Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Attaining the Prize

            So how many of you made a New Year’s resolution? How many have already broken it? That’s the thing about resolutions, they never stick. We always strive to break a bad habit or change something in our lives but always end up following the same patterns the moment our guard is down. Even this blog is a great example. I wanted to write about the New Year two weeks ago, and kept putting it off for no good reason. I just didn’t feel like writing, so I avoided it. Now it almost feels like the freshness of the New Year has begun to fade away, and my goal-oriented attitude has worn off. So, I need to learn from my own words.
            I must admit that most of this is not entirely original; it’s more of a collaboration of ideas I’ve heard over the past year or so, and I will make reference to the sources (at least those I remember). Let’s start with the ultimate source where all my sources get their information: God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV) it says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I also want to use a quote from Karen Kingsbury’s Take Three: “Never be passive. Victories happen when you take charge of a game. You can’t win by playing not to lose.” Doesn’t that make you think? We are not just here to survive through life; we are here to win the race. If we just go through the motions of life, we might just miss out on the prize. In other words, don’t just sit back and expect things to just happen. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can change your attitude and actions. “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26). I can actually identify with the reference to sports. When I play volleyball, I am not very competitive, so when I play with competitive people, I try the best I can to make sure I am not the reason my team loses. I am playing not to lose. The people who play to win actually get deeply involved in the game; they are doing everything they possibly can to win. If you aren’t watching closely, you may not notice this subtle difference between playing not to lose and playing to win. It all comes down to your attitude and the way you approach life’s race.
            Last year my pastor preached about ways to stick to your goals. He used three steps: Purpose (resolve), make a Plan, and Practice. First, in order to win the race, we need to know where the finish line is. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 KJV). As a Christian, my main purpose should be to serve, honor, and obey God. So, when I set goals, I need to make sure they are God’s will for my life. If something I resolve to do would draw me away from church or create a guilty conscience, then it is obviously not a goal God wants me to set. In setting goals, look for areas of your life that you can change, like I already mentioned, you can change your attitude toward life and the actions that you take.
            One of the reasons many of us never keep our resolutions is that we make the resolution and then take action on it, but we skip the middle step. Making a plan for reaching your goals can really help them become much more attainable. If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail. Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should be deliberate. In other words, you don’t have to be detail-oriented to make a plan, but you should still have some idea of how you are going to get there. It also does help to allow room for flexibility. If something doesn’t go exactly the way you expected, you should have an idea of how you can get back on track. Don’t let the bumps in the road stop you; just get back up, dust yourself off, and keep running.
            The final step is to practice or take action on your planned out goal. Once you know where the finish line is and the map is drawn out, you are ready to run. Don’t look back at your failures, hoping not to fail again. If you just passively go along with the flow without looking toward the finish, then you are only playing not to lose. We must “forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before [us]” (Phil. 3:13b KJV). Having a purpose and a plan in mind really does make it a lot easier to keep going. And that is how you run the race in order to win!

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