Let’s face it. Most New Year’s resolutions are boring—lose 10 pounds, save more money, read through the Bible, quit a bad habit.
These may be noble and important goals, but if sharing them makes your friends doze off before the ball drops on Friday night, there’s a good chance you’re living a boring story … and everyone knows if you’re living a boring story, Donald Miller will run over you with his bike.
To make 2010 more interesting than 2011, consider these seven ways to liven up your resolution:
1. Turn health goals into opportunities to help.
Instead of simply resolving to lose 10 pounds for yourself, consider running a 10K (or 5K or marathon) to benefit vulnerable kids around the world. Organizations like World Vision make it easy to find races in your area, create a training program and set up a fundraising page so friends and family can donate to your cause. With a specific event for which to prepare, you are more likely to stick to your weight-loss plan, and when other people benefit from your resolution, success is so much sweeter.
2. Turn a complicated resolution into a single word or phrase.
This idea was posed by author Gretchen Rubin in an article for The Huffington Post. Rubin suggests identifying one overarching theme for the entire year, squeezing that theme into a single word or phrase, and then using that word or phrase to guide you through the next 365 days. Rubin chose the word “bigger.” Her sister chose the phrase “free time.” I’m considering “simple” or “grace” or maybe “pococurante,” just to sound smart.
3. Turn a personal resolution into a community resolution.
Maybe your goal this year is to simplify, to get rid of some of the excess in your life so you can give more generously and live more freely. Why tackle such a feat alone? Consider challenging your small group, your church, your neighborhood or your family to make a collective resolution. Organize a series of garage sales together. Live like the early Christians and share things—meals, tools, books, appliances. Keep one another accountable as you develop better spending habits and learn new skills. Making a group resolution increases your odds at success and nurtures those life-giving relationships that will make the year more colorful and meaningful anyway.
4. Turn a trip into a quest.
You don’t have to plan an exotic or expensive getaway to generate good stories in your life. You can easily turn a few day trips into a full-fledged quest—to find the best chimichanga in the tri-state area, to visit your great-great grandfather’s grave, to see both the Creation Museum and the Smithsonian’s Human Evolution Exhibit, to hike to each of your state’s top 10 waterfalls, to take the highway instead of the interstate, to visit every drive-in theater within a 200-mile radius, to get a picture in front of the church where your parents got married. Trips are about getting from Point A to Point B. Quests are about doing it in style.
5. Turn a private project into a public project.
Whether you’re reading through the Bible or going vegan, sharing your resolution on a blog or some other social networking platform will keep you on track and help you process what you’re learning. If you’re lucky, a community of readers will crop up around you, exchanging ideas and providing feedback. As a bonus you’ll have a record of your experience to look back on once you’ve finished the task.
6. Turn your resolution into a question.
Sometimes Christians are afraid to ask questions. We assume a relationship with God should insulate us from uncertainty and doubt, and that developing a Christian apologetic means having all the right answers. But asking good questions nurtures a spirit of curiosity about the world that is essential to living an examined, purposeful life. So consider focusing your energy on one pressing question this year: What do I really need? What makes me happy? What does it mean to follow Jesus? Which church tradition is best for me? Can I learn from people of other faiths? Is evolution true? Is Christianity true? What is most essential to the Christian faith? Where do my passions lie? What kind of person do I want to become? You might not find an answer to your question, but you will learn so much more than if you hadn’t had the courage to ask.
7. Turn your year into an experiment.
You don’t have to be A.J. Jacobs or Julie Powell to take an experimental approach to life. Consider a year of eating locally, a year of going green, a year of learning about wine, a year of giving 10 percent, a year without Facebook … or whatever intrigues and challenges you the most. This year I’m attempting a year of Biblical Womanhood, which is just as crazy as it sounds.
It’s not the end of the world to have a boring New Year’s resolution, of course, but starting the year with a project that gets you and your friends excited increases your odds at success and will leave you with lots of good stories to tell.
So, what is your New Year’s resolution? (No boring answers allowed!)
Rachel Held Evans is the author of Evolving in Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions (Zondervan, 2010). She blogs at http://rachelheldevans.com.