Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Even if you’re not among that number who officially resolve to start or stop doing certain things as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, surely you use this time of year to consider some changes you’d like to make. The beginning of a New Year seems to be a natural time for a self-assessment. May I offer a suggestion?
As you evaluate your life, I encourage you to adopt the theme of “Live Different” for 2016. Yes, of course, this idea is influenced by one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, Apple’s Think Different campaign of the late 1990s.
Reflecting on this initiative, Steve Jobs said, “When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world…that’s a very limited life…you can change it…you can influence it…I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
So, just as Jobs and Apple encouraged people to consider the power and influence of computers in a different way, I suggest we consider living our very lives in a different way than we have in the past. This course of action, obviously, will look as diverse as the people who are reading this post.
For this reason, I don’t list specific directives, but offer ideas as you consider your own grid for change. As for the resolutions themselves, don’t make them because you’re supposed to. That’s when they’ll probably become meaningless and ineffectual. Make them because you need to. And want to.
Get to know yourself better, and understand those implications. How did God design you? Are you an introvert or extrovert? What are your Myers-Briggs letters? Where do you fall on the enneagram scale? Once you figure out who and how you are, be intentional about living within this design. Stress and anxiety are natural consequences of living outside of your “boundaries.”
For instance, the J of my Myers-Briggs ENFJ means that I’m designed to be a planner and an organizer, hence my many “to do” lists, vacation pre-planning, etc. However, I am often an out-of-control-J, exhibited through messy work areas, an overloaded email inbox, etc. So, it would behoove me to often remind myself how God created me to function and develop habits and routines that are within that design.
And as you know yourself, you also need to understand those within your community – your family and close friends. As I grow in my understanding and appreciation of my wife’s design, our marriage becomes more enriched. For instance, even though she often seems like an Extrovert, she’s actually an Introvert. So now I’m (hopefully) more patient and understanding when she doesn’t want to attend every party and event in the free world. Even though those activities energize me, I now know she has a different quota – by design. And you know what, I’ve also found that I may not be quite as extroverted as I once thought!
In a similar light, live different by being more intentional. In other words, live in light of eternity, of forever. Now, I’m well aware that my thoughts in this regard are heavily influenced by my cancer that was discovered this year. Please…don’t wait to get a life-threatening diagnosis to think deeply about things. Re-prioritize now.
Without intentionality, life would be like having the worldview that someone shared with me one time – “you live and then you die, and that’s all there is.” Sadly, far too many people live – functionally – like that’s true.
After my surgery earlier this year to remove a cancer-filled kidney, you better believe I had a different outlook on life. I evaluated if things that previously worried me, should? I began thinking about my obsessions, those things that captured so much of my attention, time and energy. For instance, I used to act like the world would be a terrible place if I wasn’t spraying and fertilizing something in my landscape weekly, or even more often. I discovered that I would rather devote that time to people. And guess what, the plants are still living!
Actually, I am learning day by day to fall back in the arms of God’s grace. That to which I always gave mental ascent, I am now trying to do more in practice. For you, for me…it means realizing that – whatever it is – God’s got it…and really believe it!
Another way that all of us could live different in 2016 is to not be so selfish. The epitome of sin is idolatry of the self. We are our favorite people on earth, aren’t we? If you’re like me, you pretty much prefer to have your way with life. If I have to wax on about the need to be less selfish, you’ll probably never get it, so…let’s just all get over ourselves!
Since my day (and night) job is raising money for Christian schooling, did you expect me to leave out an evaluation of your stewardship giving? Are you living more like an owner, or like a wise and faithful manager of someone else’s resources? If you understand the Bible like I do, you believe that God is truly the owner of all and we are called to be stewards of what He owns. If God is sovereign over all, that which we clearly feel is ours is not ours after all. God owns the title to everything.
How does that play out in your family’s world? Are you living in “grasp” mode, holding tightly to your stuff, or do you give and share freely and generously? I love the sign on the wall in George Bailey’s office – “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” An understanding of this concept is a large part of what makes this a wonderful life for all of us. By all means, live different here.
Finally, how do people feel when they’ve been around you? Are you critical, sarcastic and radiating negative energy? Or, are you an encourager? Do people just feel better after an encounter with you? If not, then…live different. And I’m not talking about simply being a Pollyanna, because constructive feedback is so necessary in life. However, even that can be offered in an encouraging manner. For some folks, simply smiling would be a good start.
Assuming you may consider these suggestions, remember that none of us are getting any younger, so as you process this information and ponder life changes, be sure to think about your legacy. I certainly do, especially now. If I were to not wake up tomorrow, what about my life would have touched someone else? What impact have I had on my family, my co-workers, my community of friends, my world?
If my goal for this life is my own peace and comfort, what good is that to anyone? What impact does that have on others? So, a large part of my drive to live different is to ensure that God would be pleased with my time here on this earth because it truly is short. And that thought is what really motivates me to consider these things, and make necessary changes.
What keeps me from giving up, especially when I revert to old habits? The realization that the goal isn’t perfection, but…progress. It’s even a good idea to share your planned changes with someone, so you can be held…wait for it…accountable! That’s when you know you’re serious about this change thing.
Whatever it may look like, may we all live different in 2016.
Happy New Year!
Mr. Steve Wilson is the Director of Advancement at Lakeland Christian School. To reach Steve, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net