5 Steps to Turn Your New Year’s Goals into Habits

It’s become a habit of mine—throughout the month of December, I jot down areas in which I want to grow in the new year as they come to mind. Then somewhere during the week between Christmas and New Years, I write out specific goals.

It would be nice if that was the end of the process—if writing goals meant change.

But the truth is, our ideas do not change our lives; our actions do. Our habits determine our destiny.

James 1 warns us about being someone who only hears truth, specifically truth from God’s Word, and then just goes on his way with no life change. He cautions, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

What does it take to be a doer of the Word in the areas where we know we need change?

  1. Decide—What areas of your life have you been sensing the Holy Spirit prompting you to adjust? Write them down.
  2. Determine—What is a specific, measurable goal for which you can aim? Remember, he who aims at nothing hits it every time.
  3. Declutter—What obstacle, tangible or habitual, do you need to deal with in order to move forward in growth? In other words, what is currently preventing you from reaching your goal? What do you need to stop doing in order to make room for change? (Sometimes when starting new habits, we forget that we likely have a contrary habit already in place.)
  4. Develop—What steps can you take toward your goal? What can you do in the way of setting a habit so it will last longer than the first few weeks of January?
  5. Deploy—Will you move beyond ideas to action? This is the most crucial step. And it often helps to plan ahead times when you will assess how you’re doing on your goal.

So, how do these five steps look in real life?

Let’s say the area where God has been convicting you is in your role as a father. You know you need to spend more time with your family and provide spiritual leadership for your wife and children. Below is how you might answer the questions above:

  1. Decide (area of change)—Family, especially as a dad
  2. Determine (goals)—Have daily family devotions, have a weekly family night.
  3. Declutter (obstacle)—I come home tired and want to just relax in front of the TV. I need to find a way to refresh myself early in the evening and turn off the TV to interact with the kids. My wife and I sometimes disagree on what makes a good family night.
  4. Develop (steps)—I can jot down ideas for family devotions that the kids will enjoy. Talk over with my wife what time in the evening works best. Keep it short to make it sustainable. For family evenings, my wife and I can make one of our date nights each month a time to brainstorm and each have ideas for upcoming family times. If we know we’re doing it regularly, we won’t mind doing different types of activities different times.
  5. Deploy (action)—We’ll begin family devotions tonight. My wife’s and my date in which we plan for upcoming family nights can also be a time to look at our calendars together to plan ahead and to assess how well we’re doing at making time for family.

When we turn our goals into becoming habits, we reap their benefits longer than a few days or weeks.

But even more importantly, when we proactively change in response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction through His Word, we have God’s promise of blessing.

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.—James 1:25

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