Happy New Year, with emphasis on “New”

Every year our extended family gathers for a Christmas meal and a “grab bag” gift exchange. The location of the celebration rotates among family members, and the hosting sibling sets the guidelines for the gift exchange.

Most years, there’s a strong level of tradition and comfort on how this all plays out.

Until I host.

You see, I’m a change junkie. I like to constantly learn, do and experience new things.

And so naturally, there’s a twist in the game rules. Or as one relative put it, “So how are you going to piss off people this year?”

Yes, change is fun.

It explains why I feel driven to create New Year’s resolutions.

Last year, I chose to journey with Father Mike Schmitz and his “Bible in a Year,” podcast. It provided an opportunity to listen to the entire Bible as well as Father Schmitz’ daily commentary—which is so good. Because I’m a reader, I also printed the daily schedule so that I could first read the scripture passages.

It’s been an intense undertaking. Reading the daily passages took 15 minutes. I highlighted verses that spoke to me so that I could return to those chapters later for continued reflection. Listening to the podcast consumed about another 30 minutes. Imagine making room in your life, every day, for something new that takes 45 minutes.  

Life is busy.

By October, I was about seven weeks behind. Simple math dictated it would take one-and-a-half hours to complete a daily reading and podcast, as well as gain on one. Three hours would be required to gain on three.

Every free moment at home was spent reading the Bible. Every minute in the car was spent listening to the podcast. Fortunately, there were some two and three hour trips in there to visit grandchildren. Big gains were made on road trips. After some serious Bible-bingeing, I got caught up in late December. It’s now December 31st, and I’ve completed the “Bible in a Year,” under the guidance of Father Schmitz.  

Discipline plus goals equals accomplishment. Being stubborn helps, too.

And although the “Bible in a Year” consisted of daily reading and listening tasks, those tasks compounded to create greater revelations and spirituality.

The point is that growth cannot happen without some kind of new effort or activity. And life, without growth, seems like a lack of gratitude for each 365 days that God gifts us.  

In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John found themselves in grave danger with Jewish authorities for proclaiming the new and good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. With the threat of imprisonment looming, it would have been easy for Peter and John to halt their activity. But they responded, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” And instead of praying for personal safety, they asked God to, “…take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness…”  

Make it impossible to live in 2022, exactly as you did in 2021. You needn’t have the boldness of an apostle—just a recognition that this is your time and your chance at some type of newness.

Cheers to living, and not just existing.

Happy New Year, with an emphasis on “New.”

Goals and the fun factor

new orleans map

Too often, goals aren’t any fun at all. The vision of achievement is something we like, but sometimes the process to get there can be unnecessarily unpleasant. And the vision vanishes.

Setting a goal and reaching it typically calls for some sort of adjustment. And if the adjustment were an enjoyable one, we’d already be doing it.

If the goal is to get good grades, the adjustment is to devote more time toward studying and completing assignments. Not always enjoyable.

If the goal is to be financially secure, the adjustment could be to work more, work smarter, spend less, or invest better. These options seem like more stress than fun.

And if the goal is to lose weight, the adjustment is to diet and exercise. Again, if it were enjoyable to spend our free time dieting and exercising—we’d already be doing it.

For some of us, we spend quite a few years—maybe decades—in the pursuit of weight loss. The problem is that it’s just not fun.

But what if we could switch things up and make fun the end goal, and weight loss the accidental achievement?

The key is to define what the word “fun” means to you personally. What would make your life more meaningful and just plain happier? Once you’ve established what your “fun-ness” is, find a way to work it into your goal and reward system.

This writer struggled with losing 20 pounds for about 20 years, but looking back I can see that I was doing things all wrong. The end goal was always weight loss, and that wasn’t fun.

This year, the end goal was to have fun. If I also happened to lose weight, that would be great.

For me, learning is fun. Often, that means traveling and seeing and doing new things. I rarely travel to the same location over and over again. Once I’ve been there and done that, I’m ready to strike out for new territory.

My fun-ness and I decided to take a virtual walk across the country this year, using my generic Fitbit. I left San Diego, California on January 1st. On December 31st, I’ll arrive in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s 2,338 miles. Or about 6.5 miles per day or 13,000 steps daily.

It’s intense. But I’ve enjoyed tracking my progress across the country and learning about the cities I’m traveling through, telling myself that someday I’ll return for an actual visit.

My route took me through New Orleans about mid-October, and it’s a city that I had never visited. I decided to reward myself for my walk-across-the-country efforts thus far and physically travel there, along with my daughter, my sister and a niece. It’s poetic that my year of fun landed me in the Crescent City where there’s music and great food everywhere.

There’s a sign up in the New Orleans airport that advertises one of many great restaurants in the French Quarter. This part of the airport is usually hectic with travelers impatiently standing in line, trying to get their baggage checked. I don’t usually notice advertisements here, but was drawn to this one. Its message was, “Life is meant to be lived, not endured.”

In about ten weeks, I’ll “be” in Jacksonville. Been living a pretty good and fun life this year.

And dropped 20 pounds in the process.