A Happy New Year?
How three words might be a better alternative to making resolutions. By Darren Blaney
“Happy New Year.” Those three words will be said a lot over the next few weeks. Perhaps they will be said with slightly more force this year? Perhaps they will really mean, “Aren’t we glad to see the back of 2020! Let’s hope that 2021 is better.” However, as Dr John Maxwell says, “Hope is not a strategy”. If we want to 2021 to be better perhaps we need to ask, “how can I make it better?”
Could there be some other “three words” that we could use to build a better year? I want to share with you insights from two people who believe there are.
Setting Intentions. Brendon Burchard and the Study of High Performance.
Brendon Burchard was a laid-back university student until a near-fatal car crash transformed the direction of his life. It set him on a journey to discover what separated those who live and perform at high levels in life from those who don’t. His research has led to the establishment of a university department that specialises on the subject, as well as one of the largest research programs ever undertaken on the issue. One of the simpler conclusions Brendon’s research led him to was this: people perform well when they set intentions before every meeting, event, or appointment.
His advice for setting intentions is straight-forward, and as you may have guessed, involves three words. He suggests that before we enter any setting or meeting we simply ask ourselves “what three words describe the person I want to be in this situation?” That simple. That profound.
So, here are some examples that may help to illustrate this:
Before entering Church on a Sunday, I may set the intention that I will be welcoming, encouraging and open-to-God.
Returning home to my family, my intention might be that I will be caring, positive and affectionate.
Going in to a challenging meeting I might set the intention that I will be gracious, calm, and a listener.
I find that setting these three words encourages me to offer them to God as a brief prayer for help before I enter each and every new situation of the day, something similar to the example of Nehemiah.
Of course, this idea of selecting three words as an intention can be carried further, as Dan O’Connor suggests…
Developing a Personal Compass: with Dan you can
Dan O’Connor is a communications trainer and author based in the USA. He explains that he gets hundreds of requests each year from people asking him exactly what they should say in hundreds of different situations. Of course it would be impossible for him to answer each and every request. Even if he did, as he himself points out, that only tells you what to say in one situation. We likely face dozens of such challenging situations in the course of a year, let alone a lifetime. Instead of wondering what to say, Dan encourages people to think about who they want to be.
Dan’s idea, and I have personally found it very useful, is to develop what he calls ‘A Personal Compass’. He suggests that we take time to think about and answer each of the following three questions:
At my best, when I’m on a good day:
1. I am…?
2. I’m here to…?
3. I want…?
For each of these we need to generate as many words as possible. Of course what we are aiming for in these questions is not things associated with the outer trappings of success, but rather the inner things of character and heart. So don’t rush this process; spend a little time recording everything that comes to mind. To help give you a feel for this, here are some of my answers.
I am… caring, funny, larger-than-life, generous, kind
I’m here to…learn, love, grow, help others,
I want… peace, faith, to feel loved, respect, to be a blessing
The next step is to simplify your list. For each answer you should choose just three words that you want to describe your best you in the year ahead. (If you later decide you’ve chosen the wrong words, you can always come back and change them.) In essence we are choosing three words and setting our intention for our whole character, not just a specific situation.
Now pull your answers together by writing them down on a card. It will look a little like this:
[My Name]’s Personal Compass
I am [word #1], [word #2], [word #3]
I’m here to [word #1], [word #2], [word #3]
I want [word #1], [word #2], [word #3]
I would advise putting copies of this card wherever you will see them. My favourite places include bathroom mirror, bedroom door, steering wheel of the car, wallet, Bible, and on the desk in the office. Read the card several times every day, out loud if possible. Get it down into your heart and soul. This is who you know you can be at your best, who you aspire to be every day, who you know you want to be with God’s help. Indeed, having such a compass gives me something specific to pray about in the year ahead as I ask God to shape my character and make me more Christ-like.
Making It a Happy New Year
I commend these ideas to you and suggest you try one of them out with the New Year upon us. They are a powerful alternative to setting goals or resolutions. After all, what we intend to do in the next 12 months is of a secondary concern to who we intend to be. These ideas empower us. If we can bring our best self to each and every situation that lies ahead then it will not matter if we do not always know what to say or do because we will remember who to be.
Whatever 2021 brings to us, we know what we will bring to 2021--our best self, re-made in the image of God and indwelt by His Spirit. It is an extension of what John says, “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”
After the year we had, we all wanted to see the end of 2020 and to make 2021 a happier year. However, perhaps that is more down to us then we realise? We may not be able to control our circumstances but to a surprisingly large extent we can control who we are in those circumstances, and I believe that will prove to be more powerful.
So to make those three words ‘Happy New Year’ ring true, what three words will define you in the months ahead?
To find out more about Dan O’Connor, try out his Youtube channel on Online Communication Skills Training Courses
He explains the Personal Compass here, in his 11-min talk “Who am I? Self Inquiry - How to answer the question when it counts”.
Brendon Burchard can be found at https://brendon.com/
His book High Performance Habits detailing his research can be found at Amazon.
Image | Anna Tarazevich | Pexels
Darren Blaney is minister of Herne Bay Baptist Church
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