If there’s one word I dislike more than the others, it might be ‘resolutions’. Why? Because I make dozens of them every year and find myself looking at a checklist that’s only a tenth of the way checked off by next New Year’s. It’s completely my fault, I know, but it’s still super overwhelming to see how many things I’ve left undone at the end of the year. Again.
That’s why I’m only going to have a few resolutions this next year, and they’re going to be resolutions that really count.
Some people will tell you to write resolutions for each category of your life, e.g., physical, mental, social, etc. While I admire that method and have tried it in the past, having so many things to focus on sometimes distracts me from resolutions that are most important, namely spiritual resolutions. Get the spiritual taken care of first and everything else will fall into place, apostles have said. Well, why not experiment upon the word and give it a shot?
Here are four simple spiritual resolutions you can make in 2015 to become a better person and a few ideas of how you can accomplish them. And who knows? Maybe you’ll become a 4.0 student or mom of the year along the way without even realizing it.
1. Improve your scripture study.
The older I get, the more I realize how vital it is to not just read my scriptures, but to take the time to seriously study them as well. That is something you and I can always work on. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to know where to start. How do you even begin to study? Well, here are a few of my favorite ideas that can help you hit the ground running in 2015:
- One thing that keeps the spirit of application continually alive is to color code your scriptures. This is a coding system that I loosely follow that seems to work pretty well. It also helps me to see what I should or shouldn’t be doing in my life:
You can find other resources like this at sugardoodle.net.
If you really want accountability and also the opportunity to have your scripture study on your mind throughout the day, try this method out. When I was in Salt Lake City, I tested this with my sister once or twice, and it was really neat to read about what she was studying and to share what I was studying, too.
One thing I really want to do is to start a scripture study journal. Now, I have mixed feelings about them (mainly because my handwriting is not cutesy, and if I messed up/smudged a word or line, the perfectionist in me would definitely rip my journal to shreds and demand to start over). However, study journals, particularly homemade ones, are really cool and keep everything you’re learning in one place. Here’s one example that I’m drooling over right now.
LDS.org has some great and basic ideas for how to study your scriptures, too, if you simply want to recognize why it’s important to study and not just read.
One thing that seems to work well for me when I’m reading my scriptures is to pinpoint something that I’ve struggled with, had questions about, or felt during the day. For example, say you’re about to do something that really scares you, like speaking in public or telling someone how you feel. Center your study around fear and faith that day. Use the index, people. That’s what it’s there for. Or maybe you just want to do better as a member missionary. Study Amulek, Ammon, and Alma to learn about their methods and how you can improve your own. When they say the scriptures contain the answers, they aren’t lying. The trick is to first know what we’re asking and then go searching.
Another thing I’ve noticed about my own study habits is that I’m more likely to get something out of my scriptures when I’m listening to someone else reading them. Obviously, I can’t force someone to sit down and read while I follow along, but thanks to the magic of the LDS app-building team, I don’t have to. Get onto Gospel Library, find your place in the scriptures, hit the little triangular play button at the bottom of your screen, and whamo. Instant narration you can follow along with.
2. Become a better home/visiting teacher.
Alright. Let’s all be upfront and honest about this: every single one of us really sucks at being a VT or a HT, and if you don’t suck, you still could do better in some way. I’m no sage, but I feel this assumption is pretty accurate for most people. So what are we going to do about it? There are people who need us! We can’t just leave them hanging.
Well, here are a few ideas that may help:
I don’t know who invented sugardoodle.net, but they’ve got some good stuff. One thing I really like on their visiting teaching page is the following sentence: “Contact your sister by the 5th, make an appointment by the 10th, visit by the 15th, and report by the 20th.” That is so easy to remember, and a good starting point for someone trying to get on top of their teaching. **Read more great ideas and topics on their website. **
This blog has a great list of things you’ll need and what you should do as a visiting teacher–that applies to home teaching, too, men. It’s a great place to reassess what your purpose as a teacher is.
There are some great resources, again, on LDS.org that discuss how to present and receive messages as well as make teaching easier for everyone involved. This link gives lots of examples of good visiting/home teaching experiences and methods.
Going along with scripture study, pay attention to teachers in the scriptures. Learn from them. One good example is Ammon, who first served Lamoni, gained his trust, and then taught him. If you have to do that as a teacher, then do it. It works.
_Ari’s Tips: _
Forget about the numbers, and focus on the friendship. Put the same kinds of efforts into your teaching experience that you would put into a relationship: take them to lunch sometimes, send them texts to show them you care, remember special dates in their lives and be a part of them, etc. Be there for them more than once a month. Another tip: start again. I know that some of you haven’t visited with your teachees in a long time and are definitely feeling guilty, but still not reestablishing that contact because you feel awkward and embarrassed. Here’s the deal: get over your pride, get to their home, and ask for their forgiveness. Then make every effort to show them that you care. They will understand. A lot of them, like my family, probably really don’t care what has kept you away. They just really want to have you stop by again.
Finally, remember how it feels afterward. This is so critical to being a good teacher. There are so many excuses we can make that keep us from visiting our ward members, but the feeling you get after visiting someone is unreal. It’s like an increase in love and the spirit. Hang on to that! It will help you.
**3. Attend the temple regularly. **
How many times do we make excuses and keep ourselves out of the temple? A lot, right? Sometimes, due to various circumstances, we cannot attend the temple frequently, but if we can, we need to. Here are a few suggestions I have:
Pick a time period and a day that works best for you and decide how often you can make it to the temple. If you can make it on Tuesdays, dub Tuesday your temple day. If you can’t go until 5:30 am Saturday morning, then make Saturday your temple day. Making attendance a habit will make it easier for you to attend.
Keep your suitcase and some Sunday clothes in your car so that if an opportunity suddenly arises after work or school, you can get up and go.
Bring a friend. Find someone who is willing to go to the temple with you and go. Sometimes having someone near you is a great motivator to go.
Take a family name or two and challenge yourself to (what I like to call) “blackout” your entire pink or blue slip. Urge yourself to complete every ordinance for an ancestor by the end of the month. It’s kind of neat.
Schedule a special temple trip. Make a date to go down (or up) to Salt Lake City and see a live session. Maybe there’s a recently dedicated temple that you really want to see. Organize a trip to do ordinances. Make it really special so you’ll enjoy every second.
Do what ordinances you can. Sometimes you’ll have time to do endowments. Other times, you’ll only have room for baptisms. Realize that all temple ordinances are important and will bless you. If you only have time to visit temple grounds, do that. Just be near the temple often.
Ari’s Additional Tips:
Just go. Stop using excuses and laziness to keep you from renewing your covenants and getting an extra boost of Spirit Power.
4. Get involved with family history.
I realize that family history is not everybody’s favorite thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. I used to hate it, to be honest, but then one day I just got onto Family Search, and I found myself completely enthralled by my family and by the work. It really is miraculous to experience the turning of your heart to the hearts of your fathers. I’m going to blog about this later, but for now, a few tips:
If you’re kind of lazy (like I am sometimes) and don’t want to look up names, or if you’re super efficient and looking for a way to cut corners, go Google the “Pandora’s Hope Chest Google Chrome extension.” Seriously. Go do it. If you use Google Chrome, this is an extension that will actually go into Family Search and automatically sift through your names until it finds family members you can do work for. AMAZING, right?! I think so.
Start by just reading about how your family joined the church or came to where they are now. Doing so makes your ancestors seem that much more present and it also inspires you to keep going when life is hard.
Talk to your Family History Consultant. Most wards that I know of have one, and if you really want to get excited about the work, talking with someone who does that for their calling is helpful and encouraging.
Challenge yourself to find a certain number of names in a week and see if you can do it. If you meet that challenge, take a temple trip and follow it up with ice cream. Incentives are helpful.
These are just four goals out of a billion and one that you could choose from this New Year’s. They might not help you lose weight or get that career you’ve always wanted, but they’ll make you more faithful, more converted, and spiritually strong. And who knows? You might achieve more goals than you ever thought you would just by putting the best things first next year.