Making New Year’s Resolutions Personal

Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, resolving to make this year different.

I’m going to be a better person.

I’m going to exercise more and eat less.

I’m going to routinely separate myself from work and spend more time with my family.

Once the bright possibility of a fresh new year meets the stark reality of endless pressures and demands, most people struggle to make good on their hopeful plans. By the end of January, most New Year’s resolutions are broken.

Blind Spots Ruin Our Goals

Psychologists and researchers explain this massive failure rate a number of ways, but I believe the main culprit is blind spots. The only way to make sure blind spots don’t stand in the way of our goals and resolutions is to have others come alongside us and point them out.

If you sincerely want to improve the quality of your life in 2020, a clear picture of your preferred future is essential. An excellent place to begin is by answering the question Jesus asks in Matthew 20:21: “What do you want?”Jesus is the most brilliant teacher, amazing psychologist, and faithful friend ever to live. Repeatedly he invites people to identify and name their desires.

Naming Our Desires

Our responses reflect a wide range of personal longings. We express our desire for healing, rest, justification, approval, rescue, and status. Declaring personal expressions of desire subsequently draws us into more profound, earnest conversations with Jesus about our lives, addressing the soul’s deepest aches and appetites. No matter how misguided, self-destructive, genuine, or addictive our desperations and desires happen to be, doors open to dramatic, life-altering change.

Making New Year’s resolutions personal helps to make them stick. Resolving to do what someone else or society says you “should” or “ought” to do without a real desire for that change is a formula for failure. A sense of obligation or the dread of guilt will sustain you for only a short while. However, resolving to do what is to you essential is the most powerful motivator and sustainer you’ll ever find, providing you with the passion, clarity, and inspiration necessary for sustained success.

Several years ago, a good friend’s wife was hospitalized with a highly contagious virus. After ten grueling days in an intensive care unit, she was released with strict orders to remain quarantined and without any physical contact with her three young sons.

In the faint, early morning light, several days after her return, she rolled over in bed and spotted a pair of little boy hands under her bedroom door. Sometime in the night, her three-year-old son squeezed as much of himself as possible under the door. He knew with utter clarity what he wanted and was willing to do whatever it required.

This simple story illustrates the dynamic power we release when we gain a clear vision of what we desire. Here is a truth that can’t be denied: Transformation begins when we name what we desire. In naming desires and recognizing and avoiding blind spots to become more like Jesus, we must remember the Holy Spirit is the revealer and healer.

Your Invitation

So, here’s your invitation. After reviewing the following list, circle five things you most desire as you enter 2020. (If you don’t see a word you wish to name, feel free to add it.)


After declaring a few personal desires, there’s another equally important question for you to answer: What price are you willing to pay for the things you want?

A few weeks ago, I talked to a personal trainer about potentially joining his local health club. When he asked, “What are the reasons you want to live a healthier life?” I replied, “Because I love my life, especially my family and my work. Therefore, for as long as possible, I want to have the type of energy that can carry me through the day with a skip in my step, a song in my heart, and a big smile on my face.”

Confident in the sincerity of my desire to live a healthier life and my willingness to pay the necessary price, I joined! On my initial visit, the trainer and I identified where I am today, where I want to be in the future, and I laid out a roadmap to achieve those goals. 

Gratitude Leads to Contentment

As a final thought, remember it’s not all on your shoulders. Instead, lean into the keen insights of Solomon, the wisest man ever to live. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

Don’t let what you already have become blind spots. Be grateful for where you are now and for what you have while you work toward your preferred future. Gratitude leads to contentment. Start taking time to appreciate the simple pleasures in life: having a meal with someone you love; taking a walk in nature; calling someone special (a parent, grandparent, or mentor) to express your love and gratitude for them; going to a ballgame, play, concert, or movie.

These simple pleasures might seem mundane or insignificant, but if you can’t enjoy them now, you won’t enjoy your preferred future when it comes.

Have a great 2020!

Blind Spots: What You Don’t See Can Hurt You

Blind Spots invites us to engage in an approachable, logical conversation about what blind spots are, why they exist, how to identify and remove them, how to keep them from returning, and how to point them out in others.

About the author

Fil Anderson

Fil Anderson is executive director of Journey Resources, based in Greensboro, NC. He’s a frequent conference speaker, spiritual director, and directs retreats and workshops nationally and internationally. Fil is a member of the teaching team at Potter’s Inn Soul Care Institute. A member of the pastoral staff of St. Mark’s Church, he provides on-site soul care to their staff and volunteers. Fil is also a member of the Board of Trustees at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. He is the author of Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers and Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God. His latest release is Blind Spots: What You Don't See Can Hurt You written with Tim Riddle. He and his wife, Lucie, live in Greensboro and are the parents of three adult children.

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