And with that brief introduction- a New Year begins. I don’t know about you, but this new year definitely snuck up on me. I wasn’t really prepared for it. I probably say that every year, but in so many ways this year I didn’t feel prepared to end one thing and start something new.
Maybe it’s because the past year has brought so much change in my life. Changes in my job, my ministry, my house, my location, my friends, my church and even something as basic as changes in my schedule. Change can be hard. Change can be uncomfortable. Change can even be painful.
But everything healthy undergoes change. The same goes for us as human beings, too.
As you look ahead at this coming year, my challenge to you is to be open to change. But more than simply being open to change, it’s important to actually do our part to create change. Changes that will benefit our life and impact our health- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
One thing I can guarantee you is that this year is going to go by, and you’re either going to come out the other side better, worse, or the same. Because life happens, but what we do with life is completely up to us (Tweet it!)
If you’re looking for some changes to better yourself this coming year, consider taking on one, some or even all of these challenges:
1. Practice Being Present
The past few years have brought huge changes in our lives with the introduction of the latest and greatest technology. We’re all totally “connected” every single moment of the day. But often times, our connection to the inanimate trumps our connection to the intimate. We’ve sort of lost the art of connecting to real people in real life. This year, consider setting your phone aside a little more, in exchange for more of real life. Instead of always catching the moment for Instagram, be deliberate about soaking in and savoring the moment simply for yourself.
2. Learn to Budget (Money and Time!)
Like John Maxwell says, “Tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went!” I would venture to say that this applies to money, as well as time- the most important commodities we have in life. So much of our time and money is frivolously wasted because we didn’t have a plan for it. Instead of spending another 500 hours mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed, or spending another $500 bucks on the next fad, commit to using your time and money for something meaningful this coming year. When we’re faithful with it, God has the ability to multiply even the little that you have. Be deliberate about planning your budget this year for both your money – and your time.
3. Master the Art of Listening
They say the average person listens with about 25% efficiency. That means that 75% of what’s being said to us goes in one ear and right out the other. It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that with numbers like that- we’re missing a whole lot! So much of being a good communicator comes down to how well we master the art of listening. Work on being a better listener this year by blocking out distractions, looking people in the eye, engaging with empathy, and letting your guard down as you seek to understand before being understood.
4. Start a Bucket List
So often in life we wait around for the milestones of life, not realizing that every step of the journey holds value and significance. So stop waiting around for the next big thing, and start living life by creating a bucket list for yourself this year. As you’re planning it out, don’t just think extravagant (though that’s always fun), but think meaningful as well: schedule an interview with a grandparent to glean their wisdom, share Jesus with an unbelieving friend (or 10!), sponsor a Compassion child, invite someone to church, or get creative with random acts of kindness. Whatever it is, stop waiting and start living. Create a meaningful life by doing meaningful things.
5. Carry Less Baggage
I’m not talking about traveling baggage- but rather- emotional baggage. As a professional counselor (and the fact that I’m human!) I know that we all carry wounds, pain, and hurts from our past. One of the biggest favors we can do for ourselves is look back just long enough to allow God to shed light and bring healing into the pain of our past. Find a therapist you connect with and take the time to dig deep and see how your past is impacting your present. Take the time to invest in yourself. You won’t regret it.
6. Read One Book a Month
My father-in-law is one of the smartest people I know for simply one reason: he reads everything and anything in sight! Needless to say, with all the scrolling, pinning, posting and skimming our society indulges in, we’ve sort of lost the value and importance of reading. Whether fiction, philosophy, theology, or psychology- pick up some new books this year and expand your knowledge about life!
7. Get Involved in Community
One of the most meaningful things you can invest in this year is people. The concept of community is such an important part in the life of a Christian because it is in the context of our relationships that we have the opportunity to learn how to give-and-receive love. Take initiative, have the courage to be vulnerable, and get involved in community like never before this coming year. We weren’t meant to do this life alone, so let’s not. (Start your own True Love Dates Small Group by downloading this Free 4-Week Curriculum!)
8. Be Actively Generous
We can all afford to be more generous. And generosity is such an important thing to foster, because it really shapes the condition of our heart. The more we can give to God, the world around us, and those in need, the more we realize that the most valuable things are not our possessions- but the sharing of our possessions. Open your heart and learn to give this year. Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be as well.
9. Expand your Cultural Competency
If we’re not careful, it’s really easy to become ethnocentric isn’t it? In the short 12 months I’ve spent overseas, the experiences I’ve gained from interacting with the world (outside of “my world”) have been transformational! Because interacting with different races and cultures has the ability to expand your view of the world, enrich your daily life, and give you a better glimpse of both God and eternity. Expand your cultural competency this year by visiting a foreign country, investing in new friends, trying new experiences, or inviting someone unique into your life. Take part in God’s great mosaic of life, because it’s His masterpiece.
10. Get a Mentor
No one has been more influential in my life than my mentors. They’re people who have invested in me, taught me, loved me, and poured into my life. They shaped me into the person I am today. But they didn’t stumble into my life by mistake, I had to seek them out. Find someone who you look up to- someone whose life reflects who you want to be in 10 years- and ask them to meet with you for lunch, for coffee, or for dinner. Invite a mentor into your life this year, and watch what happens.
11. Become a Mentor
Sometimes it can be hard to see ourselves as a “mentor”. In fact, I was recently asked to mentor someone and my first reaction was, “Me? What do I have to offer?” But the truth is we all have something to offer. Whether it be support, prayer, a listening ear, or our life experience- find someone that you can pour into, disciple, and encourage this year. Because like the Proverb says, when we refresh others, we’ll also be refreshed.
12. Plug into Ministry
What are the talents and passions God has gifted you with, and how are you using those talents for Him? That’s an important question to answer in your pursuit of becoming the person God made you to be. Whether or not you realize it, you have so much to offer the world around you. And as you give you will quickly learn that service is actually sort of “hedonistic”- because it truly feels better to give than to receive.
13. Be More Active
Even in our 20’s and 30’s, we could all use a little more physical health and fitness in our lives (um…especially those of us in our 30s). Whether that means joining a gym (and not just through February), running a marathon (err…maybe start with a 5K), parking at the end of the lot and walking the rest of the way, taking the stairs at work, or eating healthier foods- take inventory of your life and examine the changes that need to be made as you strive to honor God with your body more this year.
14. Start a Prayer Journal
I love keeping a prayer journal. In fact, it blows me away because I get to look back at my life and see all the things that God has done. It reminds me how He came through, and challenges me to believe that He knows best. It builds my faith and teaches me to trust, especially when trust doesn’t always come easy. Start a prayer journal this year, and write down your prayers, your praises, and your petitions. Be diligent in bringing your request to God- because He’s faithful. And it’s in the asking that you receive.
15. Dig Into God’s Word
This one is for me this year. I really want to dig into God’s word in a new way. I asked for “The Message” version of the bible for Christmas, because I’m desiring to see God’s words with new eyes and an open heart. Sometimes, in our familiarity of God’s word, it can seem to grow stale. But the problem isn’t with His word, it’s with our heart. Commit to feasting on God’s words this year, asking for transformation in your life. Because there’s nothing more satisfying than blocking out the noise of this world, and instead being filled with His Truth.
Whether you take-on just one or even all of these challenges, may we all strive to make this year the best one we’ve ever lived.
Because life happens- but it’s completely up to us how we choose to live it.
Here’s to the “Happiest” New Year yet…..
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and 21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!