I made New Year’s resolutions once. I filled an entire 8-1/2 x 11” notebook page. Split down the middle into two columns. Double sided. I had a lot of resolutions.
Then life happened. And I learned that sometimes God has different resolutions than the ones we pen. Who was it that said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans”? My dreams of resolution progress were quickly subverted. My neatly penned list migrated to the bottom of my growing stack of junk mail. I never saw it again.
After that whole ordeal I happily went back to being resolution free. Except that I occasionally found myself making comments, like:
“I used to write letters all the time. Now I don’t even send birthday cards.”
“I sit too much at my job. I really need to stretch more”
“I’ve always wanted to go backpacking.”
“I’d really like to submit some of my writing someplace.”
“I wonder what Operation Christmas Child is.”
Out of the seeds of such fruitful rambling, an alternative to those stultifying New Year’s resolutions emerged. The Challenge Board came to me the first year in full color graphics, compliments of a friend who was apparently tired of me simply talking about all the things I wanted to do. (Also, one of the challenges was to buy her ice cream.) Other challenges included:
- Stretch every day for 30 days…. starting now.
- Go backpacking
- Send articles to 2 potential publishers
- Do a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child
- Bring in a snack for your coworkers
- Read the Gospel of John
Most of which, by the way, I completed.
Don’t confuse a Challenge Board with resolutions. No one ever keeps resolutions. (Except for those rare few, but we won’t talk about them.) The Challenge Board is for the rest of us. Here’s how it works.
- Listen to yourself. Or better yet, enlist a friend to listen for you.
- Identify those comments that start with “I need to,” “I should,” or “I’d like to.”
- Choose something simple and specific that addresses those comments. Write it down.
- Compile about 20 of these challenges into a colorful list and post it someplace visible.
- Make it fun! Consider challenging your friends with their own challenge boards. And choose some challenges that you really want to do but never seem to get around to. Maybe you also save $0.50 a week until you have enough to take a friend out for ice cream. Or maybe you try a new sport, visit a museum, or see a high school play.
- Keep it simple and specific. Do you want to improve your health? Challenge yourself to walk once a week for a month. Or cook a vegetarian dish. Or go to bed before a certain time every night for a week.
Think easy. Have you ever thought something was very doable until real life intervened? It happens. There’s nothing wrong with setting some harder challenges (and there’s nothing wrong with falling short of them, either – I didn’t get 100% of mine). But make most of your challenges easier than you think they should be. They probably aren’t as easy as you think, and you can always go above and beyond.
- Try it once. The first step is often the hardest. If you’ve never done something before, challenge yourself to do it just once. Ride your bike to work. Volunteer to help out. Attend an additional church service or Bible Study. Try it once. That’s it. You may find you love it and continue or you may not. That’s okay. At least you did it once.
- Consider different categories. What’s something you’d like to do outside? Something inside? Something health or fitness related? Something for your professional development? Something for your spiritual development? Remember, they don’t have to be big.
Forget the resolutions. This year, I challenge you to a Challenge Board. (And if you want to buy me ice cream, that’s okay, too.)
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org, and follow her @minimustard.