I find making New Year’s resolutions a bit of a chore, mainly because my lists are predictable and I would have broken most of my good intentions by the end of January.
Three years ago, my resolution was to stick to my New Year’s resolution. It was a simple list (or so I thought): Seek God above all else (Matthew 6:33), swim 2km at each swim session, finish Victor Hugo’s 1,488-page Les Miserables, and take better care of my skin.
Three years later, I am proud to report that Hugo’s novel is currently collecting digital dust on my Kindle and my noble desire to seek God above all else have often turned into seeking what my flesh wants most of all. Not all is lost though—I’ve managed to keep to my swimming goals (it’s a struggle at every session though) and I’ve been quite diligent in looking after my skin.
But the start of a new year is always good for fresh beginnings, and I’m determined that 2020 will be different! This year, instead of trudging through a list of good habits to get into, I have decided to write a list of bad habits to kick out. After all, it’s easier to weed out an existing bad habit than to cultivate a good one from the ground up, right? But do check in with me at the end of January to see how I’m doing.
In the meantime, here are three bad habits that I hope to nip in the bud over the next 12 months.
1. Dozing Off During Prayer
I enjoy praying in bed, and the fact that I would always fall asleep before I can get past the first sentence hasn’t deterred me from doing the same thing day after day. But this method probably isn’t the best for my prayer life, so I’ve decided to change the way I pray.
This year, I will be drawing inspiration from Psalm 55:7, where the Psalmist says: “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice”. While not all of my prayers will be “distress” calls, I take comfort in knowing that I can pray any time of the day, and intend on doing short prayer bursts throughout my day. For example, I can say a quick, five-second prayer when I’m driving to work, or while I’m getting my coffee or morning tea.
My other alternative to tackling prayer is to write bullet points in my journal or recording them on my phone. That way, I can pray over each item while I am writing or tapping each prayer out. Having a record of my prayer requests (and seeing how God responds to each of them) will allow me to remember how He has worked in my life (Psalm 77:11).
I am not suggesting that we abandon our quiet time altogether for these shorter alternatives, but taking small steps can help us work towards building a stronger prayer life. Seizing opportunities to pray whenever and in whatever way possible also allows us to go through our prayer list in a more bite-sized manner, instead of waiting for the end of the day to unleash a big prayer spiel in our exhausted state, only to be consumed by sleep before the first sentence is over.
2. Making Empty Promises
I use the words “let’s catch up” so often, you’d be forgiven for thinking my social calendar has been booked up until 2022 (It actually isn’t. My weekend’s pretty empty over the next few weeks).
The truth is, I sometimes use this phrase to shake someone off (beats engaging in a long awkward conversation in a busy food court. I mean, there’s a reason why I’ve not contacted said person in a decade). There are times I do sincerely want to catch up with someone, but the hectic timetable of being an adult means it’s rather impossible to set a date.
But lately, I’ve been convicted about the sincerity of my throwaway “let’s catch up” comment. Some people could see it as a sincere gesture (even if I don’t always mean it), and might be waiting for an invite that’ll never happen. In instances like these, I believe it’s better for me to finish off the conversation with, “It’s been nice to see you” instead of the empty promises of catching up. Matthew 5:37 says we are to let your “yes” be a “yes”, and our “no” be a “no”, and for far too long I’ve said yes with no intentions of keeping my word.
And as for the people that I really do want to catch up with, it just means I have to make a concentrated effort to set aside a date and time, even if it’s having to pin a date down a few months in advance.
3. Giving In To “Fearful” Feels
I wish I am less afraid when it comes to driving and tackling the open water. I find navigating new roads stressful (even with the help of a GPS!) and as for swimming out in the open water, I have an irrational fear of not being able to swim back to the shore.
So, while friends are busy globe-trotting and driving campervans in different parts of the world, I struggle driving myself anywhere further than a 25km radius from my home. While acquaintances are busy training for impressive sporting events, I find myself still a tad apprehensive of the ocean (even though I’ve had two summers swimming in the open water).
Yet, I mustn’t let fear dominate my life because being afraid or overworrying about every little thing might see me missing out on little pleasures such as going on long road trips, or competing in open water competitions. How wonderful it would be if I could just grab my car keys and go for a drive, without fretting about getting lost, or worrying about how bad traffic is going to be? How liberating it would be if I’m able to sign-up for a 1km or 2km ocean swim without worrying I’d end up lost and adrift in the vast ocean.
Scripture says we are to trust God with our fears (Psalm 56:3, Deuteronomy 31:6), and that we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I’ll hang on to these verses whenever I feel fear creeping in.
Weeding Out Bad Habits—I Can’t Do It Alone
As the New Year rolls around, I know I’ll tackle my lists of bad habit with much bravado and gusto, only for it all to fizzle out by the end of January. So, I’ve decided I would get a few friends as my accountability buddies to keep me on the straight and narrow, and to encourage and support me when I do slip up so I won’t beat myself up over it (Ecclesiastes 4:9). I’ll also invite God to work alongside me, from giving me the desire to pray without falling asleep, through to overcoming my various fears.
Kicking these bad habits might take a little longer than a year, and that’s okay. Too often, I stress myself out feeling like I need to accomplish my resolutions within the 12 months, and get disappointed when it doesn’t happen. But my bad habits were not formed overnight, so getting rid of them would probably take longer than 24-hours. The most important thing is to chip away at them.
Whatever bad habits you’re looking to say goodbye to in the new year, write them down in a diary or have them tacked on your wall, where they’ll remain visible and be a constant reminder of what you want to do. Don’t do it alone either—make sure to invite a few trusted friends to help you along with it! And last but not least, don’t feel down if it’s taking longer than you anticipated to get rid of that bad habit—just keep at it.
Let 2020 be the year we replace our bad habits with good ones.
What habits are you looking to drop in 2020? Comment below!