How to Set Spiritual Resolutions for the New Year

new year goals prayer

For many years, “grow in my relationship with God” was the first resolution I set after ringing in a new year. Want to hear a little confession? I don’t make that resolution anymore.

I didn’t stop resolving to grow in my relationship with God because my spiritual life is perfect. Far from it! What I did realize, though, was that setting such a general goal was neither inspiring nor empowering to me.

“Growing” in my relationship with God could mean anything…or nothing. There’s no measuring stick to help me identify if I’m closer to or further from God by December 31st. I could “do” more, but from the Sacraments to devotionals to books to Rosaries to ministries, where was a girl to start? And if the goal of my whole life is to grow in my faith, how would I ever know if I had done “enough” in one single year to consider the resolution accomplished? Or, was it doomed to forever feel incomplete…and a little like a failure?

Reframing Spiritual Goal-Settting

It wasn’t until I brought some strategies for goal-setting in other areas of my life to my spiritual life that I began to see real fruit from faith-centered resolutions. I was blessed by the opportunity to work for this goal-setting expert for a number of years and learned so much from her about the importance of goals that are specific, measurable, and able to be broken into smaller action steps. “Grow in my relationship with God” is none of those things! The one thing it is, though, is deeply connected to what matters most to me. That’s why I believe it’s so worth it to pursue spiritual goals I can actually take action on and move forward with in a tangible way.

Ideas for Spiritual Resolutions

Below, you’ll find a few ideas for spiritual resolutions that will indeed help you grow in faith this year, but in a way you can approach intentionally and purposefully.

Add one spiritual practice to your regular routine.

The quickest way to feel overwhelmed by a goal? Overcommitting to too many ideas.

Instead of resolving to attend daily Mass, pray a daily Rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours, lead a new ministry at church, and read the whole Bible in a year, pray about just one thing to add to your regular routine. If that feels too small, just remember, you can always add more to your plate as you master each habit!

Starting with just the one thing you feel most convicted about, though, is not only more attainable. The focus may also make that practice more impactful.

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Choose a theme for the year.

Last year, my husband took a tip from Rome and declared his own spiritual theme for the year. While you can certainly adopt the same theme as the universal Church, there’s something extra motivating about pursuing a topic you feel personally drawn to or intrigued by.

The way you follow your chosen theme can take many forms throughout the year, inspiring the books you read, the podcasts you listen to, and the prayers you add to your daily routine.

This is the strategy I’m personally taking this year, with a focus on listening well and loving God through the Scripture I’m already reading daily. A few of my action steps include:

  • Journaling alongside the readings (Every Sacred Sunday is a beautiful resource for this!)
  • Reading the daily readings in my physical Bible instead of on my phone so I can underline verses and read footnotes for extra context
  • Compose my own short prayer to say before and after the readings each day

Other ideas for possible themes:

  • Getting to know our Blessed Mother
  • Living the liturgical year
  • Diving into the writings of a particular Saint (how fascinating would it be to spend a year with St. John Paul II or Venerable Fulton Sheen?)
  • Studying the Psalms (or any book of the Bible you feel compelled to explore)
  • Learning about Jesus’ Divine Mercy

Live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

This could be an especially meaningful option for those of us with very action-oriented, “doer” personalities. As the hands and feet of Jesus in our world, we’re all called to practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. If you’ve never paid much attention to this call, or, like me, you often forget about many of them, consider putting forth a special effort to live out each one this year.

Praying through Blessed is She’s Misericordia study would be a perfect starting point!

Focus on the Sacraments.

No matter where we are in our walks with God, the Sacraments always invite us to go one step deeper. So what might that look like, from a practical point of view?

  • If you attend Mass occasionally, commit to going each Sunday and holy day of obligation. If you go weekly, add one or two daily Masses each month or week.
  • Ramp up your frequency of going to Confession, whatever that may look like for you.
  • If you haven’t given much thought to the Holy Spirit since your Confirmation, print out a prayer to the Holy Spirit (browse the posts from last year’s Prayer Pledge for inspiration) and say it regularly.
  • If you’re married, find a new way to pray with and/or for your spouse.

What spiritual resolutions are you setting for 2020? We are praying for you and cheering you on! 

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Lisa Kirk is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a wife, mama, and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She loves city life, Sunday brunch, and the beauty she uncovers (almost) daily in her vocation. In between snuggling with her toddler and dating her handsome husband, she blogs about family, faith, and feminine style here.

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