There is an episode of Phineas and Ferb (stay with me here) where Heinz Doofenshmirtz is once again attempting to take over the tri-state area. He creates an “-anator” that will make everyone’s New Year’s Resolution be to make him leader of the tri-state area. You may already know where this is heading. Just before the clock strikes midnight, he zaps everyone and they all make him leader of the tri-state area. Shortly after midnight they all walk away and ignore him. Doofenshmirtz cannot understand why they aren’t following him and someone in the crowd goes, “Don’t you know? Nobody keeps their New Year’s Resolution.”
This month is known for its resolutions, both made and broken. It is a time when people tend to take stock, practice a little introspection and decide to lose 50 lbs in a week. The problem is that we are a culture that is used to instant gratification and resolutions tend towards the long term. The past few weeks I’ve been thinking about this because I have been seeing resolutions being attempted at my local gym and perhaps because these attempts shed light on areas in my life where I am not so disciplined and where I make promises I rarely keep.
For about the past three years I have gone to a local gym with metronome-like precision. I suppose the reason I have been able to be consistent is that this habit formed around May or June and had more to do with switching from manual labor to desk work than any fitness goals. It has become a part of my day, five days a week. I wake up at around 4 AM and get ready, then head out the door and arrive at the gym just before 5. Then my workout ritual begins, starting at 5 AM until around 7 AM when I head to work.
The first of the year is predictably a surge of over-indulgent holiday revelers. The slow trickle of unfamiliar faces sifts through as they wander aimlessly among the medieval-looking apparatuses and try to decipher what their uses are. I don’t want to sound mocking. I’m by no means an Adonis or even a “gym rat”. My five-day semi-enthusiastic ritual consists of 60% workout and 40% sauna time and holds my “dadbod” to a more manageable shape. Not statuesque but not quite amoeba-like either.
Where am I going with this? The gym is the easiest place to see the “New Year’s Resolution” launch, crash and burn in meteoric fashion. The gym is also one of the best places to see the steady consistency of people who have set a goal and through faithful diligence, have begun to achieve their goals.
I suppose we look at January the 1st as the best time to implement because it is a feeling of beginning. We are eternal creatures tied to time. Within us is an everlasting soul that goes on forever, cased in a dying shell. I think we inherently know that we are preparing for the eternal with preparations cloaked in a calendar of days, weeks, months, and years. Even with this temporal framework, it is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes steady discipline.
So why do I wake up at 4 AM? I wake up at 4 AM because I made it a habit. I picked up one foot in front of the other over and over until it became a part of who I am. I don’t see it as a habit as much as it is just what I do. It’s not sensational, it’s not exciting, but it is something that over three years has yielded steady improvement and value in my life.
Retrospection is important. But retrospection, introspection, and personal, physical, and spiritual growth should be daily, ongoing, and not tied to the start of a new year. A daily ritual that becomes part of your life. If you are waiting on some lightning bolt to kickstart time spent in God’s Word or more time in prayer, it likely won’t happen. Once again, life is a marathon and not a sprint and those who are successful have made habit a part of their life.
It’s the Monday Christian so it all comes down to our relationship with Christ. Everyone wants that spark, that fire of a whirlwind romance whether it be in actual romantic relationships or in our spiritual life, but more often than not, greatness is in the careful, methodical walk of consistency. The 80-year marriage is not built on sensational dates and exotic trips, but on the daily decision to love another human being until death parts you. This year, do your introspection and make the necessary changes, but make it part of who you are. Greet your day by spending time with your Creator and exercising a little or a lot.
If I can add a book to your ambitious 2022 reading list, make Atomic Habits by James Clear one of them.