I don’t make New Year’s resolutions…especially when I don’t get around to blogging about them until January 24. Oops!

New Year’s resolutions just seem like things that are destined to make me feel bad about myself because I can pretty much assure you that whatever I resolve to do or not do, I’m going to weaken at some point. And then I’m going to feel like a failure. So why set myself up for that?
That doesn’t mean I don’t pursue growing and improving. It’s just that I don’t consider them to be resolutions. Resolutions always seem to be something I’m going to “try” to do. I prefer to approach growing and improving through training not trying.

Here’s what I mean: I could try to run a marathon tomorrow. There is a 100% probability that I’d fail! A better approach would be to begin training tomorrow for a marathon that is sometime this summer. If I train consistently and well, I reduce my probability of failure considerably…perhaps down to zero! Resolutions feel a lot like trying.

Instead there are two areas in which I hope to train myself this coming year. Both involve my language, but I know the words I use also impact on how I think and how I influence others.

1) I frequently say “I’m so stupid.” That’s not a true statement. I am not stupid. Sometimes I do something stupid, but not nearly as often as I accuse myself of it. I usually use the phrase when I’ve made a bad play in a game, forgotten how to accomplish something on the computer, or done something equally as inoccuous. That’s not stupid, it’s just not being perfect. And guess what!? I’m not perfect! I’m not even close. I know that…so why do I beat myself up for it?

2) I frequently say that “I have to” do something when referring to something that I am privileged to do. When I use the phrase, it often sounds like I’m complaining about it. That’s wrong. For example, I’ll often say “I have to prepare for a Bible study” or “Saturday I have to prepare for the nursing home service on Sunday.” Instead, I’m going to say “I’ve set aside Saturday to prepare for our church service on Sunday.” or “I’m studying tonight to prepare for our Bible study on Wednesday.” It’s the difference between conveying that I’m upholding my end of an obligation and conveying that I am preparing for something I’m blessed to be a part of.

Words mean things and they impact how we think about what’s happening around (and inside) us. I know that my “have to’s” sometimes impacted my attitude toward things that I am really blessed to participate in. I want my words to have a positive impact on me and those around me.
So I’ve put myself in training to no longer use either phrase. I’ve asked the people around me to correct me and when I do slip up I’m correcting myself by reiterating that I’m not stupid, I’m actually quite intelligent or reminding myself how blessed I am to have opportunities to participate in the things I’m involved in. If you catch me mumbling that I’m stupid or talking about things I “have to” do, please correct me.

How’s your language? Are there phrases you use that subtly (or not so subtly) change how you view yourself, others or activities in your life? If so, I invite you to join me “in training!”

Want to read more about training vs. trying? Authors John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson and Judson Poling give a great discussion of it in their book aptly titled Growth: Training vs. Trying (Pursuing Spiritual Transformation) (copyright 2000 by The Willow Creek Association, published by Zondervan).

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