As soon as the ball drops in Times Square, myriad self-help magazines, TV specials, podcasts, blogs, and books all promise that they’re going to help us have our best year yet. With that comes New Year’s Resolutions, most of which don’t last, because we tend to make goals out of challenging and unpleasant objectives. In an effort to make those resolutions stick more easily, we’re embarking on a new five-week message series that we’re calling, Spiritual Life Hacks: Simple Tweaks To Improve Everyday Life.
The dictionary defines “life hacks” (a fairly new and informal term) as “usually simple and clever tips or techniques for accomplishing familiar tasks more easily and efficiently.” A quick Google search for “life hacks” populates millions of ideas to make everything about life a little easier, from tossing ice cubes in the dryer to remove wrinkles in clothes to using a piece of bread to pick up tiny glass shards.
Spiritual life hacks, then, are little tips and tricks to enrich our spiritual lives more easily. When something is easier to do, especially as we first begin it, we’re more likely to stick with it. Tackling New Year’s Resolutions, then, is a great place to start. The problem is that most of us tackle spiritual agendas that are really difficult to achieve. We’re really committed for a week or so, but then something comes up, we get busy, and suddenly a month has gone by without success. There’s a tendency at that point to give in a spirit of self-defeatism.
But, if we were to reframe our New Year’s Resolutions to focus on getting better at things we’re already good at, we might find more success. Often, psychologists suggest that we emphasize our strengths before addressing our weaknesses, since it can be morally degrading to focus only on those things that challenge us. So, if you’re taking your spiritual pulse, start with what you’re good at already.
If you go to Mass regularly, for example, start by focusing on being more attentive and present at Mass. Listen to or read the readings for that day before going to Mass, or take notes in your Mass Journal so you can look back on how you were feeling, what the homily was about, and what the readings made you think of. Spend ten minutes after Mass getting a cup of coffee and talking to someone, either an old friend or a new one. Once you’ve enriched that Mass-time experience by building on something you already do, it’ll be much easier to do the harder stuff.
That’s just one example of life, hacked. Read our companion bulletin article series and tune in to our Sunday message, either live or on the internet, for more simple techniques to grow closer to God in 2019.
--Claire Kosewic, Pastor For The Week
Father Roger Gustafson