It’s that time again… the holiday season and anticipation toward a new year ahead. For many, it will include the readiness to rid yourself of 2020 and encounter the uncertainties of 2021.
It’s also the perfect time to begin reflecting on the new resolutions you want to help manage your future rather than having your future manage you. This creative dreaming process is an amazing God-breathed, cognitive capacity that makes us uniquely human. Creating mental pictures, or goals, help desensitize anxiety around the unfamiliar. They stimulate hope, motivation, and ideas. They make you an active participant in your life rather than a passenger watching the world go by. And whether you approach this yearly ritual of New Year’s Resolutions with a weary sigh, or creative avoidance, or invigorating earnest, your success will depend on the excitement and energy you maintain, as well as the foundation upon which you build your future.
Many people I’ve encountered tend to approach resolution goal setting a bit like the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. This annual affair is a mind-boggling event where insane, eager, or intoxicated individuals (or some combination thereof) herald the New Year by surging into frigid waters. The intended shock to your physical and mental faculties must have some symbolic meaning akin to exhilarated new beginnings. But within seconds, blue-skinned bodies rebound, clamoring for the comfort and protection of warm, familiar shores.
Goal setting without aligning your purpose in life has a similar effect. You identify areas you’d like to change; you muster up all the courage and commitment you can handle, and you dive headlong into a frenzy of activities designed to accomplish your desired end results. But without developing the deep waters of purpose guiding our decisions, many of our resolutions eventually become shallow, short term plunges that leave us icily unfulfilled.
Purpose in life takes us to the heart and spirit of God by revealing meaning and intent. Purpose pursues the answers to, “Why am I here? What am I uniquely created for? How am I to live to bring glory to God?” Various studies have demonstrated the essential nature of purpose for life and leadership. Dr. Viktor Frankl, psychologist, author, and holocaust survivor, stated that, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” People who live from a strong sense of purpose or find it through challenging circumstances prove to survive and thrive far greater than those who do not.
Purpose gives us drive and motivation to move into the future without fear. It builds perseverance, grit, and tenacity in times of trouble. It provides direction and serves as a compass to keep us on track. It helps us discern “the great” from the “good enough” so we don’t derail our dreams or get distracted by the shiny objectives that often compete for our attention.
Without purpose driving your decisions, you simply live by a random array of momentary whims, calendar obligations, or mindless routines. But when purpose becomes the foundation for your life and a filter for your goals, your energy is more focused; your options become more strategic, and your activities and accomplishments are much more fulfilling.
So, as you look forward toward the new year, what do you want to see for yourself? What pictures will you be creating and managing in your mind? Will your purpose define your goals, or will your goals define your purpose? As you determine to live with purpose on purpose, you’ll find a deep reservoir for your glory-filled future. And the plunge into 2021 will feel like warm familiar waters awaiting your new beginnings.