Every year around this time, we create lists—sometimes really long ones—of all the things we want to change about ourselves. The typical goals are usually quite internally focused—to the point where they push us away from others. They’re also often achievement-based. Whether it’s exercising more, reading more books or developing a new hobby, resolutions rarely help us develop more meaningful friendships. I wonder if these goals really help us become better people.
Resolutions are also proven to rarely last, and I believe much of this has to do with trying to achieve our goals in isolation. No higher level of arrogance exists than believing you can achieve greatness without the aid or influence of others. You need to surround yourself with other people who can help steer you in the right direction.
Instead, each January we set lofty goals we plan to conquer without additional help.
Exactly a year ago, I made a conscious decision to start 2012 differently. Despite my aspirations for more, I felt my life wasn’t amounting to much. Enough of life had passed for me to realize I couldn’t live into the fullest life possible without the input of others. I knew I needed a sounding board to help me navigate life more effectively.
Instead of waiting around for another man to starting building into my life, like I had the previous years, I asked someone to mentor me—and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. After years of making significant decisions that often caused me to land flat on my face, a mentor provided me the opportunity to approach life with a confidant who could steer me closer to God’s will.
Christians make up the body of Christ, yet we are so easily pulled into pursuing life without the influence of others. We are part of this body but often live as if we’re not even connected. Mentoring can be the missing piece that allows us to not only become connected within the body of Christ, but also be drawn closer to the heart of God through the influence of another.
Mentoring is more than a casual conversation in passing, a place to vent frustration or a space devoted to flipping through the chapters of the most recent discipleship book. Mentoring is forming an intentional relationship that also forms Christ within us, regardless of where we are in our spiritual journey. It means sharing life to the point where each person begins to positively influence the other.
Mentors help us discover who we are in a way we cannot know if we lead isolated lives. Only when we understand who we are will we begin to enter into how God designed us to engage in our context. God made us with this deep-seated desire for other people speaking into our lives.
So this year, try this approach instead: Focus on principles and not achievements as the new year approaches. What are the principles and values you want undergirding your life? Humility? Grace? Honesty? Discipline?
Now, who are the people around you who model these things well? You see what I’m doing here … I’m telling you to start spending time with those people. If you want what they have, see how it is they live to bring it into their lives.
Few great successes are achieved in isolation. It’s likely that you can look back at significant landmarks in your life and find each of them include people behind the scenes who got you to that point—the youth worker who wouldn’t leave you alone, the family friend who became a parent, the sports coach who went the extra mile. There comes a point when those kinds of people don’t just show up. You still need the influence and help of others like them, but now you have to pursue it.
Why do you need a mentor? The abundant life God desires for you comes through the influence of God’s Spirit embodied in others.
Rather than waiting for a life of achievement, principles and values to become your reality, pursue this kind of life by finding a mentor who can lead you in its direction. While resolutions fail time and time again, start the year in pursuit of a relationship that can bring wisdom into your life. This will lead to life change lasting far beyond January 1.
Start next year with this relational focus. It could change your life. I know it changed mine.
Tyler Braun is the author of Why Holiness Matters: We've Lost Our WayÑBut We Can Find it Again. Tyler lives in Oregon with his wife Rose and son Judah. You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, www.manofdepravity.com, where he writes about Millennials and finding the significant life we're all searching for.