Sustainable Change

This is the first day of 2018.

And if I’m honest, 2017 was the fastest a year has ever gone by for me. Time is speeding up, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way.

As we’re all about to hang up our new calendars and break out the new planners, I want to talk a little bit about change.

We’ve all seen the ‘new year, new me’ statuses on Facebook and Instagram, seen the snaps of resolution lists and heard everyone discussing what they’re leaving in 2017. On Tuesday morning, thousands of people will flood the gym and bombard the produce section at grocery stores. A new year brings newfound commitment to eating plans, entrepreneurial pursuits, and trying new things.

But we’ve all experienced it – the slow fizzle that happens in the weeks following January 1. We slide back into old habits and routines, all that passion we felt is gone, and we realize that maybe spinning class isn’t worth the financial investment or the booty pain.

Kitchen Aids and stove-top griddles are wrapped up and shoved to the back of cabinets as commitments to cook more are dominated by stressful schedules and take-out plates. As life picks up, waking up at 4:30 AM to work out is looking like a No more than it’s looking like a Yes. Meditation routines are abandoned, old flames that we swore we’d left on the old calendar show up in our inbox once again.

Resolve wavers, plans fail, and we’ve slid right back to same. In what feels like an instant, we’re back at square one.

Why didn’t the change stick? Why didn’t we stay committed?

Well, I’ve had this exact same conversation with Yahweh recently, and He shared something with me that I’ve been chewing on for a few days. He said the infrastructure for sustainable change is invisible; meaning that external change is only permanent when something below the surface has changed permanently.

I began to think about myself and the gym. I started working out with a trainer in the third week of July. Since then, the longest I’ve gone without working out is five days. This is the most consistent I’ve ever been when it comes to working out in my entire life. I’m not athletic and I don’t really care to be. For the first time I started exercising with the intent of feeling stronger, not looking better. And it has made a huge difference.

When I started thinking about the countless number of times I’ve started a workout routine and stopped, I wondered why this time was different. And it came to me. My mindset has shifted.

That’s the key to change: not just changed actions, but a changed mind-set.

Passion swells and burns hot when we initially ‘commit’ to things, but after that passion has cooled, we tend to realize we never actually made up our minds. We decided to alter a behavior without addressing the root of its origin. And in my experience, if I don’t make up my mind about something completely, I will not stick with it. I’m self-aware enough to know when I’ll stick with something and when I won’t, because the difference between a flimsy commitment and a real one is the willingness to sacrifice. When the rubber hits the road and your new habit isn’t easy to carry on with, what is tethering you to sustaining that change? What truth are you holding on to? What underlying decisions have you and Yahweh sat down and made together that helps you stay grounded when the doing gets difficult? Discipline is only necessary when you don’t want to do it anymore.

Outward change must be supported by inward infrastructure. And many of us want changed lives but don’t want changed minds. We all have areas of our lives that we want to change; whether it’s something about our appearance, our relationships, our finances, our social life, or our career. Setting your sights on better and best is not a bad thing, but it would be unwise to believe that external change can be sustained without a shifted mindset.

So as you sit down with steaming cups of tea and coffee and write out your goals for the next 365 days, I implore you to invite Yahweh in on the conversation. Ask Him to highlight those areas of dysfunction in your life that may be blocking the manifestation of real change. Ask Him to help you do some digging so you can get to the bottom of harmful or untrue beliefs, and demolish outdated mindsets that will stop your change from taking root.

Real change often comes at a high cost, and the reason why so many of us take the east route or starting and stopping is because true change goes hand in hand with sacrifice. You cannot and will not change what you’re not willing to sacrifice for. As you go down the list and write down the game plans you’ll need to keep going, ask yourself what you will need to sacrifice for the sake of change. Are you willing? The answer to that question will determine whether or not you stick with your resolutions.

Maybe you won’t become a body builder this year, but maybe you finally get to the bottom of your emotional eating habit, and learn to manage your feelings in a healthier and effective way. Maybe you won’t find and marry the man of your dreams, but what if you really got to know yourself, discovered what you’re passionate about, and started taking bold steps toward building yourself and your future? What if you stopped waiting on someone else to make you happy, and decided with Yahweh’s help to find joy, peace, and contentment within yourself?

This kind of change matters because it’s the process of becoming a better person. You change your life from the inside out, and I believe that if we do a better job of building something on the inside, change would come so much easier on the outside.

Let’s get to work.

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