It’s been a couple of years now since I repented of New Year’s resolutions. I knew it was time when somebody asked me about mine a few years ago and I said, “Oh, you know, the usual.”
(Totally irrelevant side note: Wouldn’t be funny to go into a gym today or tomorrow and find some dude who’s built like a tank and who looks like he’s lifting one and say to him as those muscles rip through his shirt – “Ya’ know, those New Year’s resolutions never really work.” Anyway…)
That’s why when somebody introduced me to Mike Ashcroft’s idea and book a few years ago it really hit a nerve. The idea is very simple: Build your year around one simple word – one theme that describes who or where you want to be at the end of the year. What amazes me is how easy it is to land on a theme based on what I call my descants of the soul – the themes that seem to be repeating themselves in my life recently.
In 2011, my one word was Finish! I didn’t finish a lot, but it was exciting to think about. Lean was the word in 2013. And my one word for 2014 was One. Both have been helpful in shaping my thinking and focus for the year.
This one is different. It’s more of a call to action, and frankly, a part of me doesn’t like it. I’ve reached a point in my life where a significant part of me is screaming out for quiet, simplicity, retreat, and life on the porch.
Not time for that yet.
So the word for this year: Advance.
Ugh. Sounds like work, doesn’t it?
Actually I’ll be working regardless. The point here is taking the initiative to move forward in the direction of God-given vision, claiming and celebrating progress along the way.
Advance. Sometimes that means waging war against fear, despair, or idleness. Sometimes it means something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Either way, while we do have the privilege of Sabbath-type rest, we don’t have the luxury of careless coasting.
The primary dictionary definition of “advance” is “to move forward in a purposeful way.” In other words, you can’t know you’re advancing unless you know what or where you’re advancing to. This calls for clarity – and redefinition – of purpose. Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish? And what does progress toward that purpose look like?
Purpose needs to be revisited often – not because it should be changed, but because of how easy it is to lose sight of it once we grasp what our purpose in life is. What has surprised me most throughout all the changes I have experienced in life is not the changes themselves, but now unchanging my sense of purpose has been, regardless of the circumstances.
Advance, properly understood, is actually liberating. It sets you free from the get-it-done-today mentality that breeds perfectionism and compulsive living. As they say in Recovery, “We claim progress, not perfection.”
Earl Nightingale, one of the pioneers of the modern success movement, defined success as the “progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” He didn’t just make room for progress – he coronated it. In other word, as long as the ideal is worthy, advancing is its own form of success.
To advance a date on the calendar means to move it forward – to step it up. To advance an idea is to put it out there in front of the group for consideration (and yes, risk of rejection).
In other words, advance is a leadership word. It’s a word that speaks of change and initiative. People who advance shake things up. They aren’t willing to accept the status quo if the status quo isn’t acceptable. They’re willing to suggest new solutions, try new ideas, or start new or sometimes taboo conversations if they mean moving forward.
Lest you think that advancing is only about self-interest, it also involves promoting the vision and causes of others. In my case that starts with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever my narrow self-interests or causes, I have never shed blood for them. I have never given my sinless life in exchange for the sins of the world. I have never had the authority, love, or worthiness to offer everlasting life to people who were completely unworthy of it.
But I’ve met Someone who has, and is worthy. And He’s worthy of an investment of my life in advancing His truth and His gospel so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
So there it is – my one word for 2015. I think I have some work to do. But all I have to do today is today’s work of advancing.
There’ll be plenty more tomorrow where I left off today.
So what’s your one word for 2015? Feel free to share in the comments below. And Happy New Year!
Elsewhere on LifeVesting