This week an acquaintance of mine was bemoaning the struggle to keep a 30-day resolution she had made for January. It has seemed like a good idea from the mountain peak of the new year, but things had quickly turned dull and mundane. Having just begun, she found herself already slogging through the valley and she was wondering if she should bail out now.
I know the feeling. I came back from the holidays wanting to set a new course, desperate to make some changes in my life. But as I blue-skyed possibilities and dreamed up plans, I dreaded coming down from the mountain and actually starting the journey.
I know it’s not always going to be pretty or pleasant. I’ll get bored. The enthusiasm for change will turn gray. My new habits may get stuck in mud. Old habits will creep back in. The view from the mountaintop will be replaced by tunnel vision.
So how can I make it to December? How can I keep on the path and not give up? What is the secret to perseverance?
1] Mark your steps
Making progress isn’t hard. It’s simply being faithful day in and day out. Right foot, left foot. But I’m not a robot. I need encouragement along the way. Nothing fancy, just checking off a daily task, or making a week’s tally can give me a sense of accomplishment and keep me going. I’ve done three days of my new ‘read a chapter of the New Testament each day’.
I have a long way to go but I’m getting addicted to the little burst of satisfaction when I check the box. Visual markers–stones in a jar, stars on a calendar–are a great way to spur us on when our interest or desire weakens. Ask anyone in kindergarten.
2] Make sacred stops
Keeping a habit takes energy, especially when I’m going against my natural tendency or selfish default. I think that’s why often I start to slack off. I stop pushing. Soon, the new habit quietly slinks away. Instead, I need to replace slacking off with coming to a full stop, which is exactly what happens when I keep the Sabbath. It’s a time to pause along the way and get refreshed.
I take a break from the routine of my life and spend time enjoying God and His creation. It’s a chance for me to remind myself of the big picture too. And when the Sabbath is over, I’m rested and ready to pick up my habit again.
The year has just begun and there’s a long way to go. But slow and steady like the turtle, I’m getting somewhere.
What about you? What helps you stay on track and persevere through the year?