Have you made New Year’s resolutions? If so, have you already broken them? Change is notoriously challenging. The new year changes we hope to make in 2017 can truly become realities in our lives only when we devote ourselves wholeheartedly to pursuing them. We mean well, of course, by setting goals for greater well-being. But the work of doing what we resolve to do and resisting temptations to quit is hard. It’s not fun, either. So to really change our lives in 2017 requires passion that fuels ongoing commitment. In short, what we need is a revolution of the soul.
This New Year, I visited Boston, Massachusetts, where the American Revolution began in the 1700s and resulted in the creation of a new nation: the United States of America. The stories I researched there make it clear that true change must start in people’s souls — in their thoughts and feelings — and move from there into words and actions that make change happen. Before the first shots of the Revolutionary War was fired in Massachusetts (at Lexington and Concord) in 1775, many American colonists experienced revolutions in their minds that motivated them to try to change their relationship with their British government. Those changing thoughts and feelings toward the British gradually built up prior to outright war, leading to significant clashes between the colonists and the British authorities years before — such as the tragic Boston Massacre in 1770, and the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
It was transformation in the souls of colonists that motivated them to do the hard work of giving birth to a new nation. They took risks and made sacrifices with great courage as they worked toward their goals because they truly believed in those goals and in their ability to achieve them, with God’s help. Eventually, the nation they hoped would emerge from the struggle became a reality.
Years later, one of the revolution’s leaders (John Adams, who became the second U.S. president) wrote, “The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.”
Let that inspire you as work to change your life for the better this coming year. Now that New Year’s celebrations have faded and the hard work of actually following up on resolutions begins, it’s tempting to just give up. In fact, although about 40 percent of Americans report making New Year’s resolutions, the majority of those who do (60 percent) abandon those resolutions before achieving the changes they had hoped to make in their lives, according to a University of Scranton study published in 2012.
You and I can overcome those statistics, however. The key is keeping our goals connected to our souls. We can stay in touch with God through prayer on a regular basis, listening to his daily guidance and relying on his Spirit to empower us as we slog through the hard work of change. Then, we’ll actually be motivated to keep exercising, organizing our homes, spending less money, getting more sleep, overcoming addictions, building better relationships, taking more risks in our careers — whatever he leads us to do to change our lives for the better!