The arrival of 2010 isn’t quite as fresh or exciting as starting a new millennium, now that we’re 10 years into 2K. But 2010 doesn’t just mark a new year. It kicks off a new decade. In that spirit, why not blow off the lame single New Year’s resolution approach and do something really big? Something impressive. Something … deca.
The following are five challenges for the New Year. There are two ways to approach this list. One: Pick a single challenge and do your best to accomplish it. When you do? Mark it off your list and feel good about yourself when 2011 rolls around.
Or, two: Take on all five challenges. Check off the entire list in 2010 and you’ll really have something to celebrate. Are you up for it? Don’t waste time. Better get crackin’.
1. Take the physical challenge.
It’s no secret anymore that exercise is good for you. It puts you in a better mood, helps you lose (or manage) your weight, boosts your energy level and can even extend your lifespan. So why aren’t more of us doing it? One reason is that exercise can be boring.
Who wants to plod away on a treadmill or do whatever weird move the elliptical makes you do at the gym?
Spice up your exercise this year by setting a wild, intimidating goal: Find a local endurance event, register for it and start training. Shoot for a 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles). Sign up for a nearby sprint triathlon (usually around a 400-yard swim, 15-mile bike and 5K run). Or go big and train for a half-marathon (13.1 miles) or marathon (26.2 miles).
Will it be difficult? Of course. You’ll have to be disciplined in getting your body in shape for it. But you’ll likely discover several things. The first is that it’s way easier to exercise when you’re training for a specific goal. The second is that those aforementioned benefits of regular exercise are actually true. And, third, you may find you enjoy it more than you think.
Exercise, after all, is addictive.
2. Memorize a chapter of the Bible.
You’ve no doubt heard of pastors or missionaries who memorized large chunks of the Bible, from theologically dense books like Isaiah or Romans to lengthy passages like the Sermon on the Mount. Such a feat isn’t
just impressive; it seems well-nigh impossible.
You may also have heard stories about persecuted or imprisoned Christians. Left without their Bibles, the only Scripture available to them was what they had memorized. Inspiring? Of course. But still pretty daunting.
But the Christian faith is built upon the words of the Bible. Plenty of believers can recite an important verse or two, but when it comes to “hiding” the Word within our hearts—like the psalmist says in Psalm 199:11—a majority of us fall woefully short.
It’s time to turn that around. Make it a goal this year not just to memorize a verse or two, but to commit to memory an entire chapter of the Bible. Pick a favorite, like Psalm 23 or 1 Corinthians 13. If the task turns out to be easier than you think? Up the ante: memorize a whole book. Philippians, James or 1 John are good candidates.
3. Reduce your carbon footprint in one major way.
How earth-friendly is your lifestyle? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably not enough. The truth is, there are countless ways each of us can reduce our impact on the planet. Make it a goal this year to implement one of the following ideas and diminish your footprint in a major way.
Don’t use your dryer for a year. You’ll consume less energy by drying your clothes the old-fashioned way: using air.
Replace all your incandescent bulbs with CFLs. They cost more in the short run but save money over a lifetime.
Turn off lights and unplug appliances when they’re not being used. Invest in power strips for your computer set-ups and home entertainment systems.
Drive substantially less this year. Take the bus, take the subway, join a carpool, ride a bike, use your feet. The less you drive, the better.
Start a garden. Discover what vegetables grow best in your climate and get them planted. It’s like your own private farmer’s market.
Start a compost pile. This doesn’t just provide you with beneficial compost for your garden, it reduces the amount of garbage you produce in the first place.
4. Learn to cook one mouth-watering dish.
A great goal for 2010—or any year—is to become a more well-rounded person. And while it’s great to get in shape or memorize Scripture or improve the environment, you’ve still got to eat, right? Then why not eat something delicious?
Or let me put it another way: few things impress a date, good friend or spouse like a man or woman who can rock the kitchen. Learning to cook is one of the most useful skills a person can possess. It has a surprising number of benefits beyond keeping you from being hungry. Cooking at home helps you save money, boost your confidence, and take control of your nutrition and diet. As a bonus, home-cooked meals generally taste better than carryout.
Whether you’re a total kitchen newbie or a Top Chef addict, resolve this year to master at least one great meal. Find a recipe in a cookbook or on the web (AllRecipes.com is a good place to start). Look it over, buy fresh ingredients and get cooking. Whether it’s roast chicken with rosemary or a killer slow-cooked chili, make 2010 the year you discover your signature dish.
5. Learn to pray a whole new way.
Ask any follower of Christ what he or she needs to improve on most, and “prayer” will be a popular answer. All of us could stand to pray more. Few believers need to be convinced of its benefits, but actually doing it—consistently and cheerfully—can become a chore.
How do you keep your prayer life fresh? Learn how to pray a new way.
If you typically pray mentally, try praying out loud. Find a time and place where you can do this without looking like a crazy person—or just hold your phone to your ear and no one will bat an eye.
If you tend to rely on spontaneous, off-the-top-of-your-head prayers, try praying according to a prayer book. The Book of Common Prayer is a good place to start. Another option? Pray Scripture.
Does prayer feel too intangible? Do you have trouble staying focused? Add a physical aspect to your prayer life by using prayer beads or rosaries. (Google “prayer beads” for abundant tips and products.) Or change your posture by kneeling, standing or lifting your hands.
Drop a few raisins into the oatmeal of your prayer life this year. I think you’ll be amazed by the results.
You can coast through the year, or you can do something big. Make 2010 the year you decide to go big.
This article can be found in the January/February 2010 issue of RELEVANT magazine.