What’s Your WHY? (January 1, 2018)

You’ve Got to Know Your “WHY” to do your “WHAT”.

fit bottomed firls

Welcome to 2018!  I’m moving a tad bit slowly this morning after having a busy day and late night last night.  You might be feeling the same way. 

Image result for happy new year

So, here we are, Day 1 of this brand new New Year! 

How are you this morning?  Excited, tired, purposeful, determined, unimpressed, thoughtful, or meh…

Related image

People feel a lot of different emotions on this 1st day of a new year.

Many of us have made some resolutions, or challenges, or goals for the New Year.  Call them what you will, but many of us like to look at the New Year as a time to refocus, re-balance, and recommit our thoughts and actions to specific efforts that take us closer to where we want to be at this point a year from now.

Image result for refocus

People have been making goals and resolutions for a very long time, but we are notoriously terrible at actually accomplishing those goals!

Related image

We usually have our “WHAT” firmly in mind – WHAT it is that we want to do. 

Image result for list of new year resolutions

Some common examples:  lose weight, eat healthy, stop smoking, learn something new, travel more – the WHATs are as diverse and creative as the people who commit to them.

But in order to accomplish your WHAT, you also have to know your WHY: 

WHY you are committing to this WHAT. 

Image result for why

Because if you don’t have a clear view of your WHY, it will be much harder to stay the course when actually trying to accomplish your WHAT gets challenging. 

And the WHAT always gets challenging. 

Unless your WHAT is to “sit around and do nothing more often in 2018”.  That one is pretty easy to do without a WHY!

IT'S HARD

Shout-out here to Audrey Russell, my fitness coach, whose first question to me was, “OK, what is your WHY?”  At that point, my answer was mostly, “I don’t know… just BECAUSE!”   Audrey is awesome and friendly and never once said, “That’s a stupid non-answer, Rebecca!  You have to have a WHY!”  She just encouraged me to think about it and then went on her way being awesome and stuff.

Related image

But, dang it, I did think about it, and found that knowing my WHY made a huge difference in setting goals and being committed to accomplishing them. 

I discovered that I do a lot of WHATs, and love taking on challenges.  So many interests, so little time!  But I have been less successful in completing them because I didn’t focus enough on my WHYs.

So, “what’s a WHY”, you ask

Related image.

Let’s start out really basic and ask, why are you setting a goal (any goal) in the first place? 

Is it because that’s what people do on New Year’s Day?  Is it because you are a “goal setter”, and you HAVE to have goals or you feel weird?  Or is it to accomplish something specific?

Let’s use a specific example.  One common resolution is “I want to lose weight”.  It’s a lovely goal – we Americans are becoming more obese as a nation with each passing day.  So, good on you for wanting to do this! 

Related image

So, if losing weight is one of your goals, ask yourself WHY you want to do that.

  • To look “good” at your high school reunion this summer?
  • To get your A1C levels down and get off the diabetes meds or the insulin shots or the threat of those being part of your life very soon unless you make some changes NOW?
  • Because you’re feeling and seeing the “middle aged spread” that is so hard to get rid of?
  • To feel better, stronger, less sluggish?
  • Because everyone tells you you need to lose weight?
  • Because society says you need to be a certain size to be ok?
  • Because you think Gal Gadot is awesome and you want to be a warrior like Wonder Woman?

Related image

What is your WHY? 

amazing htings

I’ll make it personal now. 

I would like to make healthier lifestyle choices this year, which will, in turn, include weight loss as a result of the healthier choices.  I would love to weigh less, but more than that, I’d like to just be healthier, more fit, stronger.

I’ve had that goal since Jr. High school, when that whole self-image thing really gets out of control.  I have always been athletic and active.  But my German heritage also came through strongly in my physique and body type (“short and stout”).  Back then, I wanted to be skinny because the skinny girls were more popular.  Because then the boys would like me more. 

Image result for jimmy fallon ew meme

Very 12 year old sorts of reasons.

The problem is, we carry many of those deep feelings of insecurity into our ADULT WHYs, and those aren’t reasons that will encourage you to stay the course in meeting your goals.  Being popular isn’t something you can control.  Having the right boy like you takes cooperation from another human. 

A successful goal has to be something you can control.  Otherwise, the likelihood of failure goes up, because you can’t control anyone but yourself.  And sometimes you can’t even control yourself. 

Image result for SMART goal

I’ve mostly moved past those types of WHYs (I hope anyway). 

But I needed to figure out my adult-version WHYs.

And the good news is, there ARE adult WHYs!

Related image

My WHY now is not just one thing.  Mostly because I like words and analysis and can’t say anything without taking it deeper and using lots of words.  But that’s just me.

Related image

My WHYs for making healthier choices which will lead to a leaner, thinner, stronger me:

  1. I FEEL better – physically, mentally, and emotionally – when I eat healthy, clean food and exercise most days. When I feel better, I DO better. When I feel better, I am kinder to myself and those around me.
  2. I am less tired, less sluggish, feel less heavy on the INSIDE when I make healthy choices
  3. I want to do what I can to ward off the negative health effects of unhealthy lifestyle choices that are at epidemic proportions in our country during this generation. The life expectancy in the US has been going DOWN for years now, which is an alarming new trend after years of our life expectancy averages increasing.  And most of the reasons are lifestyle choice related.  I can’t prevent every illness and disease, or accidents, and I know that someday my body will get old and wear out, but there are ways I CAN make my odds better.  And feel better more of the time for as long as I live.
  4. I want to set a good example for family and friends.
  5. I want to be a good steward of this body and the things I can do and experience in this life if I take care of it.

this is why

These WHYs are important to me.  They matter a whole lot more than being skinny so that I’ll be popular.  These WHYs get to the core of who I am and what is important to me.

Do you get the idea of a WHY now?

You can accomplish a WHAT without a WHY, sure.  But the WHY takes it deeper, makes it more meaningful and personal. 

remember why you started

Image result for fight thru

So on those days when I’d rather do anything other than exercise, when I would rather have a bowl full of hot, buttered, cheesy rice instead of a (delicious) and healthy salad – I need to remind myself of WHY I choose to exercise and eat clean and healthy.  If that doesn’t work to get me motivated, then I need to switch over to the FIGHT THRU I was talking about in my post a few days ago, and just DO THE THING that I need to do in my quest for good health.

Some people will tell you that once you know your WHY, the HOW is easy.  That sounds good, doesn’t it?  I want to do it THAT WAY, because they are telling me it’ll be easy once I figure out why I’m doing it.

ote easy

But the HOW is NOT easy – or you would have done it already. 

And we already KNOW THIS…

life is not easy

The WHAT and HOW will be challenging, and having your WHY clear doesn’t make those things easy peasy. 

It just makes them MORE POSSIBLE because you found a real reason, a deep reason, a meaningful reason, to do those things.

determined.jpg

But easy?  Nah, not easy.  Just worth it.

Your WHY is just as important as, and maybe MORE important than, your WHAT. 

if you haven't found it yet keep looking

So today, as you watch some bowl games, and eat those black eyed peas (I’m a Southern gal; one MUST consume black eyed peas on New Year’s Day!), give some thought to your WHY.

Image result for black eyed peas new years

I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!

change is hard messy gorgeous

Advertisements

Return Your Neighbor’s Plow, and Other New Year’s Resolutions

2013 and 2014If you’ve somehow forgotten to return the tractor or plow or some other type of farm equipment that you borrowed from your neighbor in 2013, now is the time to get that taken care of.

Sort of random?

babylonian plow[1]Well, the Babylonians, who (as far as we know) started the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions at least as far back as 153 BC, cited returning borrowed farm equipment as the most frequently made New Year’s resolution.

According to a Harris Poll, modern Americans’ top New Year’s Resolutions are:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Improve finances
  3. Exercise
  4. Get a new job
  5. Eat healthier
  6. Manage stress better
  7. Stop smoking
  8. Improve a relationship
  9. Stop procrastinating
  10. Set aside time for yourself

All respectful things to strive for.

janus1[1]The early Romans also practiced resolution making.  The first month of the year, January, was named after the mythical Roman king, Janus, who had two faces:  one looking backward, the other looking forward.

Janus’ symbolic design reminded the Romans to look back at the previous year and evaluate what went well and what didn’t, and then consider the changes they would like to make during the year to come.

I think they were on to something.

The history of New Year practices includes gift giving.  An interesting tidbit:  In times past, English husbands gave their wives money on New Year’s Day to buy pins and other small items.  This custom disappeared in the 1800’s; however, the term PIN MONEY still means small amounts of spending money.

pin money

The more you know…

The American colonists were a bit more boisterous, as they would get together to fire off their guns, drink, eat a lot, and attend church.

So maybe you, like me, didn’t borrow any farm equipment from your neighbor this past year.  Perhaps you have plenty of pin money.  Maybe you are thinking more along the lines of the Harris Poll list.

Or maybe you hate resolutions and never make any.

no resolutions

As Christians, we sometimes wonder if we should be making resolutions at all.  Does it focus too much on worldly matters?  Is it really God directing our lives, or is it our own selfishness?

While we don’t want the things we do and the choices we make to simply be all about us, Christianity at its core is all about transformation and becoming more Christ-like as we live within the grace God has given us.

Transformation

As with many things, God didn’t say anything specifically about resolutions, at least as we define them.

confused[1]

We have to figure this out for ourselves.

Many people I know don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  Or if they do, they don’t take it very seriously.  They like the idea of making positive changes, but they don’t take it further than that.  Some say that resolutions never work, so why bother.  Others say that it’s just a meaningless tradition, or a waste of time.

Some people don’t like the word “resolutions”.

My solution?  Call it something else.  Call it making plans, or goals, or decisions.

I think, for the most part, many of us don’t make resolutions because it’s so much easier to make excuses than to actually change old, comfortable habits.

We’ve been making excuses since the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden.  “The serpent made me do it.”  “That woman you gave me?  SHE made me do it.”

excuses_nike1[1]We all have excuses. Honestly, I think people say that resolutions are stupid because they are embarrassed by the fact that they haven’t been able to keep them in the past, so they call resolution-making “ridiculous”, instead of focusing on the real issue – their inability to persevere and make the changes they need to make.

looking stunned

Was that too direct?  Oops.

I believe New Year’s resolutions are worth making.

I believe that, even though grace saves us, our efforts to become more Christ-like, to serve God with every facet of our lives, honors God.

“Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  ~  James 2:17

And resolutions can help keep us on track in that effort.

Let me tell you why.

not perfect[1]

1.  You aren’t perfect

There are things about you that can and should change.   And if you don’t do this ON PURPOSE, nothing will change.

If you’re honest with yourself, there are some things that need serious thought and reevaluation.  “This is just the way I am,” is an incredibly self-centered statement that basically says, “I know I have a problem here.  I just don’t really care.”

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”  ~  1 John 1:8

New Year’s resolutions fit in very nicely with the pattern of Christian life, which is meant to be a continuous, purposeful renewal, a serious striving to become more like Christ.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  ~  Romans 12:2

When you were baptized, you became a new creation.  God did that to you.  You didn’t earn your salvation.  But He also didn’t throw water at you and say, “Yay!  All done!”

elkThink about this:  People join churches all the time, but they don’t seem to become any more of a new creation than they did when they joined, let’s say, the Elks Club.  And the truth of the matter is that many of these people no more expected to become a new creation when they joined the church than they expected to become an elk when they joined the Elks.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”   ~  2 Corinthians 5:17

And yet, a new creation is exactly what we ARE.  God does the transforming.  And just like we have to receive God’s offer of salvation – He doesn’t force it on anyone – we also have to allow ourselves to BE that new creation.

2.  Change Doesn’t Just Happen

shazamThe change you want to experience doesn’t ordinarily occur unless you take steps to make it happen.

Sure, you could say “I want to lose weight!” as one of your New Year’s Resolutions, then come down with h-pylori and lose a ton of weight, through no planning or effort of your own.  But it doesn’t USUALLY happen that way, and I wouldn’t recommend that particular weight loss plan.

Most of the time, you will have to DECIDE you are going to make a change.  Become different.  Become more.  You will have to mean it when you say it.

Then you will have to DO something differently.  On purpose.  And that takes planning.

fail-to-plan[1]

When we change, we actually “repent”, which simply means turning away from something.  We stop doing one thing and do something else instead.

This “turning away from” and “turning towards” doesn’t just happen.  It takes purposeful action.  We resolve to do something differently.  Thus, “resolutions”.

A resolution is a plan to change.  That’s all it is.  It’s not a stupid word.  It’s not a meaningless idea.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Are you married?  You made resolutions when you got married.  But you called them vows.  Those were resolutions, and I hope you didn’t think they were stupid.

A resolution is simply a firm decision to adhere to a plan.

Continuous improvement, purposeful living, reevaluating and resolving to change are very Biblical concepts.  When we become Christians, not only do we become new creations…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  ~  Galatians 6:15

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”   ~  2 Corinthians 5:17

…but every day we become newer than we were the day before.

That’s absolutely amazing.

“Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”  ~  Ephesians 4:22-24

I’m going to throw some science at you now.

2nd law of thermodynammicsThe Second Law of Thermodynamics says that everything is running down, wearing out, growing old and dying.  As soon as something new is made, it immediately starts to age, decay, rust, rot, die and disintegrate.

If you challenge the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, you aren’t going to win.

But in the kingdom of Christ, spiritually, we don’t become older and older and decay the way we do here on earth.  God makes us new and continues to make us newer and newer as each day goes by.

IF we’ll cooperate with Him.

purposedrivenlife[1]I love Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” and “Purpose Driven Church” concepts.  To do good, to bring people to Christ, to discover and refine the gifts you have been given, to be content and useful and a blessing – we have to be purposeful.

Otherwise, we are just flailing around, hoping things work out ok.  We avoid situations that will spotlight our weak areas, instead of facing our issues.  We end up feeling like a victim, like for some reason stuff just keeps happening to us.

And that is not only a shame; it’s a waste of your life.

Most of us live our lives on auto-pilot. Like an airplane that’s been programmed to fly from New York to Paris, we wake up in the morning and just sort of go through the motions of our routine. More often than not, we are completely out of touch with what we are saying or doing: “I can’t believe I did that”, or “Did I really say that?” “I keep making the same mistakes over and over.” “I can’t change.”

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but    be transformed by the renewing of your mind   so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”   –   Romans 12:1-2

 3.  The New Year is a great time to make some changesrepentance_724_482_80[1]

There is no “right” or “perfect” time to put in place a plan for change.

But the New Year presents an obvious time to make a change.  The whole world focuses on the “New” of New Year.  The change from 2013 to 2014 is obvious and everywhere.

It’s as good a time as any.

i give upThe risk of starting your changes on January 1, with a whole entire new year staring expectantly into your face, is that you may feel like giving up when you screw up.  Notice I didn’t say “if” you screw up, I said “when”.

This isn’t going to go perfectly.

We can be awfully hard on ourselves.  “See?  I knew I couldn’t do this.  I might as well not even try…”

But remember “grace”?  You will have to offer yourself grace as you purposefully march towards change.  Don’t keep focusing on the failures.  Stay in the present instead of the past and keep on going.  You don’t give up just because you had a weak moment.

When you fall, pick yourself up, take a look at why you fell, revise the plan if necessary, and begin again.

fall seven times get up eightRight then.  Not next January 1.

Success is not measured by “never breaking” the resolution. Success is measured by renewing the resolution one time more than you break it.

I love reading about the Apostle Paul.  He’s so human, and I can relate to so much of what he writes. Talk about picking yourself up and continuing on after everything falls apart. Throughout his life he was opposed, persecuted, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, deserted by trusted co-workers, slandered, and scorned. He experienced a lot of what we would call failure.

But in one of the letters he wrote from prison, we see his steadfast unwillingness to quit.

“Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  ~  Philippians 4:13-14

I want to be like Paul – no matter what happened to him, he didn’t give up.  He lived his beliefs.  He stopped looking back at all the things that tried to defeat him, and looked forward instead. He didn’t let the fear of failure keep him from trying again.

jonathan edwards 70 resolutionslooking stunnedJonathon Edwards, widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian, and one of America’s greatest intellectuals, in his 70 resolutions, wrote:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”

That’s how you keep this from being all about you.  Any change we bring about, we do with God’s help.  Changing old habits is really hard to do.  We tend to fall back into the familiar because it’s so much EASIER.

And sometimes, if we’re honest, we don’t really want to change in the first place.

It is only with God’s direction and strength that we can do more.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”           ~  Philippians 4:13

OK, stop for a second.  Most people read that verse and say, “EVERYthing?  Can I be a duck if I want to badly enough??”

duck costume

No.  You can’t.

In that passage, Paul was talking about being content.  He explained how he’d LEARNED to be content – even when he was in prison, shipwrecked, beaten, having plenty, having  nothing – no matter what.

And he wasn’t able to do it because he just scrunched his eyes up, made fists, and tried real hard.

He was able to be content – through all of that – because “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

He wasn’t talking about flying to the moon without a spaceship.  He was talking about being transformed.  On purpose, and because of God’s strength that went beyond what he could do on his own power.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  ~  1 Corinthians 10:13

God’s love, grace, and strength enable us to endure crises and temptations that would be too much to bear on our own.

doctor-02[1]If you decide you want to be a doctor, you have to do more than wear a long white lab coat and hang out in a hospital.  Even after you finish your schooling, you spend your life evaluating your skills and your views and your practices, dropping some old ideas here, adding new skills there.  Realizing that there is always more to learn, more to perfect.  And you do this – until you are done being a doctor.

We need to look at our lives the same way.  Only with honest, regular, purposeful review and readjustment will we become who we were created to be.   For as long as we are alive.

So why make resolutions on January 1?

Why NOT?   Why not look for every opportunity to become MORE, to become the “you” God created you to be?

We can all make plenty of excuses.  But I’d rather take an honest look at myself and make some resolutions instead.

Live intentionally.  Live with purpose.

be intentionalSeriously, make some resolutions.

**   My next blog post will focus on HOW to create resolutions that have a good chance of being successful.  **