Make Plans, Not Resolutions, As You Begin the New Year

All of you are familiar with the typical New Year’s resolution. As you start the new year, you construct a list of resolutions which you hope to fulfill as the new year unfolds. You do very well for the first couple of weeks, maybe even a month, as the energy and enthusiasm of doing something new kicks in. But then the initial rush begins to wane slowly and the resolutions slip away into the business of life in this world. How can you break this yearly disappointment and letdown?

The answer to this unending yearly cycle is to make plans and not resolutions. Here is why. Resolutions reflect intentions while plans reflect directions. That is, a resolution is something that you wish to happen but as long as it remains only a wish it will fizzle, if it ever gets started at all. A plan is a systematic approach to accomplishing something you wish to happen. Since it is specific and measurable, you always know what the next step is and how you are doing in accomplishing your plan.

Let me give a simple example. I might make a resolution for the new year that I would read more books on leadership this year.  A plan would look more like this: I will read 12 books on leadership this year, one per month. In January I will read Good to Great by Jim Collins; in February I will read The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell; etc. The resolution raises questions like “more than what?” and “which books?” and “when?” These unanswered questions are why a resolution can remain in the “wish” stage. The plan contains answers to these questions as part of the plan. You can see that while resolutions can reflect good intentions (I want to be a better father, I want to start exercising, etc.), they often do not position a person for success.

Just as a resolution can wane in energy and enthusiasm, a person with a plan can experience those same things. However, there are two significant differences. First, a person with a resolution may not know where to go next while a person with a plan knows her next step. Second, a person with a resolution may not have a realistic appraisal of how she is doing while a person with a plan can measure where she is. If she takes stock every quarter of the year, she knows if she is where she should be. If she is there, great. If not, she can reevaluate her plan to see if changes need to be made. You cannot reevaluate what does not exist. This assurance of knowing where you are going and where you are can help overcome the wane of energy and enthusiasm.

For those who are followers of Jesus, there are resources beyond your own natural resources to keep you on track with your plan. The grace of God in Christ can renew and restore your energy and enthusiasm when you feel them waning. Here is just one verse among many that can bring encouragement: For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Colossians 1:29). So make plans, trust in the power of Christ to see those plans become realities, and have a happy new year.


About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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