How can I make some changes in my life? I always fail.

Did Christmas pass by us already? It seems like just last week it was Thanksgiving. Sorry I didn’t write a blog last Monday but the week crept up on me so fast I totally forgot.

For all of us who spend some time making New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I’d answer a reader’s question about making some permanent changes in her life.

Question: There are things in my life that I want to change and although I have good intentions, I never seem to get very far with any actual change. Any wisdom or tips?

Answer: I think making significant changes to our life – especially to our habits and inner character qualities takes a determined effort and support of like-minded people. It’s tempting and frankly easiest to do what we’ve always done, even if we don’t like it. So here are some things that will help you make that leap from wanting to change to success.

First you actually have to want to change more than you want to stay the same. That may seem like a no brainer but here is a very common example. Each year millions of people vow to lose weight. Gyms are crowded the first week of January with people who want to take it all off by bathing suit season. Very few of these same people are in the gym come February. Why not? It’s too hard and they like eating what they want more than they like working out and eating healthy. But if they were with a group of people who had the same desire and goals and went to the gym together, then they would be more likely to succeed.

Second, set some specific goals. If your desire is to lose weight for example, then set a goal of 5 pounds, or a goal to exercise 3 times a week. If you want to read your bible more this year, then set a goal of a specific book to read or join a study that will help you accomplish that goal with some accountability. Again, if you do these things with a group of like-minded people who want the same things you do, your chances for success greatly increase.

The next step is crucial. For our desires and goals to actually become reality – we must learn to train/discipline ourselves.

Let me explain. An athlete trains or disciplines his body because he LOVES his sport and wants to be the best. The same principle applies for a musician. We don’t discipline ourselves because we love discipline. We discipline ourselves in order to reach the goal we have set. In our spiritual lives, we train ourselves because we love God and want to become more like him.

Owsald Chambers advises us: “We go wrong because we stubbornly refuse to discipline ourselves, physically, morally, or mentally. You must discipline yourself now. If you do not, you will ruin the whole of your personal life for God.” Dec 10th

A musician or athlete understands that they will never reach their potential without hard work. Somehow as Christians we naively think that we can develop our new nature without such disciplined training.

As Christians, we can have all the desire in the world to change—to become more like Jesus, but having a desire is just not enough. Many of us desire to save money for retirement, but have no disciplined practice or goals of making that desire into a reality. Many want good marriages, but do not take the time and effort required to communicate and relate effectively with our spouse. I can want to run a marathon until the day I die, but I will never be able to get my body to run a marathon, or even run two miles in a row unless I train my body to perform at the level that my will desires it to. Most of us will never be top athletes or concert musicians but in Christ, our fullest potential is to develop the nature of Christ within so that our lives will glorify God. But God never expected us to do this kind of training without the benefit of community. So find a good body of believers and then join a small group, Sunday school class or women’s bible study where you can share your goals and struggles and they can encourage you and keep you accountable.

The final step is to stay determined. In other words, understand that perfection is not the goal but saying focused is. This past year I read through the entire bible. Each day I had selected passages to read in order to reach my goal. Did that mean I disciplined myself every day to read my bible? Not really, but I did discipline myself to read more days than not and when I fell behind, I determined not to let go of my goal and would catch up. Staying determined to reach your goal means you hold yourself accountable and you don’t let yourself get so far behind or off course that you’re tempted to give up.

Let’s use this blog to share with each other our 2010 goals and how we can encourage one another toward greater growth and change.

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