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Evaluating Resolutions

January 4, 2022

This week, millions of people made New Year’s resolutions.

Maybe you’re one of them. People write down their goals—things they want to do or things they want to stop doing. These resolutions might be professional or personal. They might be focused on losing weight or growing a business. They could be the first step to pursuing a dream or an important relationship. The bottom line is that people make promises, to themselves and others, many of which will ultimately be broken.

I’m not against resolutions. And to be honest, the greatest problem with New Year’s resolutions is not the risk that we may not keep them.

Instead, the biggest issue is that these lists focus mainly on what we are going to do and often overlook why we are going to do it. Without acknowledging the driving force that motivates you to accomplish something, it’s challenging (read: almost impossible) to stay committed over time.

It’s difficult to identify one single motive that drives what we do each day, but I believe that most of our decisions and actions fall into one of the following categories: survival, approval, fun, and calling.

1. Survival

We all make decisions necessary to survive in this life. Many of us have jobs so we can pay the bills, put food on the table, and meet the needs of our family. This desire to survive is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s necessary, but in isolation, it is simply not enough to fulfill us long term.

2. Approval

In some way, shape, or form, each of us has a desire be accepted and respected by our peers, mentors, and subordinates. We feel a surge of excitement when people like our Instagram photos and retweet our thoughts from the day. The words of affirmation cause us to hold our head higher and swell with pride. Seeking the approval of others drives our decisions and actions, but this motivation only leads to fleeting moments of satisfaction in our boosted egos. And it can actually be dangerous because when the approval flees, our sense of self-worth goes away with it. As Steven Furtick said, “He who lives by the approval of others will die by the absence of the same.”

3. Fun

People are often motivated by pleasure. We seek adventure in the places we go and revel in any entertainment outlet offered to us. We seek things that please us and help us escape from the pressures of everyday life. The problem is that we can’t escape forever, and just like the rush that comes with man’s approval, the pleasures of fun won’t last.

4. Calling

Survival, approval, and fun are all things that motivate us to act, but ultimately, the only motivator that leads to a life of fulfillment is calling.

Ultimately, we should be motivated by our calling in this life. Your calling is rooted in who you are and what you believe.

This calling allows you to exercise your gifts and do something you enjoy that can impact the world around you.  A calling does not always have to be a career or a job. For some of us, our jobs give us a sense of calling, but for others, a volunteer organization, a relationship, or a role at home might reveal a personal calling. A sense of calling may not change what you do, but it always infuses what you do with meaning.

As you launch in to 2022, begin to think about why you do certain things. If you’re focused on the what the not the why, you’ll spend this year feeling unfulfilled.

Success this year will not only be determined by what you do, but also why you do it.


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