Life is similar in that it is a joy and a grind. And life sometimes becomes a joy due to the grind. What I really mean is that it isn't the grind that is joyous, but making it over the grind or even the thought that you will make it over the grind. I heard Pete Rollins expound on this idea in a podcast with Rob Bell when Rob and Pete talked about love. (Look up the Robcast for Episodes 159-161, An Introduction to Love Part 1,2,3). Pete basically says that whether we are being creative or just living life we end up desiring most what is hardest to achieve. And we can end up desiring the more difficult pieces of writing and life because there is that moment when we think we are on the right path to find just the right word or have just the right experience. Every year people make resolutions only to break them within weeks or months (sometimes days). The reason they are broken is because they were difficult to keep in the first place. People put difficult standards on themselves because it enriches the hunt for meaning. However, they aren't prepared to deal with all the difficulty or they lose their passion for that outcome and the resolution falls short.
It wouldn't be advantageous to create resolutions for the year that are easily accomplished. What is better is to prepare yourself and have an action path that will lead to success so that your goal is met and ultimately you have grown as a person by December 31. As you make your resolutions or goals for a new year, you are staring at a blank page of your life. You are considering what you want for your 2018 and what it will take to get there. Here are a few things that have helped me keep my goals and be successful in accomplishing them by the end of each year.
1. Sit down and pray in isolation: Take time to find a place of solitude where you can pray without distraction to God about your previous year and what He wants for you in your next year. Don't skip this step. Put away your devices. Speak out loud to God. Spend considerable time listening for God (in other words, don't talk the whole time). Spend time in comfortable posture (sitting, laying, standing) and spend time in uncomfortable posture (kneeling, prostrate, hands lifted up). Have things on paper you want to pray and then when it is all said, listen and then just speak from your heart. The moment you find yourself more distracted than praying, say Amen and move on.
2. Examen your previous year: Write down from January to December the big events and the small events that you remember. Write down the things you accomplished. Write down the things you wanted to do and didn't. Write down your suffering and pain. Write down your joys. If these things have themes (I.e. all your pain and joy came from financial sources) circle those things. After making these lists, think about your responsibility in them and also how God worked in them.
3. Consider your new year: Make a list of things from the previous year that you want to carry over to the new year. Things that were tried and seem to be completely unnecessary, exclude them from your new year. Things that were desired and failed or tried but would definitely be beneficial to your life include again. Consider whether or not things you have in mind can be done within 12 months or sooner. Also, get a calendar and mark down important dates. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, grief anniversaries, vacations, crazy work seasons, etc. You'll need this later.
4. Make a list of things you want for your new year. Just a list at first, then prioritize.
5. Schedule on a calendar: Use whatever kind of calendar works for you. One of my goals each year is to read a certain number of books. So I will put down on my "goals calendar" when I need to be finished with each book and sometimes how much of the book needs to be read each day. Put everything down on your calendar that you want to accomplish. In other words create deadlines for each goal or resolution.
6. Add to your calendar: Now add the things you know for work or life that will be on that calendar as well. You might add meetings you know will come or just your whole work day
7. Edit: Now look at your entire calendar. Ask yourself and maybe your spouse or friends, "Is this something I can pull off for an entire year?", "Am I asking too much of my time?", "Am I not asking enough?" While you edit, make sure that you are still challenging yourself and leaving room for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
8. Make it visible: I would encourage you to make your goals digital on a calendar where alerts and reminders can pop up on your phone or computer. You can also put it in a place where you will see it daily.
9. Share it: Share your resolutions and goals with others that will promise you to ask about it from time to time and share the burden with you. They may even share the resolution with you and you can do it together.
10. Prepare for Failure: There will be goals or resolutions that will fail. They might need to fail. Don't allow one failure to become a storm of failure. If you find yourself behind on a goal, pick it up again. There is no shame in completing a goal in January rather than December 31. Just because a resolution fails, it doesn't mean you have failed. Share your failure with others and take its power away. It is better to have risked and failed than to never have taken the risk in the first place.
I hope this is helpful. If there are other things that you could add, please feel free to comment.