Comic Belief: For a Fresh Start, Take Dead Aim

I like New Year’s Day. It’s a new year, and I’m glad. As a matter of fact, I stayed up New Year’s Eve just to make sure the old year left and to address a few Christmas cards. I do procrastinate a little. But there is also a down side to a new year. For example, your car has depreciated another $1,000, and your wife’s clothes are out of style. However, there is something refreshing and energizing about a fresh start.

The new year is a fresh start. At my age, I need a fresh start to finally get it together before it all falls apart. It’s time to make some resolutions for a better year. I discovered it’s easier to make resolutions for other people. It’s easier to see what they can do to have a better year than what I can do. It’s great to have a time of beginning again. It’s easier to get a clean sheet of paper than to erase over the one you have. The new year is like a clean sheet of paper.

Most people don’t do so well with their New Year’s resolutions. Health clubs are full in January, but they begin to thin out in February (no pun intended). People get off to great starts in things like exercise programs. It’s 1-2-3 and then (slower) 1 … 2 … 3 and then it’s 9-1-1. The problem is that the New Year’s resolutions collide with the old year’s habits.

We’ve all picked up some bad habits. Bad habits are like a comfortable bed. They’re easy to get into and hard to get out of. I know how habits can sneak up on you. Years ago I was having some stomach problems. I thought it was because I speak at a lot of banquets and end up eating a lot of rubber chicken late at night. I went to the doctor, and at first he thought I had an ulcer. I told him, “I can’t have an ulcer. I’m a stress expert, and that would destroy my career.” It would be like a fitness expert getting stuck in the Golden Arches. I was getting a little stressed. Of course it wasn’t an ulcer. My wife made the correct diagnosis: I had to have my gallbladder removed. She had been telling me for years that I had too much gall.

While I was talking to the doctor, he asked me about my habits. He asked me if I drank a lot of water. I told him, “No, I drink Diet Coke.” He asked, “How many?” I told him, “More than most people.” “How many is that?” I said, “More than I should.” He asked, “How many exactly?” I said, “More than the general population.” The doctor said, “Charles, give me a number between two and 20. How many do you drink a day?” I said, “Ten.” He said, “That’s too many.” I looked at him and said, “I know. I’ve been trying to tell you that for the last 10 minutes.” He wanted me to be specific about my habit, and I wanted to keep it general. When you’re specific about a habit, you bring it to a conscious level, and then you have a problem. In other words, you have to move to another state. You leave the state of denial and enter the state of I-need-to-do-something.

Changes are not made in general. That’s why you can go to a general church and hear a general sermon about general things and you can decide in general that you are going to generally do better and what you generally do is what you generally did before you generally went in there and generally you won’t do anything different, in general, generally speaking. Why? Changes have to be specific.

When you begin a new year, new month, or new life, start by thinking about what specific changes you need to make to be what God created you to be. What is important and unique about you? Often you have to stop doing many things so that you can do the main thing. You may not be able to do what everybody wants you do to in order for you to do what God called you to do. The key to doing more may be to do less, but do it well.

The late golf teacher, Harvey Penick, said to take dead aim. In other words, don’t try to hit the ball in a general direction, but aim for a specific place. Today is a new day, a fresh start. Make specific plans and take dead aim.