The words of Psalm 139:23–24 are especially appropriate at the start of a new year:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
The psalmist’s invitation for God to search and test him was the perfect prelude to transformation. If you’re committed to making some changes in the coming year, try following the psalmist’s example. Ask God to guide you in evaluating your own life to determine which areas are ripest for change.
The quest for a new you requires a clear-eyed look at the current you. It begins with an evaluation of the following:
• Where you are in your life
• Where you’d like to be a year from now
• What obstacles are standing in your way
• What skills, assets, and allies you can draw on to make changes
Here are a few reflective questions to help you start the process.
1. WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW
• What do you have to be thankful for as the new year beckons? (Be specific and thorough as you list your blessings.)
• On a scale of one to ten—with one being “completely unsatisfied” and ten being “perfectly satisfied”—how happy are you right now with your health? Your finances? Your friendships and work relationships? Your spiritual state? Your family? Your personal life?
• How do you feel as you contemplate a new year and a new you? Are you excited? Confident? Nervous? Worried you’re aiming too high?
2. WHERE YOU’D LIKE TO BE
• What opportunities do you see on the horizon for the year ahead?
• What good habits can you start that will have a significant impact on your life?
• Consider your area of least satisfaction from the previous set of questions. Where would you like that number to be by the end of the year? What would it take to get there? (For example, let’s say you want to improve your health from a five to an eight. List some of the characteristics you think it takes to achieve an eight. Does it mean being within a certain weight range? Does it mean finishing a 5K race? Does it mean working out four times a week? Be specific.)
3. OBSTACLES AND CHALLENGES
• What bad habits and destructive patterns are sabotaging your life?
• What specific circumstances or situations will present challenges for you as you attempt to make changes in your life?
• What doubts, fears, or temptations do you anticipate wrestling with?
4. SKILLS, ASSETS, AND ALLIES
• What personal qualities, skills, or God-given gifts will you be able to draw on as you make changes? (Don’t be afraid to welcome input from trusted friends and loved ones. Someone who knows you well might see something in you that you haven’t recognized in yourself.)
• What have you learned from past experiences that will help you succeed this time around?
• Who can you turn to for help, encouragement, support, or companionship in the coming year?
Once you have a clear picture of who you are now, who you want to be, what obstacles and challenges lie ahead, and what sources of strength you can draw upon, then you can start to plot your course.
This blog post has been adapted from Unlock the Bible's Secrets, a special-edition magazine that is now available in stores.