It's New Years day 2008. Welcome to another new opportunity to make some positive changes in your life. Any New Year's Resolutions this year? You know the drill - quit smoking, be a better person, write a novel, etc... I don't know if you're like me, but I find it's relatively easy to find out what needs to change, it's entirely another matter to make it happen. So, how do we change?
John Maxwell said something like this: "people change when they hurt enough that they have to change, learn enough that they want to change or grow enough that they're able to change." I've found this statement to be true in my own life. Most of the problems that we have in our lives are self-made and must be dealt with by us. So, change starts with a determination that change is necessary.
One of my problems when I first started out in ministry was that I was a chronic avoider. I didn't like to deal with things directly; particularly confrontation. So what I would tend to do was to stay somewhere until the problems got large enough, and then I would find an excuse to move on. After I left a few messes behind me I was convinced that, if I was ever going to reach my potential, I would have to face my problems. It marked a real turning point in my pastoral ministry. I went from having short-term stays with little results to long-term stays and much more impact. But it began with that determination.
Step two is looking for the right tools. Some people need help to change. That help can come in the form of a mentor - someone to walk you through the steps and hold you accountable - or the resources you need. I've found books, CDs, and the internet as great resources to help change. The human mind is like a computer, and a computer is only as good as what is put into it. Too many of us have been feeding our minds garbage for so long that we don't function properly. That's likely why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 that the way to change is to "..be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."
Another helpful tool to make positive change is to use the power of habit. Someone said that first we form habits, and then our habits form us. So, what I've learned is to take some habit that I'm trying to elliminate and replace it with a habit that will move me in a better direction. I then commit myself to do that thing, whatever it is, for the next four weeks - every day. That's generally how long it takes for something to become a habit.
For example, let's say I've been staying up too late and am unable to get up in the morning. My goal then would be to be in bed by 11 each night and up by 6. The first few nights would be a challenge, but by the end of four weeks I would find that my body will automatically wake up at 6. The circadian rhythm - our biological clock - kicks in and starts to work for us. Once we form that habit, it becomes a part of who we are.
Author Charles Swindoll decided a long time ago that, if he was going to write, the only way that he could have the time was to get up one hour earlier in the morning and write then. For many years now that habit has enabled him to write scores of books. It began with a determination to do something different.
Anyway, there's my two-cents worth to start the New Year. I hope that 2008 is the best year you've ever had. Happy New Year and may all of your changes be positive ones.