By Scott Ventrella, Crosswalk.com
As every new year rolls around, approximately 60% of Americans make resolutions. A survey conducted by YouGov showed that the top 3 resolutions were as follows:
1) Exercise more; 2) eat healthier; and 3) save money.
This is very consistent with other surveys I’ve come across. So what will your resolution be for this new year? As you ponder this, I’d like to make a suggestion:
Instead of (or in addition to) focusing on physical or financial wellbeing, as a Christian, why not consider your spiritual health? After all, your spiritual wellbeing impacts every aspect of your life on earth—physical and emotional health, relationships, career, and so forth. And it extends into the hereafter, when your spiritual being outlives your physical being.
A likely reason why people don’t consider making spiritual resolutions is that it can be difficult to establish a baseline and measure improvement (unlike, for example, losing weight).
To help get you started, let’s look at how you can conduct a “Spiritual Fitness Assessment.”
This looks at three specific areas:
1) Faith Commitment, 2) Faith Practices, and 3) Faith Activation.
Within each area, you’ll ask yourself questions in pursuit of renewal.
Spiritual Fitness Area 1: Faith Commitment
To what extent do you live a life of faith—both in word and deed? In what ways do you follow Jesus and serve as a “witness” to your faith?
Commitment begins with recognizing Jesus Christ as your personal savior and accepting Him into your heart. If you have not yet done so, I strongly suggest you do. This can be accomplished through a simple, straightforward yet heartfelt proclamation in either a public or private setting. For me, I chose the latter along the following lines: “Dear Jesus, I believe in You and commit my life to You. From here forward I will do my best to follow You and live my life according to Christian principles.”
There’s a chance at some point earlier in life where you in fact made such a statement. Even so, it’s easy to drift away from faith due to worldly distractions and the pressures of life.
Consider recommitting. The closest example I can think of is when couples renew their marriage vows. It’s a great way to recall and reinforce the promises made to each other and to God.
Following such a commitment requires that we live up to it 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s relatively easy to live our faith when in the company of loved ones or like-minded members of a faith community on a Sunday morning.
But come Monday, many people check their faith at the door.
The underlying belief is that the secular workplace plays by a different set of rules and one should not impose their beliefs on others. Indeed, we must respect the diversity of beliefs of our co-workers. At the same time, we can witness to our faith through our actions by treating people with respect, courtesy and compassion.
I carry a small cross in my pocket every day. When I come across a difficult person or challenging situation, I grasp the cross and think, “what would Jesus do in this situation?” How would He expect me to treat this individual or situation?
In my office, I keep a small piece of paper with the inscription (written in Greek), “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) Any kind of physical or visual reminder can be extremely helpful.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/sgolan20
Spiritual Fitness Area #2: Faith Practices
How often do you: pray (and under what circumstances)? Read scripture and inspirational material? Attend religious service and faith-based events?
Even as committed Christians, this can be very difficult given all the noise and distractions in our busy lives. It’s also easy to get stuck in a rut by reciting rote prayers or falling into a formulaic pattern.
Try changing things up.
For instance, I use a combination of the “ACTS” method of prayer; Adoration (praise), Contrition (sorrow for sinful behavior), Thanksgiving (for all God’s blessings), and Supplication (praying for the needs of self and others). Oftentimes, I’ll prayerfully read a Psalm which in many cases includes one or more of the “ACTS.”
Think about changing up the time and place as well. Jesus made it regular practice to pray in solitude on a mountain, in the desert, or by the sea, early in the morning.
In terms of reading scripture, set a goal to read 10 or 15 minutes each day. I don’t suggest any more than that, because it’s important to meditate on the message and ask God to help you discern the meaning of a particular passage through the Holy Spirit.
Finally, there are many committed Christians that backslide on attending religious services on a regular basis. If this is you, take time to understand the reason(s) and make the necessary adjustments to your life and schedule.
Remember, Jesus incorporated all three practices into His daily life. As our role model, we should strive to imitate Him to the best of our abilities.
Spiritual Fitness Area #3: Faith Activation
To what extent do you understand and apply your unique talent? Spiritual gifts? Core values?
This, of course, assumes that you’re keenly aware of each. Many people have a general understanding, but as Christians we’re required not only to be familiar with them but actively apply them every day. Think, “The Parable of the Talents.”
Identify and list at least one unique talent, spiritual gift, and core value. For example:
unique talent: connecting people
spiritual gift: humility
core value: honesty
Make it a point to look for opportunities to apply each talent, gift, and value at least once a day. For example, if you have a talent for connecting people, seek out someone in need of networking for career or relationships.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Hannah Olinger
Rate Yourself in Each of the Three Fitness Areas
Once you’ve assessed your fitness in commitment, practices, and activation areas above, assess whether you are weak, average, or strong in each area. In selecting a Spiritual resolution, it’s important to focus on the areas requiring the greatest attention.
Write down your goals for areas where you score average or weak. Be careful not to overdo it – keep it manageable. Also, I suggest the “SMART” approach to goal setting:
Specific – Clearly state exactly what you intend to focus on.
Measurable – Say it in numbers! Identify your current baseline and set goals from there.
Action-oriented – Use language indicating what you’re going to do.
Realistic – Set goals that are within your reach and build from there.
Timebound – Avoid open-ended goals. Set a reasonable timeframe for achieving them.
About 50% of those making New Year’s resolutions abandon them in late January. By mid-February, the majority of people give up! To ensure you don’t become one of these statistics, I suggest that you keep a log tracking how well you’re doing on each goal. Review your log at least once a week and if you’re not hitting your targets, identify the barriers. Are there too many distractions, is there not enough time, are you allowing other commitments to crowd out your resolutions? Make the appropriate adjustments.
It’s also a good idea to share your goals with your spouse or a good friend and ask them to check-in with you on progress. In following these guidelines, you’ll be in a great position to strengthen and sustain your spiritual fitness as your priority this year!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Digitalskillet
Scott Ventrella is a high-profile executive coach, professor, and Christian leader based in New York. He has served as an executive at the Peale Center for Christian Living, coached clergymen, and has served for 30 years as a Catechist in his local parish. He has been a featured speaker at numerous congregations of all denominations as well as national conferences including Harvard Business School’s “Dean’s Conference on Leadership, Values, and Spirituality.” His most recent book, The 3rd Power: The Faith Formula to Soothe the Soul and Restore the Spirit (CrossLink Publishing) was released in November 2019.