I always start my year with the best of intentions: be more productive at work, exercise regularly, try to be happier and spend more quality moments with friends and family. Yet these dreams inevitably seem to end in frustration. It feels as though I’m a juggler having to manipulate too many props in the air. Sooner or later I’m bound to drop one of the balls and watch my life spiral out of control.
This year I decided to try something different. I decided not to write down any new goals, but to look at the reason why some of my past resolutions failed to materialize.
Finding inner peace
I soon realised that the mindset, attitude and beliefs I held, negatively impacted my ability to realise my personal goals and objectives. The cause for the lack of willpower I experienced, boiled down to two self-defeating thoughts: “I’m not good enough” and “I don’t deserve success”. Most self-help books I’ve read in the past focussed on helping a person become a better version of themselves. Then I studied Matthew 6:25. The advice Jesus gives here seems to go right against what I’ve previously heard.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
The answer that Jesus gives is to “seek the kingdom of God”. Setting out to find happiness and peace as a goal in itself, is like searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – when you finally reach the end of your journey you realise it was never there to begin with!
Jesus teaches that inner joy and deep-seated peace is a by-product of our relationship with God. If I want to defeat my doubts and fears during the year to come, I need to connect deeply with a central message of the Bible: God loves and cares for me.
An outward focus
I asked myself what would happen if my dreams for 2017 suddenly came true? Would the realisation of the goals I had written down, cause me to be truly happy and fullfilled? This question made me reflect on the parable in Luke 18 about the rich young ruler. The young man in the story was an over-achiever who had it all: money, power and influence. However, Jesus said that this man was poor because his treasure was on earth and not in heaven.
Bob Buford (The author of Half Time) talks about the concept of the Small Self and the Large Self. The former mindset means that a person is more occupied with the wants and ambitions of the self; while the latter outlook speaks to a person more concerned with the needs of others and about issues and causes larger than the individual (i.e. relationship with God and showing kindness).
Reflecting on the priorities in my own life, I found that most were focussed on the Small Self. I had to make adjustments if I wanted to lead a purposeful life. The revised priorities I decided on became less about what I wanted to achieve, and more about finding my identity and place within God’s kingdom story (the Large Self).
A fresh outlook on life
2017 will have its moments of joy and despair, success and failure. I’ve found comfort in the fact that my Christian faith is not bound to my achievements or other people’s opinions of me. God loves me not because of who I am, but because of His great love and mercy.
This has freed my mind to embrace life and to walk in the path that God has set out for me.