By Eddie Pipkin
January 19, 2017
With January came the rush of resolutions: friends and co-workers counting off the things they were newly conquering on the one hand and giving up on the other. Likewise, there was the usual flurry of articles about how to keep resolutions, along with the articles examining the underlying science of why resolutions (at least related to an arbitrary calendar date) are doomed to failure (check out Psychology Today’s “The Science of Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work”).
In our personal and professional lives, we flail wildly in the sea of priorities, hoping to keep our heads above water. One of the things I have noticed most prominently featured in this year’s parade of resolutions have been ideas for how to be more efficient. It is a hyperfast world out there, coming at us 24-7, and many of the ideas for “getting it all together” in 2017 involved managing life’s details more effectively. If we can just get more done in less time, all will be well! Well, The Guardian reports that, as Solomon himself might have tweeted, this, too, is folly (“Why Time Management is Ruining Our Lives”). Of course, Solomon had never heard of Bullet Journaling (the latest time management twist: check out Slate’s “Why is Bullet Journaling Popular? It Makes You Feel Productive for Doing Just About Anything”). The wisdom found in Ecclesiastes is timeless. Juggling a daily to-do list, while striving to work out the mysteries of life and how we’re going to make a meaningful contribution to the grand pageant: Solomon says, it’s the same old, same old.
So, ministry professional to ministry professional, I offer 10 suggested resolutions for making the most of the new year which is 2017. Do not under any circumstances attempt to undertake them all! Pick a couple of that seem interesting and relevant to your particular ministry environment, and focus on those.
- Get more sleep.
Here is one of the great counter-intuitive life goals of the new age. Increasingly, science is endorsing the strategy that teenagers have been intuitively embracing for decades. Sleep more. Your body needs it for health; your mind needs it to recharge. We’ve all been raised on tales of leaders who required four hours a night (here’s looking at you, Winston Churchill – although he did have a staff of hundreds), but you will perform better and last longer if you make time for this renewing resource.
- Make meetings work.
Be a meeting wrangler this year. Nobody loves an unwieldy, unproductive meeting. Few people like meetings, period, but it is true that everyone feels better about a meeting with a clear agenda that starts and ends on time, stays focused, and ends with action points and a clear demarcation of responsibilities.
- Have more conversations.
Take time to talk to people. Email is dandy and texts can be efficient. Proclamations to a large gathering can ensure that everybody gets the vision. But to really know what is going on with your team and your constituents, it is critical to make time for one-on-one conversations that are primarily about you listening rather than pontificating.
- Spend time on things that matter.
Work to know the difference between things that do and things that, after all, really don’t. Treat yourself to some mantras like “Relationships are more important than rules.” Relationships, it turns out, are more important than practically anything (check out the Gospels). Everybody loves a shiny, clean house, but if you never have people over, what’s the point?
- Stimulate your mind.
This may mean less blogs and more actual books. It may just mean more great blogs (like this one!). At any rate, find some go-to publications, web sites, and thoughtful friends and spend time with them. Read things (and talk about things) that challenge your ways of thinking and make you explain why you think the way you think. We live in an age in which we can surround ourselves constantly with the echo chamber of our own perspective. Go deeper.
- Breathe fresh air.
Get outside! Like resolution suggestion #1, science is increasingly reinforcing this point. Nature and exercise are both very powerful medicine. They make us healthier, they clear the toxins from our systems, and they boost creativity. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Break up your work routine with fresh-air or exercise breaks. Try scheduling meetings outdoors or as part of a walk.
- Pray in the moment.
Stop relegating prayer time to a slot on your daily planner. Embrace the practice of praying in the moment (or as close to the moment as possible). If something is on your mind or your heart, if you hear troubling news about someone, if you are in the midst of a thorny problem, try a micro-prayer in the then-and-there, or if you can, step back a moment and regroup, allowing the Holy Spirit to calm and comfort you right when you need it most.
- Breathe more deeply.
A cousin to resolutions #1 and #6 (and arguably #7 as well). Controlled breathing can have speedy effects when we need to calm down, regain focus, tamp our anxiety, or just recharge our batteries. Deep breathing for just a few minutes has demonstrable physical effects as well as allowing our thoughts to settle. Try using it right before or right after the most stressful parts of your day.
- Wonder why.
How deeply do you think about why you are doing what you are doing in any given moment? Starting with why is one of the keys to mindful living (and is also related to several other listed resolutions, like #2 and #4). Of course, you could get a little Alice-in-Wonderland-through-the-looking-glass with this approach if applying it to every single moment, but it’s a great tool for evaluating our habits and routines. And big decisions, too. What are the base goals and motives for doing what we’re doing and deciding what we’re deciding?
- Stop lying.
To yourself. To others. Stop telling little white lies (it is so very easy to justify those little white lies). Stop making excuses. Stop inventing alternate realities for yourself. Stop exaggerating. Stop being falsely humble. Stop obfuscating. Just cut it out, and see what happens. One of the most compelling thing about the life and words of Jesus is the absolute integrity with which he lived and interacted with others. There is a liberation in that kind of honesty, and striving for it certainly takes us far deeper on our spiritual journey.
What resolutions have you taken on for yourself and your ministries for 2017? Share them (and your previous resolution successes and failures) in the comments section. Good luck!