10 Ideas for a Fruitful New Year
We’re just a couple of days away from the New Year and advice about resolutions is as bounteous as leftover Christmas fruitcake, and nearly as appetizing.
Since offering such advice is as traditional as eating aforementioned fruitcake at Christmas, I didn’t see any reason why I should be the one to overturn our Abeline Paradox and end the year without serving up some extraordinarily rich and heavy advice on how to prepare yourself for a fruitful New Year.
So, grab your espresso, or your snifter of cognac–either pairs nicely–and let’s dig in.
- Stop making New Year resolutions. Few people are able to keep even one beyond the first couple of weeks. Instead set SMART goals. Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-actionable.
Read the entire Bible in 2016. Typically, it takes about 10-15 minutes of reading each day to read through all sixty-six books in a year.
One simple method is to read by chapters. There are 1189 chapters in the Bible, so reading 4 chapters a day will take you through it in just under a year.
Another approach—and this is good for reading through a study Bible with notes included—is to divide the number of pages by 365 days and read the quotient of pages each day. For example, my ESV Study Bible has 2,497 pages (excluding the articles at the back). By reading only 7 pages per day, I could read the entire Bible with commentary in a year by investing just 20-30 minutes per day.
Another option is this website that will calculate how much time you need each day based on your personal reading speed.
Start a systematic reading plan. Overwhelmingly, evidence shows reading books increases your IQ, while watching TV decreases it. Yet, 24 percent of American adults never cracked a single book in 2015. Of the 76 percent that did, the average American adult only read about twelve books in 2015—about one per month.
Of course it’s easy to complain there’s not enough time to read, but the hours spent surfing the web, scrolling through Facebook, or binge watching Netflix and Youtube are more than adequate to develop a meaningful reading plan. We each have to decide what’s important and commit to it.
Years ago I decided to read at least one book per month. Surprisingly, it didn’t take half the year to accomplish that goal. Soon after, I bumped it up to one book per week. It was a little tougher, but eventually reading an average of 50 books per year was normal. These days, largely because of my work, I read about 3-5 books per week. Start small, then gradually increase; but start somewhere. Start this year.
Focus on repairing one troubled relationship. We all have at least one relationship that is frayed or estranged. Instead of waiting for the other party to come around, why not be intentional about taking the first step to restoring it in some meaningful way.
Of course some relationships, where the other party refuses to engage in sincere restorative dialog, may be beyond your ability to repair, but most can be restored by the humble act of repentance or the vulnerable act of offering forgiveness. Matthew 18:15-35 is helpful here.
Balance your financial life. Why not take an honest look at your financial situation and make a plan to move just one step in the right direction this year. Maybe you need to tithe on your income, start an investment portfolio, or make a plan to retire some debilitating debt.
It may seem overwhelming when you look at the whole picture, but it’s not difficult to take just one step in the right direction, then follow it with another, and another; before you know it, you’re plodding along on your way to financial freedom.
- Write poetry. Writing poetry is simultaneously challenging and inspiring. Learn the craft of rhyme and meter, imitation and imagination, and the art of wordsmithing. It’s not only beautiful, it can be therapeutic and cathartic. Regardless, it’s an exercise routine for your mind. The more you practice, the more cogent you think, the more clear you communicate, and the more attentive you are to the details in the world around you.
- Learn a new language. I read somewhere that our minds are more like a muscle than a shoe box. The expression was meant to convey the idea that you don’t run out of learning space in your brain case. Rather, the more you exercise your mind, the more agile and competent thinker and learner you become. In addition to it being a prescription for fighting Alzheimer’s and other memory degenerating diseases, learning a new language will open up new worlds and new opportunities you didn’t know existed.
- Take singing lessons or learn a musical instrument. Music is fundamental to a liberal education, and has always been a requisite for the cultured class. Besides being enjoyable, inspiring, healing, and comforting, it’s a integral part of the human experience. With the proliferation of information and instruction via the Internet, there is no excuse for not learning how to play music or sing. What? You don’t have an instrument and you can’t afford one. Watch the ingenuity of the Landfillharmonic, then tell me your excuse again.
Get in shape. America is full of tired, obese people. Believe me. I’m not anyone to judge. Saying so is not a judgment on any person’s value as a human being, either. It’s just a factual reality. The trouble is, being out of shape stultifies your creativity, robs you of energy, and statistically shortens your lifespan. That’s why one of my SMART goals for 2016 is to change that. Maybe that’s an area where you need to give attention too.
I’m not talking about fad diets. And I’m not talking about becoming a gym rat or spin head, necessarily. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with it, if that’s your thing. Getting in shape has never been easier—in theory. There is a plethora of information available on the web, besides gyms and personal trainers, health food stores, and supplement suppliers.
But there’s also good ole’ fashion accountability and meal planning; avoiding late-at-night meals, second helpings, unhealthy snacks, and excess carbs; there’s choosing fruits and vegetables instead of snickers bars and Micky D’s; and finally, there’s also running, walking, push ups, sit-up/crunches, jumping-jacks, jump rope—and if you’re really desperate for help, Richard Simmons has some videos on Youtube.
- Take a free course. It doesn’t have to be related your vocation. As a matter of fact, it would be better if you learned something unrelated to your present circumstance. I read of one college student who dedicated one hour per week to study subjects unrelated to his degree plan and career path. He pursued whatever interested him in the moment, like blacksmiths and architects, and got a real education for it. Curiosity is always the best fuel to burn in the engine of learning and education. What are you curious about?
How about starting the New Year with a free course on significance, art, and culture making?
In just a few weeks, I will be rolling out a free six-week course for culture makers—writers, teachers, students, church leaders, civic leaders, musicians and all creative types—really for anyone who wants to discover his or her significance in a noisy world, create meaningful art, and make a difference that matters.
I’d love to have you aboard. Sign up here to get more information. No spam. No obligation. Just relevant information.
I hope you found something to chew on–besides fruitcake–that will help you be fruitful in 2016. Happy New Year!
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He helps people cultivate their capacity to perceive and appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful by sharing rich insights into the arts and humanities, meaningful perspective on faith and culture, and valuable tips on writing and teaching. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.