January 17 is a special day. It’s designated Ditch Your New Year Resolutions Day. Research based on social media posts suggests that most people give up on their resolutions on 12 January so there might not be many resolutions to ditch on the official day.

Human beings have been making resolutions for 4000 years and we still can’t do it right! The ancient Babylonians tried. Four thousand years ago they promised the gods annually to pay their debts and to return borrowed things to their rightful owners during their Akitu festival at seed-planting time (mid-March). In 46AD Julius Caesar declared January 1 to be New Year. People offered sacrifices to the god Janus and promised good conduct in the year ahead. In 1740 John Wesley established the Covenant Renewal Service (‘watch night’ service) of hymns, prayer and Bible reading to counter the carousing of the general public.

The most common resolutions made these days concern personal health - fitness, diet, smoking, drinking - and learning new things. Advertisers know this and do their best to make us aware of what they offer in these areas.

Here are my tips for resolutions:

  • Don’t get too carried away. With resolutions, the fewer the better

  • Recognise that resolutions are about change. Ask, ‘Where do I want the most change in my life?’

  • Try roles and goals (that has a nice ring to it)

  • Try a personal mission statement

My friend, Mike Baer, suggests that we shouldn’t worry too much about making resolutions as such and offers the alternative of a roles and goals approach. His is a three-step approach:

  • Identify your roles, six at most (I am a CEO, pastor, part-time lecturer, husband, father and grandfather)

  • Establish a few goals f(maximum of four) for each role, nominating a target date for completion (which may be less or more than one year)

  • Take about 30 minutes each week to review progress and answer the question, ‘What can I do next week to move one or more of my goals forward?’

An alternative that you might consider is to establish a personal mission statement. I did this about 25 years ago and revise it periodically. The current version of my personal mission statement says:

To be a man who loves God, His word and His ways by:

  • being a godly husband and father/grandfather

  • communicating God’s grace, mercy and love to all those with whom I have contact each day

  • discipling those around me at work, church and home

  • exercising ‘3S leadership’ - servant, shepherd, steward

  • propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ by promoting missional business thinking wherever I am

  • appropriating all that God has provided for me through Jesus - peace, protection, provision, power and purpose; blessing spiritual, mental, physical, financial and social.

If you make resolutions or try one of the methods above, be encouraged by Paul’s assurance to the church in Thessalonica:

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes 1:11-12, NRSV).