taking baby steps and leaped into several classes with others who wanted to explore their faith.
Admitting my lack of Biblical knowledge was somewhat intimidating. And, putting a voice to the questions and doubts that plagued my sense of reason made me feel exposed and vulnerable. I quickly learned, however, that I was not alone in these feelings. Other people had them too. And, they brought life experiences and learning to the table that I had no way of imagining on my own. So, through the give and take of conversation, we learned from each other and deepened our faith in ways none of us could have alone.
Evaluating my other goals, I started to see a pattern. Whenever I sought “advisers”, I was more likely to reach my goal.
After years of pathetic attempts at strength training on my own, I found success by enlisting the help of someone with years of experience (see post: A Fit Faith). Making good choices about food became easier once I started reading books and attending classes taught by a few well-educated and trusted health crusaders. Joining an online training community for writers this fall provided knowledge from a team of experts on how to improve. And lastly, participating in a supportive forum for parents with college-aged kids, helped me revamp my changing role as a parent.
In all these areas of my life, from faith to health to vocation to family and so on, pursuing fruitful relationships with others helped me grow beyond any measurable goal I could envision. In return, I discovered unique contributions I could offer these individuals or my community as well.
So, in 2015 I finally learned something really big that has always been right in front of me, but never completely apparent. The load for achieving my goals does not rest squarely upon my two shoulders. Actually, my goals cannot even be achieved to their greatest degree by me alone. As I write down my 2016 New Year’s resolutions, an overriding tenet will be remembering to surround myself with others who excel where I falter.
Seeking help from wise counsel always promises to bring forth God’s best work in all of us.
Prayer for the Week:
Lord, Thank you for the blessing of another new year and the opportunity to start anew. Help me set goals with realistic expectations, and bring me solitude to consider my relationships with others. Show me ways we can rely on each other to achieve results beyond measure. Teach me to listen for your guidance on seeking counsel, and lead me in becoming a trusted adviser for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.