How to Start the New Year Right

My worn-out 2016 Weekly Planner and fresh 2017 one

My worn-out 2016 Weekly Planner and fresh 2017 one

A laser focus on God and goals through a concentrated time of fasting, reflection, purposeful planning and prayer at the start of every year has done wonders for my family, friends and I over the last 10 years. Why change a winning strategy?

 

WHAT GOT ME GOING

“Are we doing it again in 2017?” is the question (in an email) I woke up to on the dawn of the last day of 2016. “Of course, of course!” is the summary of my response to this dear Chinese-Canadian mentee of mine who has tasted the power of starting the new year right for some years now.

Meanwhile, earlier that week a Quebecois friend visited our home in Montreal to interview me on how I get to set my goals for every year. As I pondered her questions it had occurred to me that it may be a good idea to put some of these thoughts on paper for a wider audience and then that email on December 31 just got me going. So here goes!

 

NOT WITHOUT GOD

It is true that the end of a matter is even more important than the start but it helps a whole lot how you start also. As a doctor, I know that a child’s early nutrition can even determine their intellectual rigor and physical height (stunting) in latter years. So yes, how one starts matters a whole lot.

For me, starting the year with a God focus is not only the right way—it’s the only way to go. “In the beginning, God…” Those are the very opening words of Scripture in Genesis 1:1. How else would anyone want to start a new year but with the Originator of all things? Over the years I’ve come to call it “the Proto Principle”—in all your getting get God first. So yes, how does one start the year right? Not without God!

 

NOT WITHOUT GOALS

If you aim at nothing for 2017, guess what? You’ll hit it: nothing! “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” (1 Cor. 9:26, NIV) To run with purpose in every step and not just shadowboxing your way through life, you need to set goals.

The way I go about it is to have a framework that enables me to set goals holistically—in every area of life. Otherwise what happens is that only “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” So I set:

  • Spiritual goals—worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, evangelism/mission
  • Physical goals—health, wealth, work, others
  • Social goals—family, mentors, mates (friends), minnows (mentees)
  • Mental goals—knowledge, skills, others

So yes, how does one start the year right? Not without goals!

 

PATH OF PRAYERFUL PRAXIS

Although this is an amazing framework that helps me not to miss any important area of life how do I determine what exact goal to set in that particular sphere? This is where the interview with my Quebecois friend got really interesting.

First there must be good praxis. Praxis is a big word that simply means deep reflection on your practice for action. According to Wikipedia, “Praxis may be described as a form of critical thinking and comprises the combination of reflection and action. Praxis can be viewed as a progression of cognitive and physical actions:

  • Taking the action
  • Considering the impacts of the action
  • Analysing the results of the action by reflecting upon it
  • Altering and revising conceptions and planning following reflection
  • Implementing these plans in further actions.”

So I take a good look at how I’ve done life, say regarding my health in 2016. In pondering how I could do things better and my desired outcome regarding my health in 2017 I write down a health goal (diet, exercise, sleep).

And why do this prayerfully? First of all, life is too busy yet too short to go chasing every good goal; I want the God goals. King David had a goal to build a temple for God. Was it not a good spiritual and physical goal? But was it a God goal? No! God had other plans.

There are many good goals that come into my head during my praxis but in order to find the specific one that my Creator and Sustainer has for me this year I want to do my goal-setting prayerfully. It always amuses (yet even scares) me whenever I remember how God referred to the ‘good’ visions of some people in Jeremiah’s day as “delusions of their own minds.” Is this just a good goal or a God goal you are setting for 2017? I don’t want to be deluded!

So “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

Secondly, setting a God goal is one thing; accomplishing it is another. “Unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labour in vain.” I prayerfully set these goals for God power (ranging from anything from divine opportunities through intellectual rigour to physical strength) to enable me accomplish them to His glory and my joy.

For example, the circumstances surrounding the accomplishment of my family’s goal to purchase our first two properties—one in Ghana and the other in Canada—were nothing short of miraculous. Regarding the former, the landlord had literally laughed and sworn he was never going to sell that property when we first made the unsolicited offer. Later he would come literally ‘chasing’ us to buy it. Regarding the latter, God had kept it for two years on the market for us. All those who had previously made offers did not get the financing. Until we came along with God power…

So why bring God into this ‘purely human thing’ of goal setting for the year? For God goals and God power!

 

WAY TO GO

Thus since January 2007, for some of the reasons above (and more), an annual concentrated time comprising a 21-day fast with purposeful prayer and planning (P3) every January has wrought wonders for my family, friends and I. Now, it’s not even an option.

Why do we fast? That will be the subject of another entirely different blog but let me just put it this way, using an vehicular metaphor. Most cars on our roads are two-wheel drives (either front or back axles) and do a great job of taking us from point A to point B. When stuck in mud or snow however, you probably have seen those same cars spinning their two front or back wheels frantitcally yet making no progress. Those cars that are four-wheel drives (4×4), however, are able to engage an auxiliary gear which then gets all four wheels turning and off and away they go! Prayer is powerful in and of itself (like a two-wheel drive); adding fasting is like engaging the auxiliary gear in a four-wheel drive.

You may join my family, friends, co-workers and I, especially from The HuD Group and ISMC, from 5 to 6pm ET EVERYDAY from January 2nd to 22nd to pray together on the phone line +1-647-848-3378 with access code 1234577788#. In various countries there are organized groups congregating to pray at the equivalent local time as well.

Here is the schedule.  The recommended fast is a 6am to 6pm full-day fast from food (or anything with calories) but not water.

“So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:23)

Yes, how does one start the year right? Not without God goals and God power!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!