The new year is a chronological starting pistol. About 40% of Americans make a resolution to do, change or start something for the new year. Yet halfway through the year, less than half who committed to a goal were sticking with it.So is there a process to a new year’s resolution—or starting something new in general—that will lead to success? In 2 Corinthians 8 we see an example of something that happened, start to finish. The Macedonian church working to collect funds for poorer churches. The Apostle Paul wrote of this:
And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:10-12
Make a plan. The charity of the Macedonian church had been in the works for more than a year. This was not passing the offering plate in a few seconds on a Sunday. This was an ongoing, deliberate, sacrificial collection for the church; an act of obedience and spiritual growth on the part of the Macedonians. They had a plan.
It turns out that a new year’s resolution is actually very effective. Dr. John Norcross, a clinical psychologist at the University of Scranton, completed a 2002 study on making resolutions. He found “46 percent of resolution-makers successfully worked toward their goal, while only 4 percent of those who didn’t make a resolution saw their desired outcome become a reality six months later.”
Starting a worthwhile endeavor, then, begins with a plan. What are you setting out to accomplish, and why? Write it down, set a timetable and some milestones along the way to gauge your progress.
Have a willing mind. Without the desire to do something, however beneficial, it is likely to falter. Paul commended not only the work of the Macedonian church but “also [the] desire to do it.” Starting something new is an act of leadership. You will not successfully lead out in anything that you have no passion or heart to see accomplished.
Vision is a clear picture in your mind of something that you desire to see happen. A dream, a goal, an idea, that you wish to achieve. Vision does not have to come from God, but God-directed vision will always lead to God-honoring results. Read the Bible, pray, talk with colleagues. A willing mind is open to achieving something new or different. A willing mind is also tuned to God-directed steps along the way. Christ-honoring leaders have a tendency to put forth a vision and a plan, and then ask God to bless it. Instead, be listening for God, ready to hear, and obey, with passion for His work, to be accomplished through your life, and/or your organization.
Work with what you have. There was no project prospectus and venture capital rounds of funding available in Paul’s era. The Macedonian church worked with the resources they had. When you’re starting something, take stock of the resources you have available to you before looking for new resources to add to the endeavor. What do you have to begin with in terms of ideas, manpower, finances, time and talents?
Do your homework. You wouldn’t take a long road trip without looking at your fuel level, or checking the tires and oil level. Sometimes working with what you have means a time of preparation—gathering resources, putting pieces into place to give the effort a better start toward success.
Stick to it. Finally, Paul’s admonishment to the Macedonians is, “So now finish doing it as well…” Starting something must lead to a conclusion that delivers on what you promised. Among the most important elements for any project is closure. Did you finish, or stall out along the way? Or worse, do you find yourself in a perpetual motion loop, never really finishing, but continuing to consume resources with no end in sight?
The goal, or end point, is important to starting anything worthwhile. It will be difficult to persevere through to your goal if you have no specific ending in mind. Inertia, the tendency of something to continue in motion once it begins, is hard to achieve once a project stops or stalls. A study by the University of California, Irvine, reveals that we are interrupted an average of every three minutes during the day.These constant starts and stops leave many of our valuable projects in a kind of purgatory, waiting to be completed. Paul’s instruction to “finish well” is easier to follow when the end goal is clear and meaningful.