THE BLOG
01/02/2014 12:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

New Year's Resolutions Simplified

PeskyMonkey via Getty Images

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It's officially the new year. And that means one thing: obsessive thoughts about how we're going to change.

There's this unmistakable, on-going longing in us to better ourselves. And it shows up strong every January.

I bet if you close your eyes you can feel it right now.

Statistics show millions of us will make resolutions to change this month. With willpower running high, and the Twitterverse abuzz with people talking up how they're going to transform, we each make our list. All the ways we're going to grow, learn and improve.

The weight we will lose, the eating habits we'll improve, the debt we will pay off, the books we will finish and the new job we'll land.

And along with the willpower surge, we start to feel performance-anxiety surging too.

Now we've got to throw out the Doritos, figure out how to eat Paleo, get to the gym regularly, create a budget and actually follow it and fill out profiles on Linked In and Monster.com.

Life picks up pace after the holidays and before we know it, we've missed a week at the gym. We're stopping at Steak & Shake for lunch between meetings. We keep opting for TV legal dramas over an evening with our Kindle. And we buy not one, but two pairs of unneeded yet fabulous shoes that are definitely not in our budget. This is the point at which we decide that we've failed. That we just can't change.

And most of us give up until next January's willpower surge. This pattern of trying like crazy for a few weeks, then backing off -- either wittingly out of exhaustion or unwittingly out of distraction -- before giving up entirely will never bring the results we desire.

Change is possible but focus is required. What we need is sustained focus over time.

An entire list of behaviors we plan to stop or start this year is not focus. It's a recipe for overwhelm. And twenty-one days or six weeks is not long enough to make something a solid part of your character, which is what it takes to see sustainable growth.

So how do we position ourselves for solid change in 2014? It's easier than you think. Seven years ago I discovered a simple, effective way to bring sustained focus and growth into my life. Rather than make a long list of ways that I'm going to renovate my life, with visions of an all new me by Valentine's Day, I make a different sort of list each January. I now make a list of words from which I will choose one to be my focus for the twelve months ahead.

Just one word that represents what I most hope God will do in or through me in the year to come. I call it "my one word."

And then I purpose to keep that word before me all year long. I commit to thinking about it, praying about it, journaling my thoughts about it and letting it become a lens through which I look at my life in the months ahead. I let it become the filter through which I make decisions that year.

And most importantly, I let my desired transformation in that area rest on God's capable shoulders rather than mine. The way I see it, my job isn't to change me this year; my job is to stay in a focused, submitted position before the One who creates, redeems and transforms.

My aim now is to do something about one thing each year, rather than nothing about everything. Interestingly, I've found that my one word always spills over into unexpected areas of my life and character -- it changes me in ways I never thought about when choosing that word.

So while I zero in with laser-like focus on this one thing, the positive effects ripple outward.

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Have you been thinking about the ways in which you want to change? Making self-promises about loosing 15 pounds, giving up diet soda, organizing your closets, reading through the Bible in a year, getting up earlier and never running late again?

We have to stop expecting a whole-life overhaul to happen in the first three weeks of each new year. We also have to learn how to take the pass/fail pressure off, without putting the brakes on our efforts to grow and change.

I suggest taking a one-word approach to 2014. What have you got to loose, besides a list of broken promises and feelings of ineffectiveness?

Pick a word, let it become your lens, and watch what unfolds.

Learn more at www.myoneword.org and post your one word for 2014 -- you can receive monthly reminders to focus on your word. Or pick up a copy of My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word.

Have you chosen a word for 2014 yet?