It’s that time of year again: the time when we make well-intentioned resolutions that most of us never follow through on. (We all know what the road to hell is paved with, right?)
I am the queen of resolutions, especially at the new year. Like most people, I love the idea of a blank slate, of reflection, of goal-setting and of becoming a better person. Also like most people, I have trouble on the follow-through.
So this year, I’m approaching New Year’s resolutions differently. I’m still making them; I can’t resist. But I’m doing it deliberately, strategically, and – most importantly – prayerfully.
Bruce Weinstein, CEO of the Institute for High-Character Leadership, recently wrote a Forbes column on New Year’s resolutions in which he made three recommendations:
- Be specific. Don’t just say you’re going to get organized in 2018; say what it means for you to be organized.
- Be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure and then frustration and shame.
- Be strategic. Determine what success will look like for each of your resolutions.
“We have an ethical obligation to treat people with care and respect,” Weinstein concludes. “Too often we act as though this obligation applies only to how we treat other people. This makes no sense. You’re just as deserving of your care as your colleagues, supervisor, family members and friends are. Coming up with a [sic] clear, attainable goals and creating a plan to reach them are some of the best ways we can care for ourselves well next year and beyond.”
Erin Lowrey, a lifestyle blogger, shared her own guidelines for meaningful New Year’s resolutions in a guest blog post for Blessed Is She, detailing how to set goals that will “clean your spirit,” “clean your space,” and “clean your slate.” I won’t reiterate these guidelines here; I recommend reading them for yourself. But they inspired me to make my own resolutions for how to live more prayerfully and contemplatively in 2018.
1. Maintain the Everyday Roses blog.
Historically, I am as terrible at keeping my own blog as I am at making resolutions. I have started several blogs over the years, only to have them falter after one or two posts, when I run out of things to say or simply become too lazy to update them. With Everyday Roses, however, I am inspired by the excellent Catholic bloggers already out there building a community of the faithful, and I am motivated by my own desire to become a more contemplative, mindful, prayerful person. If I can help other people become closer to God by sharing how I am becoming closer to God, then I should put in the effort.
So, in the interest of being specific, realistic and strategic, here’s how I’m going to accomplish this goal: I resolve to publish a new blog post – even if it’s not perfect or even as good as I’d like it to be – at least every other week in 2018. To help accomplish this goal, before the end of the year, I will start creating a list of topics so I can’t use writer’s block as an excuse.
2. Learn to pray the rosary.
I have tried many times to pray the rosary, but I always get distracted and then frustrated with myself for not experiencing the joy that it brings so many people. I know I’m doing it wrong. Recently, I had a conversation with my boyfriend about the rosary, and he suggested starting small – three Hail Marys a day. I can do that. I’m also going to read about the rosary to learn about its purpose and how that whole meditation thing works. My goal is to be able to really, fully pray the rosary by the end of 2018.
Along those lines, I am joining a group of Raleigh Catholic young adults who are consecrating themselves to Mary in January.
3. Read the Bible.
I love to read. As an editor, I do it professionally. So why haven’t I really dived into the Bible?
I think mostly, it’s because I don’t know where to start. The Bible is a honkin’ long book. Do you start with Genesis? The Gospels? Do you just open it and pick a random verse? And how do you know what everything means? In Mass, you have the priest to explain what you just heard in a homily. What if I misunderstand something? What if I just end up confused?
Clearly, just “reading the Bible” is an insufficient resolution for me. So I’m going to learn how to read the Bible instead. I’ve recently discovered some great podcasters and bloggers who teach Catholics about the Bible, and I’m going to probe the internet for some guidance and advice in the next couple of days so I can get off on the right foot.
I’ll use that information to guide my specific resolution, to determine how much I’ll read every night.
This resolution pops up every year for me, and every year, I fail. But last year, with the support of my therapist, I started a different type of journal. I list a few things I’m grateful for, I list some specific prayer intentions, and, if needed, I use some reframing techniques I learned in cognitive-behavioral therapy to help with my anxiety. It’s short, it’s simple, it’s doable.
I’m going to do it at least every other day this year.
5. Pray without ceasing.
Every time I hear this verse, “pray without ceasing,” I am inspired. Somehow, perhaps counterintuitively, praying without ceasing seems to me much less overwhelming than setting aside a time every day to pray. Certainly, in 2018, I am going to try to spend more time in silence, prayer and meditation – it’s something that is terrifying and that, again, I’m going to take my boyfriend’s advice to “start slow” for. But if prayer is a part of every hour of every day, then I will be in constant contact with God. My behavior will be more inspired by the Holy Spirit. I’ll be more grateful for the blessings I encounter every day. In short, Jesus and I will become BFFs.
Now, that’s a resolution to aim for.