I always like to start off my year thinking about how I can better set myself up for success in the days ahead – I think we all do. But more than the physical/financial/entrepreneurial/career goals we outline, I like to spend more time thinking about what I want to change internally – in my heart and mind – than I do about what I want to change externally.

One of my themes for this year is ‘New Wine’ stemming from Jesus’ conversation with his disciples in the gospels:

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Mark 2:22

What Jesus is referring to in this passage is the fact that the vessel determines the viability of what is deposited into it. You can pour all the gold in the world into a bag, but if the bag itself is torn, nothing will hold. God can deposit in us everything He desires to see come to life in and through us, but unless we are prepared to hold it – unless what is in us is conditioned for what He wants to put on us – we will see little in terms of forward progression towards purpose.

So I thought I’d share my intentions for the new year as you start thinking about crafting your own.

I will make choices with intentionality.

This may be a moot point since the whole idea is to be intentional, but I also recognize how easy it is to get swept up in the moment. So I’ve had to learn to be intentional with… being intentional. Gone are the days when we did things simply for the sake of doing them. Every single one of our actions and inactions comes with a consequence – whether we realize it in the moment or not. We must learn to make choices by asking ourselves how they fit into our long-term and short-term goals for ourselves, instead of blindly going with the flow.

I will allow myself to outgrow places and spaces.

There is a comfortability of the familiar – whether familiar people or routines – and with it comes the desire to remain in a space or place we may have outgrown. But don’t stick around in old skin simply because you once felt at home in it. Moving on to a new space that better fits your current growth needs can be hard – especially when it feels like you’re leaving people behind. But the people who truly love and support you will do so across spaces, and you’ll be willing to do the same.

I will exercise my faith in the direction of my fears.

Last year one of my intentions was to exercise my faith in the direction of my dreams. I realized over the course of the year that while it was sometimes difficult to pinpoint my dreams concretely, it was far easier to recognize my fears. And I believe that our greatest dreams and God’s greatest purpose for our lives is on the other side of our fears. Faith is the only antidote for fear, and must be used copiously.

I will own my level.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:2, MSG

It’s human nature to opt to adjust downwards in order to not make people feel uncomfortable around us. We don’t want to come off as uppity, or standoffish, or out of touch. But often in doing so we lower our standards and fall short of everything God is trying to elevate us to. Nine times out of ten, where we end up placing ourselves is several rungs lower than where God would have us, and often where others would place us. It’s OK to not always fit in. It’s OK to level up.

I will give within my means and without expectation.

I’m all for giving. But giving that leaves you wanting is toxic. If even God requires only 10% of one of our most precious resources, and gets even less of our time if we’re being all the way honest, then why give people 110? The reality is that when you give what you are able to – of your time, your money, your efforts – you will be less likely to expect anything in return, and will save yourself the disappointment.

I will not be the ‘strong friend’.

Do not let your friends label you as ‘the strong friend’. It gives the impression that you have it all together and is an excuse to not have to show up for you in the same way that you do for them. Just because you have the capacity/ability to endure a lot, or be more generous, or bend more easily, doesn’t mean you always have to. It’s OK to be upset or disappointed, and you do not have to put yourself and your needs aside to save everyone else. Be ‘the friend who gives good advice because she thinks clearly, but is also a mess in need of saving sometimes’. Expect the people you call friends to show up for you in the same way you show up for them, or relegate them to the ‘out-patient’ inbox and start charging for your services. You are not Jesus. You were not brought to earth to save everyone but yourself.

I will place value on my time.

Time is the one thing in this world we cannot get more of. As such we must use it wisely. In the last few months of 2018 I learned the art of planning my time out and prioritizing three tasks daily. If it didn’t make my list, then it could wait till another day. Because I understood the value of my time, I used it more productively. I will also not give my time to people who do not place value on it – socially or professionally. Recognize that it’s OK not to give a yes or no immediately. Don’t feel like you have to rush to respond to every text or call. Let ‘let me get back to you’ be your default, and take the time to assess whether something will be a valuable use of your time or not.

I will be more vulnerable.

People do not know you need help unless you ask for it. People will never know what you stand for unless you tell them. Part of owning who you are is being more open about where you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc, and allowing people to meet you there.

I will refocus my resources towards things that grow me.

Reading. Journaling. Writing. Traveling. Training. Serving. If it stretches me beyond my current capacity, teaches me something new, or makes me a better person, it merits my time, money and energy. If it does none of these things, then it does not, and it’s OK to say ‘no’ to it.

I will set healthy boundaries.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:23-27

When the Bible talks about the heart, it’s not always referring to your love life. It’s about your thoughts, emotions, and will. Thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions influence actions (or will to do things). Your thoughts are influenced by the words you speak, by what you see (and hear), and by where you go. In order to spare ourselves a lot of pain and missteps down the road, we must set clear boundaries now to keep our emotions and actions in check. Do a self-assessment. Recognize triggers for your past mistakes and shortcomings and avoid them.