Be Better: A New Year’s Note to Myself

I’ve found that the best way to decide how to use a new year is to look back at the previous year and consider what I would have done differently if I could do it over. As I look back in order to look forward, it hits me just how much time I wasted over the last year, and really over almost the entirety of my adult life. I actually accomplished as much or more than I ever have in a year, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in the way I spend my time.

These memes all highlight the problem I (and many in my generation) struggle with pretty well:

 

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They’re true, and they’re relatable, and the point is kinda funny when you meme it that way. I get it, but… rather than joking about all the time I waste, shouldn’t I be embarrassed about it? Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and we throw more of it away than perhaps any people group in history. Isn’t that more sad than funny? Rather than chuckling and saying “That’s so me,” shouldn’t images like this serve as motivation?

Why not just be great? Why not strive to do as much with our potential as possible? With such little time, why am I throwing so much of it away on the internet on so many nights? Why not use that time to grow? The people we all admire and read about and watch movies about aren’t the ones who let their lives slide by. It’s not only a God-given duty we have to be good stewards of the time, abilities, and opportunities we’ve been given (see Matthew 25), but it should be a joy to realize what we can be. Why revel in mediocrity when the power to be something more is in our hands? Isn’t that cool? Isn’t it exciting?

I’ve got some weight to lose. I’ve got a massive stack of books to read, and I’m hoping to get through at least 40 of them this year. For years I’ve been needing to re-start my learning in New Testament Greek. I’ve gotta stop chewing my fingernails. I want to fix my sleep habits to I go to bed on time and wake up early to have time to spend with God and work out. I need to do a lot better job of keeping up with friends and responding to emails, tweets, and Facebook messages. I have a number of ways I want to improve my ministry and my personal walk with God.

When I write out the whole list of things I want to get done, it starts to look daunting. Yours probably does, too. But when I realize how much I time I unknowingly throw away on Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc., it’s pretty clear I have all the time I need to do the things I want to accomplish.

The key, of course, is making the decision (and regularly reminding myself) that I want to grow more than I want to throw away the time by sleeping in in the morning or browsing the internet all night. If I don’t regularly, actively make that decision, I’ll involuntarily slide into a pattern of aimlessly spending my 24 hour allotments again, and another year will be wasted. So, I have to decide what I want more. And as an added benefit, when I take control of my time, even the time I do set aside for Netflix, Xbox, Facebook, or whatever else is more enjoyable.

But once that decision is made, the next step is to go about finding ways to motivate ourselves. Some people post their weight loss goals on Facebook and share regular updates so they can stay accountable to their group of friends. You could download a browser extension that limits your time on certain sites. My brother and I had a challenge that whoever hit the snooze button the most mornings would have to buy the other a movie ticket when we saw each other. (To my great shame, I lost – but my morning routine has been almost completely transformed in the process.) Whatever it takes, the important thing is to find a way to remind ourselves of what we really want – to grow rather than to stagnate.

I can look back on 2018 and be proud of a number of things, and I can look back with plenty of regrets. The things I’m proud of give me building blocks, the good habits formed that I can continue using into the future. The regrets give me plenty of room for growth. Lord willing, if I’m still around on January 1, 2020, I’ll have turned 2018’s regrets into 2019’s building blocks. If I stick with those changes day by day, and keep growing year after year, the person I’ll be 30 years from now will be someone who has something to show for all the time, opportunities, and abilities God gave me. Rather than reveling in mediocrity, let’s find ways to grow and be better this year.

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