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The new year presents us with a beautiful opportunity: “How would you like your life to look different in 2022?” Let’s be honest—this is a difficult question. We get set in our ways. We get distracted by competing priorities, and our free time disappears. Sometimes we even forget, especially when we’re struggling with habitual use of pornography, that change can actually happen. And yet, year after year we still seek the “new” in “new year.” In that pursuit, we find ourselves making resolutions, choosing an inspiring word for the year, making vision boards, and sharing our dreams with family, friends, and social media.

Whether hyping up the new year is exciting or stressful for you, you can set yourself up to experience the genuine growth that you hope for this year. And that includes overcoming porn! Hear me out.

In the last couple of years, I’ve finally begun to enjoy setting resolutions. This is because I have embraced a philosophy of working smarter, not harder, by focusing on God’s vision for my life and executing that using the gifts and resources I have available to me.

Start With a Vision

Before making goals for the year, we start with a vision. It is important to be sure that this vision is in accord with that of our Creator, the lover of our souls, who sees us accurately and loves us, even with our faults and failings. It is easy to reference our own faulty standards of perfection and success instead. These often come from a world that expects from us visible success, prestige, pristine houses, clean eating, and picturesque vacations. Sometimes, these false standards of perfection can lead to the idea that we can even craft the perfect relationship with God ourselves. This vision for the future, while exciting, does not help us toward the ultimate goal for our lives, or even toward greater happiness. On the other hand, we can also look at our future through the broken lens of our sins. It can be a temptation to see our suffering relationships, turbulent temper, pornography addiction, or grasping toward food, alcohol, or other pleasures as part of our lives. This vision lacks hope and is distorted by a lack of freedom.

Of course, God’s design for our lives and His call to holiness looks much different. It doesn’t include pornography. St. Therese of the Child Jesus reminds us to ask God to renew our vision for our lives. We can join in the prayer she wrote, “Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what You want me to be – and becoming that person.”

As a recovering perfectionist, I experienced this game-changing realization in the last few years, and it has helped me set appropriate resolutions. I realized that due to my false vision of “who I should be,” I was seeking too many goals at a time. I wanted to improve my spiritual routines, start new hobbies, call my family members more often, work on my chronic faults, learn to watercolor, and do all this while working on a 5k and reading more books, of course. As you might expect, this kind of thinking did not set me up for real growth, because this is not the kind of perfection that Jesus desires for me.

My perspective has been healing under the realization that I am not asked to perfect myself according to my own standards, but rather to surrender more deeply to God as His precious daughter. St. Paul reminds me of this in 2 Timothy 1:9, “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.” St. Paul is asking us to receive holiness as a gift. This seems so counterintuitive to an achiever like me, and yet it brings so much peace.

I do have a choice to respond to Christ’s gift wholeheartedly. I am asked to steward all that I have received from Him for His purpose. This includes my sexuality. A steward is an individual who is tasked with managing someone else’s household affairs. This is a trusted position of responsibility and real authority, and yet ultimately the steward recognizes that the property he is watching over is not his. As I take a look at my family and friends, my home, my health, my finances, etc. I realize that I need to make sure all these aspects of my life, including how I use the internet, are centered around Jesus Christ and serve Him through the various ways He has called me to do so.

Questions for the New Year

This vision, grounded in the experience of being loved by God, provides a valuable starting point for identifying a resolution for the new year. To identify a goal that will be transformative for you, it is helpful to bring questions like the following to prayer. 

  • What aspect of my life, if renewed in 2022, would most likely help me be the unique and whole individual I am called to be? 
  • Has God been bringing up any themes, Scripture passages, or movements in my heart into which I should dig deeper?
  • How can my life be more balanced and virtuous this year? 
  • What serves as an impediment to my relationship with God and others?
  • How is my life online and offline glorifying God? How is it not? 

Your time in prayer will help you generate ideas. Once you have selected some goals, make sure that your resolution is written with an end date and a clear description detailing how you intend to carry it out. You can only truly commit when there is clarity. For instance, the resolution, “I will spend less time on my phone,” does not hold you as accountable as, “I will install Covenant Eyes, and check in with my accountability partner on alternating Saturdays for the next six months, then reevaluate.” When you have an actionable resolution, make sure to place it somewhere that you will see it often, and set reminders for yourself in your journal, Bible, phone, or laptop.

Now, you add the secret sauce. Setting a new positive and life-giving habit is difficult, but habits get easier over a period of time. By making sure your early efforts are supported, you are more likely to successfully integrate a new habit into your life that will eventually feel like second nature. Here are some ways you can amplify the impact of your 2022 resolutions.

1. Identify markers of success.

For every goal, define one small, specific variable that will be your measure of success. For instance, if your resolution is to get better sleep, you could measure going to bed on time or turning off your phone early in the evening so you don’t view porn all hours of the night as your marker of success. Once this is defined for you, it helps you keep your resolution attainable. If your marker of success is too difficult to achieve, you run the risk of discouragement, so make sure that this definition of success can lead you to easy wins. 

2. Use your unique design to your advantage.

It is helpful to take into account your gifts, weaknesses, personality, and tendencies when making plans to execute your resolutions. For instance, if you are an extrovert, you are more likely to succeed in your commitment to not viewing porn if you surround yourself with others and have a social outlet for discussing your struggles. If so, you don’t want to miss the opportunity in this new year to sign up for STRIVE 21. If you are competitive by nature, maybe setting up a point system around your goals will give you the opportunity to make your goal a game you can win. God is not calling you to be someone you are not! You can make growth easier for yourself by cooperating with your unique design.

3. Identify tools that can help you with your resolution.

Think critically and creatively to see if you can make your resolutions easier to achieve. Are there any tools you could purchase that would help either accomplish your goal or hold you accountable? Maybe you are trying to drink more water and need to buy a cup that alerts you to your level of hydration. Or maybe you are committing to daily prayer and need an alarm clock that will be more successful in waking you up. Or maybe you need to install filtering like Covenant Eyes to keep you away from harmful temptations on your phone. This might be a small investment toward real growth in your life!

4. Build your squad.

It MAY be that you are one of those people who can accomplish all your resolutions by yourself or with a little help from YouTube. However, this will not work when it comes to overcoming pornography and masturbation. You will be more successful if you seek the encouragement of others. This means formal accountability. So, if you are seeking to leave pornography behind this year, utilize Covenant Eyes, which gives you the opportunity to give an accountability partner visibility into your internet habits. It could also mean creating a book club if you want to read more books or asking a friend to teach you if you want to learn to cook. If you can find people to grow with you, 2022 will be that much more joyful and memorable a year!

Hopefully, the strategic process outlined above is helpful to you in making 2022 a year of growth. Meanwhile, it’s comforting to know that we can rely on God’s grace to help us, as He desires our wholeness and holiness more than we do. At the end of the day, His love makes us new.

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Catherine Suprenant is the Marriage Preparation Coordinator for the Marriage and Family Life Office in the Catholic Diocese of Columbus. Outside of work, she enjoys building community, helping young adults discern their vocation and mission, and matchmaking.