I've never made New Year's resolutions before, but I think this is a great year to start. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” I know that there are a lot of things in my life that aren't even right in my own eyes when I look back on them, and if even a fool thinks his way is right, what does that make me?
Three specific, and related, areas of my life that need serious development right now are my time in the Word, my physical fitness, and my financial readiness. From these areas, I've made six resolutions.
- Read through my Bible this year; the entire thing, cover to cover, reading at least a chapter every single day. I find that the more I read the Bible, and the more often I read the Bible, the more resolute I am to follow God's ways rather than my own. Reading the entire thing in a year seems to be a fairly common baseline for committed Christians; there are plenty of resources out there on how to do it.
Resolutions 2, 3, and 4 are all based on financial stewardship of the blessings God gives me. Aside from tithing, I believe that God wants us to act wisely with our money. Not to hoard wealth, but to live simply and within our means, while staying prepared for the future and helping others whenever possible. “A fool and his money are soon parted;” too often I have been the fool.
Never use my credit card. Once upon a time, I wanted a credit card to build credit, but I now have other loans (student and auto loans) that will accomplish that purpose, and in the last few months, I have lived outside my means by buying on credit. No more. Not that my situation is dire; my credit debt has been paid down already. But there is no reason to allow myself the leeway to get into that situation again.
Contribute the maximum amount to my Roth IRA account. I've done this since 2006; despite the recent economic downturn, I know that stocks should, in the long run, return about ten percent, and I want to continue to build wealth that way.
Build a three-month emergency fund. While I'm fairly certain my employment is secure for the foreseeable future, there are still lots of little calamities that could happen, and I want to be sure that I can handle them. I picked six months because that seemed like a reasonable number, and I intend to build the fund to whatever my monthly income is times six. However, there are other things in my budget too, and saving 60 percent or more (to meet resolution 3 as well as build a six-month emergency fund) of my income is basically impossible, so I chose three months as a more reasonable goal. I'll save more next year until I reach six months’ income, rated at whatever my income is at that point.
To complete resolutions 3 and 4, I automatically transfer $500 to a savings account marked “Emergency Fund” each time I get paid (twice a month). At some point during the year, when I have three months’ salary saved plus $5000, I'll move that $5000 into my Roth IRA. Check into the automatic transfers options for whatever bank you use online. I find that if the transfer happens the same day I get paid, there's always enough in my account to cover it and I can't easily access the money, which checks me from spending it.
Get my two-mile run time under 15 minutes. There was a time a few years ago when I could run two miles in 14 minutes. Yesterday it took me almost 16. One or two minutes should be nothing to drop off a run, right? Well, I hate running; not so much the act as the dread it represents, of knowing quantitatively how badly out of shape I am. But my body belongs to the Lord, and I should treat it as such and keep it in the best working order I know how.
Finish the Navigators’ “Design for Discipleship” series of Bible studies. I'm currently in book two and ashamed to say I've made little progress in the last two months. Going back to resolution 1, I know I need to focus more on saturating myself in God's Word. Doing a Bible study with a committed group is a great way to augment my personal reading. I'm going to do one chapter a week.
My last resolution doesn't necessarily deal with my three focus areas, but it forces me to think about them on a regular basis, keeping them in the front of my mind.
- Blog at least once a week, plus a monthly update on my resolutions. This blog is meant to center around what it means to really be a man and around my work to become one and be one (yes, those are different things, and no, they don't necessarily have any particular order). It's mostly for my own thoughts, since I have to focus a lot more when I'm putting stuff out in a public forum… I have to really consider my words before I declare something to be what it is. By posting an update on these resolutions, I'll keep myself accountable to whoever might pass by on teh interwebs.