It was January 6th, 2019. I was in the McDonald’s drive thru and the voice came on the intercom and asked what I would like to eat. I answered with my regular order, and afterwards the woman asked if I would like a drink with that. Instinctively I said that I would like a large Diet Coke. I got my food. Paid. And then drove away, sipping on my soda.
Maybe a mile down the road and I realized my folly. Only six days prior I had made a New Year’s resolution that I would give up soda. Six days and I had already broken one of my vows.
Every year, people set out to start or stop many things. They resolve to lose weight. Gain muscle. Read more. Learn a new language. Travel somewhere exotic. Go back to school. Run a marathon. And so on. However, before many of us realize, we are breaking the very goals we had set out to achieve. December rolls around, and we think, next year will be different.
Who am I becoming?
That’s not a thought I have very often. I live most of my days on auto pilot.
I go to work. I eat. I read and try to achieve some type of goal. I distract myself with media. I drink coffee. I do my best to stay up to date on what’s going on in the world. I had to stop going on twitter, because I’m sure it wasn’t good for my blood pressure. I see family. I hang out with friends. I complain. I talk about what I wish were different. I laugh. And I do it all again the next week.
I don’t always question how my decisions are forming me, or if I am becoming a worse version of myself. I just keep living hoping things turn out well. Although, maybe there is a better way. Maybe, there is a way that allows me to do more than just coast. Maybe, I can live again. Fully and freely.
I am a rule follower by nature. I am not the rebellious type who likes to push the limits. Although, I am quick to ask why? Why are we doing this, and not that? Why is this restricted, but that’s okay? Why can we say this, but that’s off limits? It’s not that I am trying to be difficult. I am just want to know that there is a reason for the rule. Although for most, I think that people find rules to be something downright deplorable.
It feels restrictive. It seems like self-denial. It appears to be some kind of disciplinary action, which is weird for a culture that wants to be judgement free.
Rules are not something most people want to embrace. And yet, we resolve to do so much every year. And before too long, our goals disintegrate and break. They become brittle when they come into contact with reality.
Our resolutions are quite similar. They are grand declarations of change and yet they are often too fragile. They are far too concerned with the end goal and not the journey. This is where resolutions fall apart. They are black and white. Offering you an enticing end goal, without the flexibility of life figured in.
Resolutions don’t count the little successes along the way. It only works if you achieve the designated end. If not, you have failed. That may serve as an overstatement, but that’s why we only share “before” pictures once we have the “after” pictures. I fear that far too many of us measure success only as goals if achieved in full.
What if there is a better way to growth? What if resolutions aren’t the answer?
I believe that the way to lasting growth and change starts when we create a rule of life. But what is a rule of life? Pete Greig explains, “A Rule of Life is a set of principles and practices we build into the rhythm of our daily lives…” This practice is nothing more than creating a plan for who you want to become. The difference is apparent in the time frame.
A rule of life is not nearly as concerned with the end success, but rather the little wins along the way. A rule of life is built upon the realization that change happens over time. It is the culmination of little things, little decisions, little accomplishments that lead us to bigger and better opportunities.
This is different because it is less concerned with the end goal and much more focused on who you are becoming in the process. The journey from here to where you want to be next year, and the year after, and the year after that.
As you lose weight, are you becoming healthier. Or are you just concerned with calories and carbs? As you read more, are you trying to stretch your thinking. Or are you just filling you brain with more of the same? As you craft a budget, are you budgeting so you can have margin and become more generous or are you just reacting to rock bottom?
Resolutions have an open and a close. For most its January 1st to December 31st. For others it can be any time of the year. Something might pop-up in your life that you want to change or improve. A rule of life on the other hand is rhythm of life. It is flexible to life and circumstance, but because it is about holistic formation, it has no set time frame.
Instead, it is a new rhythm for your life.
For many, diets don’t work because they are momentary. I will cut out carbs for a season. I’ll do a juice cleanse for the next month. I’ll be Keto until I lose the desired weight. The problem is the rhythm of your life is exactly the same. So whenever you finally hit the weight you want, if you go back to the way you were before, all of the work will be undone. Deits don’t work, at least long term.
But by making a decision to be healthier, both in food and activity, any growth will remain. Being healthy is a way of living. It isn’t something you start and stop in a month. It’s something you start as a new rhythm.
Resolutions are like dieting. They work momentarily, but they don’t create lasting change. They only help give quick results, which become anecdotal success. Although, in due time, the progress will be lost. A rule of life helps us reset and choose a new rhythm for our lives.
Who am I becoming? This question is centered on the reality that every decision you make is important and impactful. Change is a journey, not a destination. And everything belongs in our process of formation. And yet, unlike resolutions and goals, a rule of life has the flexibility to bend and not break because it is has now become our rhythm.
So where do I start? Right here.
The beauty of jazz is the ability to improvise. Any member of the band can hijack the song and lead it in a different, and yet equally inspired direction. There is a lot of history associated with the idea of rhythm changes when it comes to jazz. People choose to change the rhythm of the song only when they believe that there is something better that is achievable.
I think this applies to our lives as well.
Next year may be different, but so is tomorrow. So let’s stop waiting for change. The best time to start the journey to growth is now. You have power over who you are becoming, but no single resolution will make a lasting impact. We need to look at the root and rhythm of our lives, and reset the course to a better rule of life.
There is so much more to celebrate, so many little wins in the process, and a rule of life allows us to open our eyes to who we are becoming. But more than that, a rule of life gives us the opportunity for a rhythm change along the way.
As we approach this new year, but even more so, this new decade, may we choose a new rhythm for our lives. May we be open to the improvisation of life, and be flexible to the journey.
Who am I becoming?
I hope something good.