We’re well into February already and I find myself wondering what happened to my great aspirations for the New Year.
There are a million goals: stick to my budget better, lose 10 pounds, yell at my kids less. (Wait: I yell at my kids?) But for me, my big aspirations are always about business. I see all of these advertisements in my inbox every day about maximizing inflows, gaining social media followers and getting our products to a wider market. There is so much more we can and should be doing, and I beat myself up that my business doesn’t seem nearly as successful as some other stationery designer across the country. (Instagram: I hate you. I love you. I hate you).
I find myself believing that if I could just pull myself together and accomplish XYZ… If I just worked harder, everything would change. All my dreams would become reality if I just pushed harder.
We do this. We convince ourselves that the end result is the thing that matters most, and the only thing that stands between us and being “a success” is the time and effort it takes to achieve that goal.
But I’ve found over the years that setting goals like losing 10 pounds or earning 10% more income or even gaining 20 social media followers aren’t realistic. I have zero control over those things. I don’t have control over the end result, only the small steps I take to get there. And honestly, those steps are sometimes to the beat of, “two forward, one back.”
A few years ago, I found myself consistently praying for more money. If you’ve followed The Happy Envelope or heard our personal story, you know about what Ty and I call the years of “manna in the desert.” It was lean. It was very, very lean.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for what you need. As a matter of fact, those hard years were a training ground for fostering my prayer life and faith. But at some point, we did begin to earn a little bit more money, and you know what—things didn’t feel like they changed. I started to get what I thought I needed (a little bit more money) but the peace, contentment and security I expected to experience were still lacking.
That’s when I started praying about peace, contentment and security instead of more money. You know what happened? A neighbor introduced me to a new budgeting software that changed my life. This system—that I still use today—equipped me to save, set aside money for giving and generally feel much more in control of what we had. This sense of organization and control gave me peace, and even a spirit of generosity that I lacked. It was heart-changing for me.
The hardest part about goals, the part where we grow, is in focusing on the plan and giving yourself grace. You cannot change bad habits or create good habits overnight. The new year, the new week, the new day doesn’t magically create a new you. You create a new one over time by doing your best every day to work toward change.
If January has come to a close and you haven’t seen any progress in your new year’s resolutions, maybe the best thing you can do is give yourself grace. Remember the journey—the tiny steps, one at a time, and consider how your heart posture is changed in the process.
I’d say that any goal, any step toward a dream or a change, is, In the words of Eugene Peterson, “a long obedience in the same direction.” Enjoy the journey.
PS: That budgeting app that changed my life is called YNAB (You Need A Budget). Check it out!