If you want to do great things in 2022, don’t make public New Year’s resolutions. Or, I like to say, “resolve to not resolve.”

I know that seems bizarrely counter-intuitive as we face a New Year. Everyone else in the culture is rushing out resolutions for you to read.

Entrepreneur Derek Sivers first taught me of the power of not making resolutions in a TED Talk he gave long ago. 

Sivers cites this data:

“Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen. Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.”

The psychological path goes something like this: Resolve to be a runner. Tell everybody. Rush out and buy running shoes. Admire new shoes, and brain says “Hey! I’m a runner now.” Thus satisfied, never or rarely ever do actual running.

It’s not that you’re morally defective or lack so-called “will power.” What happens, brain scientists find, is that *thinking* about a thing is exactly the same as *doing* a thing. Right down to a slight release of feel-good dopamine.

By the way, the department stores know this is how our brains work. Pay attention. This month, they put the running shoes, the exercise equipment, the spandex pants right up in the front window. They know that by March that new treadmill is likely to be your most expensive clothes hanger.

So how do we make progress toward our goals this year?

It sounds trite, but as Nike would say, “just do it.” Make some small progress, any progress, every day. And you will get where you hope to go.

This is the heart of what the writers of James meant when he said, “faith without works is dead.” 

Instead of announcing grand goals, be kind to yourself, day by day, and keep your spiritual intentions before you every morning. 

Tim Robbins’ character in the film Shawshank Redemption is Andy Dufresne. Dufresne spends decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. But all during those years, he’s secretly tunneling out, through the walls and underground, using nothing larger than a handheld rock hammer. 

Day by day, he chips away at overwhelming stone. He never quits. He never stops. And! He never tells another soul what he’s doing. 

At one point Dufresne says: “That there are things in this world not carved out of gray stone. That there’s a small place inside of us they can never lock away, and that place is called hope.”

Hope, in the spiritual sense, is always beyond the event-horizon of this world. But, to keep hope, we need small victories along the way. And, if our hope is to do great things, we must allow those small victories to light the path of our future hope, instead of depressing us that we have not traveled farther.

It’s tricky. Too much contentment and self-satisfaction can lead us to believe we are done when we are very much still digging. Too much desire to change now can lead us to believe the stone is too thick, the hammer too small, and that we should never even bother starting.

In the end, whatever goals you may have for 2021, I’m here to tell you that you can do them. As the Psalmist says, faithfulness is like working in a field, every day, not just talking about it.

This year, “resolve to not resolve.” Resolve to just do it.

Lift your tiny hammer and start chipping away. By next year, you’ll be amazed how far you’ve come.

ERIC FOLKERTH is Senior Pastor at Kessler Park United Methodist Church. The Worship section is underwritten by Advocate Publishing and neighborhood businesses and churches listed. Call 214.560.4212 or email sales@advocatemag.com for advertising information.