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Opinions of Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Columnist: Jonathan Laryea, MD

The fanfare of New Year’s eve: Much ado about nothing?

The fanfare of New Year’s eve: Much ado about nothing?

New year is an interesting transition time. There are many transitions in life, but none seems to be as celebrated as new year. It is not uncommon to see people going to church for the first time in a long time on New Year’s eve or day. Many people look forward to the new year with great hope and expectation, wishing that the new year will be better than the one about to end. Many people come up with engaging slogans for the new year.

In Ghana, we see churches coming up with catchy slogans like watch night service, cross over service, pass over service and even make over service. At these services, the new year is ushered in with great rejoicing, pomp and revelry. Major proclamations are made and everyone feels invincible and there is usually a great sense of the power to accomplish much in the coming year. Many people also come up with a theme for the new year; my year of victory, my year of breakthrough, my year of promotion, my year of destiny etc. There is usually a positive vibe in the atmosphere. There is also a banishment of all the negativity of the outgoing year.

Most people are in so much of a hurry to get rid of the outgoing year because of disappointments and unfulfilled dreams and goals. Nobody ever comes up with a slogan of negative connotation. In fact, some people start preparing for the new year at the beginning of December, because they think they should prepare before the new year starts, rather than wait for the new year to start before preparing. Most churches will institute 21 days of fasting and praying for the new year to ensure that they start the new year on the right footing.

All this is well and good. However, I wonder what the big deal is!! I wonder why people are in so much of a hurry to get rid of the outgoing year. I often ask, if this is a year of victory, why are you in such a hurry to get rid of it. I don’t get the rush to get rid of something that is so awesome!! Therein lies the fallacy of new year. We make so much fanfare to usher in the new year and then can’t wait to get rid of it because of failed expectations and unrealized wishes and goals. It is interesting to note that the outgoing year was last year's new year. It was the same year the people were so excited about at the beginning. Don’t get me wrong! I look forward to the new year with fondness and a positive attitude as well. However, it is time to look at it differently now.

A lot of people make new year’s resolutions and only get to the end of the year and look at them with regret. Many people fail to achieve even a fraction of their new year resolutions. It appears the euphoria of the can do spirit only lasts a few days to a couple of weeks. People then settle in to their old habits. This creates a cycle of non-achievement. Year after year, people go through the same cycle and nothing changes. No wonder people are ready to get rid of the failed year, and usher in a new year with hopes of better things. For most people, new year’s resolutions are just new year's wishes. They are just wishes and nothing else. To make our new year's resolutions effective, we need to go about them differently.

First of all, we have to write them down. Habakkuk 2:2 says “write the vision and make it plain, that he may run who reads it”. Writing it down ensures that you can constantly review with and be reminded of it. Right and it down this just the first step. We need to break it down into achievable goals. Setting goals is a very important component of being successful. We must learn to set SMART goals. This is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound goals. This means that are new year's resolutions mass be specific. We need to be specific about the things we want to achieve.

Most people do not achieve anything because they do not have specific goals and only have general goals, which don’t mean much. They must also be measurable and not a pie in the sky type of wish. To be an achiever, you must set measurable goals. Your goals must be measurable so that you can know when we have achieved them.

Also your goals must be achievable. Saying you want to be president of your country by the end of 2019 may not be achievable. This is because you do not wake up 1 day and just become president. It takes years of planning and preparation to become president. Also, it may not even be a year for elections. Additionally, your goals must be realistic. Certain goals are not realistic. An example may be saying you want to lose 200 kg. by June 2019.

This is not realistic because most people cannot even lose 20 kg in 6 months. Setting unrealistic goals will always lead to failure and disappointment. Lastly, your goals must be time bound. You have to put a time to when you want that goal achieved. For example, if you say you want to lose weight in the coming year, you may end up not losing any weight. That is not a SMART goal.

A better way to set such a goal is to say you want to lose 10 kg by December 2019. This goal is specific (10 kg), measurable (we can measure 10 kg), achievable (10 kg is not over the top), realistic (it is possible to achieve) and time bound (in 12 months). We need to set goals in all aspects of lives to be able to actualize what we pronounce for ourselves at the beginning of the year.

Setting goals is just the beginning to actualizing our new year's resolutions. Setting goals without a plan is equal to day dreaming. We need to set plans regarding how to achieve the goals we have written down. In the example above, a good plan may be to join a gym, get a trainer, get on a meal plan to ensure that you are eating right and cutting out junk food and weighing in every month. By taking these steps, you would just self in a position to ensure success.

Many of the set goals but do not have the necessary plans to ensure success. I hear people say that if God wants something to happen for you, it will happen for sure. However, I think that is wrong. Great things will happen for those who gird up their loins, put their hands to the plow and do what is necessary to achieve that which God has purposed them. Many prophecies have gone unfulfilled because people just sit and wait for God to miraculously make it happen.

Even though got promised the children of Israel their promised land, they still had to fight for it. If you think that you can just sit still and have good things happen to you, you are kidding yourself. This is one of the major reasons why a lot of Christians don’t achieve much. For those who think that setting goals and having plans is not biblical, you are mistaken. God Himself has plans and He sets goals or appointed times. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Psalm 75: 2 says “When I select an appointed time, it is I who judge with equity”. Exodus 9:5 says “The LORD set a definite time, saying, tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land”. There are several verses of scripture that talk about God’s plans. There are also several scriptures that talk about our plans and how God makes our plans succeed. Psalm 20:4 says “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed”. Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans”. These are just a few verses to illustrate my point.

Another interesting fact is that even though we talked about crossing over or passing over into the new year, new year’s day is just another day. There is nothing magical about new year's day. Even though there may be a spiritual significance to it, it is still another day.

Therefore, if we do not learn to do what it takes to be successful on a day-to-day basis, no amount of proclamations will change our situations. Also, some goals may have a multiyear plan or time line to them. Therefore, we may look at seasons rather than individual years. You may have a 5-year season of breakthrough, which means that you have goals and plans for that season. In that instance, you will not be in a hurry to get rid of each year. You will be working out your strategy and plan step by step and year by year for that season and when that season ends, you can look back on it and be fulfilled.

As we celebrate another new year, let us be mindful of the fact that it takes more than talk, proclamations and prayer. After you have prayed, fasted, proclaimed, bound and loosed, you need to set SMART goals and have plans and strategies to make sure that all you have done is not in vain. At the end of the day, pray as if it all depends on God and also do your part to ensure that the new year will indeed be better than the previous one.

So you see, I am not opposed to having a positive outlook on the coming new year, I just want to make sure that after you have done all the spiritual acrobatics, you will accompany it with the necessary steps to make your proclamations come to pass. May you see every good thing you have proclaimed for yourself and your family in this new year. Have a wonderful new year and may every resolution you come up with be accompanied by the necessary goals, plans and strategies.