New Year’s is magical for most of us. January 1 holds almost mystical powers for us.
It’s okay. It’s a new year. All the stuff I wrecked and messed up this year is now in the past. And everything I meant to do but didn’t will certainly get accomplished this time around.
The problem is that February 1 is rarely as exciting a day as January 1. Why? Because we’ve already blown it, missed the mark, and messed up again.
I don’t have any advice about how to get it all right in 2024. I have yet to have a year of perfect performance. I live my life clinging to the grace and power of God because I have no power of my own.
What I do know is this one big, simple truth that can change everything about how you face this new year.
It’s not about perfection.
It’s not even about progress.
It’s about the process.
Let me explain.
It’s not about perfection. You’ll never get it all right. You’re human. You have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual limitations that prevent you from living full throttle 24/7. You were meant to rest, to take breaks, to not achieve it all.
Perfection isn’t realistic. It’s just frustrating.
It’s sort of about progress. What I mean is, it’s at least a little bit about making progress. Apologizing repeatedly for all of the dumb things I’ve done but never actually growing up and beyond any of them doesn’t help me, or anyone around me.
Progress is important. Progress, or a lack thereof, is an indicator of whether we’re healthy or not. Getting better matters a great deal.
So keep going. Keep pressing on. Take another breath. Another step. Another mountain.
But what happens when you don’t make progress?
Maybe you developed better financial habits but the economy tanked. You started exercising but blew out your knee. You started working on your marriage but your spouse checked out.
You can’t always control progress. You can try to make progress, but you’re going to be frustrated sometimes.
It’s about the process.
Let me give you a biblical example. Joseph.
Joseph starts as a privileged, favorite kid of a wealthy nomadic shepherd named Jacob. He’s got it good.
But he’s also got brothers who don’t like him. They’re jealous of his father’s favor on him. So they plot.
They throw him in a pit. Pits are a step down.
Some slave traders come along and buy him from the brothers so they can sell him into slavery. Another step down.
Joseph becomes a slave in the home of a military commander. It seems to be a step up, but he gets falsely accused of sexual harassment and thrown into prison.
Another step down.
He’s in prison for at least a couple of years and gets forgotten about.
Eventually, he rises from the ashes and leads Egypt through a famine alongside Pharaoh. Finally, some progress.
But… the process was necessary for real progress to happen.
The pit, slavery, prison… God used it all to teach Joseph essential things such as:
- Humility – wouldn’t you love to stop being defensive? Joseph was forced to learn.
- Leadership – he kept getting picked to manage things – a house, a prison, the country, etc.
- Grace and forgiveness – he realized he could let his brothers off the hook – the process wound up being worth it.
It isn’t perfection that matters. You’ll never quite get there.
It isn’t progress that matters most. It’s nice. It’s important. But it isn’t what life is about.
The process through which we become what we were meant to be? That’s what matters.
As you face a new year, embrace the process. Accept whatever comes your way as an opportunity to grow, to thrive, to discover yourself, your God, your world, and your purpose.
You can embrace the process through which you will become what you need to become on January 1. It’s as good as any other day. You can do it on the 2nd, too. Or the 14th. Or March.
You just can’t do it yesterday.
So, what are your big, bold goals and dreams for the next decade of your life? How about the next year? The next six hours?
Start somewhere! But what matters is the process to which you commit to get there.
Photo by NEOM on Unsplash.