by Tim Lawless
“This is the year we start living.”
Those were some of the first words I heard this year. They were uttered by my brother, and so far, that’s one of two very memorable things he’s left with me.
The other was an earth-shattering slap to the face.
We had a bet to see who could go the longest without shaving. Loser gets slapped. I lost.
Don’t worry about it.
For me, the start of a New Year has always meant the start of a new chapter in life; it’s the chance to start again. It’s the opportunity to grow, to make more of ourselves, to strive for better things. That’s why we have New Year’s resolutions; everyone wants to quit smoking, lose weight, cut down to just one dozen donuts a day (everyone does that, right?), or find some other way to improve our lives.
This year, I’m planning on saving more money, doing enough weight training to be able to squat more than my body weight, and finishing my master’s degree (I swear I’m kidding about the donuts).
Here’s the problem, though: I’ve had some of these same resolutions every year for my entire adult life. I’ve never managed to complete them.
Around February, everyone who has resolved to go to the gym more realizes that everyone else who resolved to go to the gym more is already gone.
It’s the time of year that people who resolve to read through the Bible hit that tiny little snag known as Leviticus.
People who have resolved to save money have realized that Best Buy has great sales this time of year and new IPads seem to come out every week.
And, of course, February is usually the midpoint of the semester’s first set of classes. Suddenly, that resolution to do all your work ahead of time seems less and less realistic. Fifteen page paper? Due in week 8? If we’re completely honest with ourselves, it’s hard to get started earlier than, say, week 7.
There’s just so much to distract us from doing what we know is good for us, and from doing what we’ve resolved to do.
New Years’ is a time of great possibility. It’s a new beginning, a time when life seems full of untapped potential.
Why, though, does it seem so easy to squander that potential? What is it that takes the wind out of our sails?
Maybe the answer lies in my brother’s words to me. “This is the year we start living.” To him, that means he’s taking control. He’s newly married and is starting a family. To him, this is the year to stop making resolutions that other people want him to make.
Maybe that’s just it: at New Years, everyone wants to go to the gym more, everyone wants to save money, everyone wants to get better grades, and everyone wants everyone to see them achieving those goals. So when you hit the gym and realize that the crowds have thinned out, you have to make a decision: am I doing this for the people who I think will be watching me, or am I doing this for myself? Am I going for this master’s degree because I want it, or because I want to impress my family/coworkers/friends?
I would submit to you, reader, that if your goals this year are centered on meeting the others’ expectations, you’re not living. You’re putting on a show. And when the audience disappears, it’s suddenly a lot less fun.
Trust me on this one. My band once put on a show in front of a massive crowd of ten people.
I didn’t have fun doing it, because I went into it with the goal of impressing the people there, rather than the goal of enjoying playing music.
There’s no bigger waste of potential than potential wasted on impressing others.
Whatever you do this year, do it for yourself and for the glory of your Creator, rather than putting on a show for others. I promise it’s infinitely more satisfying than just doing what other people expect of you.
Have a great year and start living!
P.S. I promise, no exercise metaphors in my next post!