Know Your Why

New Perspective on Resolutions Series

“People lose their way when they lose their why.”

I am a New Year’s resolutions dropout! I have a long track record of failing to accomplish any ‘resolution I have ever made, so I decided to stop making them. A couple of years ago, I discovered a different perspective to take on New Year goal setting that I look forward to sharing with you. Before we get into the new method for goal setting we need to look at two foundations of goal-setting that are critically important to their success. The first is…know your why.

Why are you setting that goal?

As I reflect on my life and reread all my journal entries I can see clearly that there have always been two driving reasons for my goals—

Should and Shame

I should lose weight, save money, and be more organized. I should read to my kids more, do more devotions, cooking and crafts with them, not to mention be more consistent with device time, homework and chores expectations. I should serve more, be better about home maintenance, make more meals at home—more home cooked ones at that—and I should like it…

All of this and I haven’t even left the house, so just add on the list of ‘shoulds’ for volunteering, or working at church, or building a business, or educating myself.  The list goes on and on for pages. You know the feeling right? You see something someone else is good at or doing and you add it to your internal “should” list…

In psychology, this is referred to as the “tyranny of the should.” An accurate description as our ‘should’ list IS a tyrant! With that tyrant comes the shame…the shame of not measuring up. The feeling that something is defective or wrong with you that keeps you from being able to do ‘everything’ that others seem to be able to do.

Shame can be heard in the way we talk to ourselves when we feel like we’ve failed again at being or doing what we should; a way we would never dream of talking to another human being. Shame beats us up with names like…idiot…loser…stupid…unlovable…worthless…

I don’t think I’m alone in this. My guess is the majority of us could say that ‘should’ is a large factor in the why of our goal making each year. And shame is the result of failing again at accomplishing the ‘shoulds.’

A “why” that is founded on should and shame won’t stand the test of time and life. Should and shame are not motivating or encouraging, they are only paralyzing. There is no grace in should and shame…we need a deeper, more meaningful why.

Jesus in Matthew 25 tells the ‘parable of the talents’. Parables are stories that help us better understand God by explaining things about him in ways we can comprehend. Talent, in this parable, refers to money; however do not miss the importance of our current definition of this word.

In the parable a king calls three servants to him and gives them talents to be responsible for while he is gone. To one he gives 10 talents, to the next 5 and to the third 1. Upon his return he calls the servants back to him to see what they have done with what he gave them. The first shows a return of 10 more talents in addition to the original 10, and the king says, “Well done, I will put you in charge of 10 cities.” The second shows 5 more for 5 given and again the king says, “Well done, I will put you in charge of 5 cities.” However the third servant returns only the original 1. And the king is furious, saying “even the one I gave you will be given to the servant with 10.”

Here is what I want you to notice in this story; the king never compared the return of the 2nd servant to the return of the 1st. He never asks the one he gave 5 to why he didn’t return 10 like the first one did? It was never a matter of comparing one to the other…it was only ever about each doing something with what they had been given. He only compared their return against their individual potential return to see if they had done all they could with what they had been given.

This parable gives us the better “why.” We set goals and create New Year’s resolutions in order to ‘grow.’ To move forward with what we have been given and grow it.

Growing is a slow—one step at a time, one day at a time—experience that sometimes feels like crawling—hardly making any movement forward. It is a growing that happens through life experience, conflict, difficulty and work. No one ever grew in calm and comfort and ease.

Where ‘should’ beats us up with shame, growing offers us grace and acceptance. Grace for the slow process true growth requires, and acceptance of how we are made without comparing us to each other.

What if, at the end of life, the main question God asks us is—did you grow? Did you grow in love, in peace, in patience, in joy, in kindness, in faithfulness, in gentleness, in self-control and in depending on Me?

Find your why in growing and you will find a deep source of motivation and encouragement for accomplishing goals!