Pro 6:6-8 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. (7) Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, (8) she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
This is a short passage. In context, the author is talking about settling accounts and avoiding poverty.
There are four ant-traits in the text that are relevant for settling accounts (Proverbs 6:1-5) and avoiding poverty:
- The ant is a self-starter.
- The ant prepares for the future.
- The ant prepares little by little (because she’s tiny), every day.
- The ant prepares for a long time (until winter).
A lot of people don’t like New Year’s resolutions.
I typically make pretty hard ones even though I see the practice as cheesy (pizza is also cheesy and it’s wonderful), but this year I already have too many goals to work on, so I’m simply trying to improve my efficiency at reaching them.
But if you don’t like resolutions for the New Year, but still want to reflect on bettering yourself here are two questions:
- What do I want more of?
- What do I want less of?
Think hard about these. The answers should be optimistic, but not impossible. They should also be based on your actual values, not simply social ideals that other people think you should live up to. Think about things like, “I want more knowledge, more time with my church, more time with my family, more good feelings, more Bible memorized, more risk taking, more money, more power, more humility, etc.” For question two think about things like this: “I want less wasted time on the internet, less television, less clutter, less whining, less fighting, less time spent feeling depressed, less sugar in my diet, less debt, less sinful habits (porn, explosive anger, greedy spending, intentional antagonizing, etcetera), etc.”
If you’re in a bad mood, listen to some music to get more pumped up, go for a walk, have a coffee and come back to them. Or, if you’re more contemplative, think about a time when you felt really successful and confidence. Think about it until you have the same emotional reaction you did at that time in your life. Do it until the hair stands up on your neck or arms or you feel embarrassed for being pumped up about something that happened five years ago.
After you’ve spent time reflecting on these two questions then reflect pair down your wants to a reasonable number for you. One might be all you can muster, but like a snow ball starting with a single handful, that one thing is better than nothing. I recommend no more than six. You can work on building up habits for two months at a time to solidify them before adding a new one. Of course, you could redo this exercise every month.
Now ask these two questions:
- What small, self-starting, regular action can I take to get the more that I want?
- What small, self-starting, regular action can I take to have the less that I want?
These actions should be small, designed to get the results you want from the first two questions, and be things you’re willing to change if they do not work. They should be easy enough to do that they make almost no difference in your life when you do them and make almost no difference when you don’t. But, if you do them for several days, weeks, months, and years they’ll add up. Think about the ant. She probably gathers enough food for each day and a little bit more.
As a final exercise, to motivate yourself to do these small little actions I recommend:
- Imagine yourself enjoying the more/less you plan to have and how pleasant that will be compared to how your life is now. Capitalize on your motivation out of your current frustrations and the motivation toward who you want to be. This sort of visualization seems kooky until you read old poetry, sermons, and speeches and see how often visualization and imagery were used to motivated people. Television may have stolen our imagination in this regard.
- When the small habit seems like a burden one day or several weeks simply say, “I’ll be better and happier for doing this than I will be for not.” Don’t let the false “be authentic to yourself by being a wreck or admitting your weakness” keep you from shoring up your weaknesses. You can admit that you have weak arms, but you still better do some bicep curls to fix it. Imagine if your doctor decided not to study your illness because he was being “true to himself” when he felt too tired to read ten pages from a desk reference.