I reflect on my past year during Christmas, and with Advent wrapping up now there’s no better time to do this. I don’t wait around for New Year’s to make resolutions, because us Catholics get a month head start on everyone else (Advent, people). I’m using the term “resolution” loosely, because as much as I loathe the term, I’ve realized its actually beneficial to reflect on what my goals will be this upcoming year, which gives us a chance to set up short term and long term goals to meet.
New year “resolutions,” or long-term goals, as I call them, need to be realistic. And the term “realistic” does not mean that you set the bar low. What I mean is that if you are going to try to lose 30 lbs. this year, you need to set a short-term goal, such as running every other day for a week. By setting up short-term goals, we not only see our progress, but it emboldens us to keep going, despite any missteps that we might have during the year. In order to win the long game, we need to first conquer the short game.
Keeping our goals grounded is critical in how we carry ourselves, because if they are not reasonable, they will only disappoint us. It is all too often that New Year resolutions bring about frustration for those who make them, and scoffing from those who don’t. I have often created high goals and I often fail to meet my goal. Then when it’s time to try again, I don’t. I’ve done this in the past with my goals of writing a little every day, or even running every other day. As soon as I miss a day, or a couple days, I throw in the towel and give up. This isn’t healthy, and I soon realized that is not how I should be conducting my endeavors.
Our faith lives can conform to short/long term goals as well. There will be times of spiritual fruitfulness, then dry spells in prayer. During those dry seasons, I struggle to keep my relationship with God up, and even maintain a moderate prayer schedule. It’s all about maintaining a habit that keeps us on track, yet it can push us out of our comfort zone. It is up to our willpower to stay in the habit, despite this and to keep going.
Purity works in this way too, specifically the problem of porn. Setting small goals with porn can be extremely helpful. It is often harder, if not almost impossible to drop viewing porn, unless we have help. Dropping something such as viewing porn “cold turkey” is admirable but uncommon. Although things like porn addiction require more than simply “short term goals,” it’s a start in fighting back against that destructive habit.
Realistic goals help us with communicating with others, because by knowing ourselves and our limitations, it reflects how we view others too. How we conduct our actions and habits impact how we can accept another person’s actions and/or failings. Their faults or gifts become more acceptable or praiseworthy if we have this realistic mindset. We can have a more authentic view of the world by simply having a more grounded idea of our goals.
Having just completed the season of Advent, we should take the time for renewal, which I believe we take for granted. Sure, there are plenty of festivities to participate in, a lot of holiday related traditions; the season can be rather noisy. There is also a call from our faith to dwell in the quiet that underlies this season. I take this cue from the first Christmas, where the Holy family shared a moment that was the most peaceful in all of human history. Our culture has done a fair job with making the Christmas season one of the most materialistic and commercially overloaded times of the year. Instead of going along with the crowds it should be a challenge to us to return to the basics and revel in our families. After all, Advent means “waiting.” so too should we wait on ourselves as we slowly meet our goals.
Alexander Pyles is a graduate philosophy student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, having already completed his Bachelors in Philosophy and Writing. He is hoping to break into the world of novel writing, and is currently applying to enter into a Master in Fine Arts program. Originally from Virginia Beach, VA, he misses the sun, sand, and ocean. You can keep up with his (many) thoughts on his personal blog, Writing is Speaking (http://aspauthor.wordpress.com/)