Each New Year’s Day we make a fresh batch of resolutions (or the same ones from the year prior) and come the following New Year’s Eve—very few of us have actually achieved them. Gym regulars joke about the influx of people plodding away on treadmills in January, because they know they’ll all be gone by mid-February. It’s a depressing cycle, so common that it has become cliche. We are relying on our willpower to change, but unfortunately, it is a limited resource.
“Ever wonder why your resolve to hit the gym weakens after you’ve slogged through a soul-sapping day at work? It’s because willpower isn’t just some storybook concept; it’s a measurable form of mental energy that runs out as you use it, much like the gas in your car.”
But what if we could bypass willpower? What if the change you want to see in your life could happen naturally, without trying to impose new rules on yourself? You can’t simply resolve to wake up as a different person with different habits. Your willpower can only take you so far, because habits are actually outward expressions of inward beliefs. For true and lasting change we need to introduce fresh ways of thinking and intentionally dislodge the beliefs that hold us back.
For true and lasting change we need to introduce
fresh ways of thinking and intentionally dislodge
the beliefs that hold us back.
Instead of being doomed to give up when your willpower runs out, positive growth can happen organically as the result of new thinking patterns. Changed habits come as a consequence of a changed mind. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” We cannot get beyond our own thoughts and deeply held beliefs, they are the ceiling we hit every time we attempt to produce change in our lives. True growth comes when we are transformed from the inside out by changing the way we think.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Renew Your Mind
In the New International Version, Romans 12:2 says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The fascinating thing about the Bible’s directive to “renew our minds” is that science is only now advanced enough to prove that the brain can indeed be physically renewed:
“Eric R. Kandel, a Nobel Prize–winning neuropsychiatrist for his work on memory, shows how our thoughts, even our imaginations, get “under the skin” of our DNA and can turn certain genes on and certain genes off, changing the structure of the neurons in the brain. So as we think and imagine, we change the structure and function of our brains. Even Freud speculated back in the 1800s that thought leads to changes in the brain. In recent years, leading neuroscientists like Marion Diamond, Norman Doidge, Joe Dispenza, Jeffrey Schwartz, Henry Markram, Bruce Lipton, and Allan Jones, to name just a few, have shown how our thoughts have remarkable power to change the brain. Our brain is changing moment by moment as we are thinking. By our thinking and choosing, we are redesigning the landscape of our brain.”
So as we introduce new material we are not simply educating ourselves, we are literally rewiring our brains to new ways of thinking. New ways of thinking lead to new ways of living. Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The best way to begin doing things differently is to start with believing differently.
New ways of thinking lead to new ways of living.
Quality and Quantity
But how do we practically begin the process of believing differently? The keys to renewing your mind are quality and quantity. If you will commit regular time to studying your Bible, you will find that it is the number one source of personal and spiritual growth, no other written word on this earth is truly “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12).
Walk with the wise and become wise.
After Scripture, God will also use other sources of wisdom to help us grow and mature. There are many great resources available for growth and self-improvement, whether you are trying to improve your diet, excel in your business or become more connected in your parenting or marriage. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise.” So here are three practical steps to help you “walk with the wise” day to day:
1. Read it:
- Start a Bible reading plan on the YouVersion app.
- Buy a book or check one out from your library on the topic of your choice.
- Subscribe to helpful blogs. They are pretty much free advice from people who have been there and done it.
2. Listen to it:
- You can listen to the Bible on the YouVersion app.
- Podcasts. Free learning opportunities and expert interviews on almost any topic you can think of.
- Sermons. Many churches now stream their messages as podcasts or on their websites.
- You can buy the audio version of a book you want to read or even borrow audiobooks online from your local library.
- Listen to positive, uplifting music. One of the first things I do every morning is turn on worship music. I feel like it wakes me up on the inside and gets my head in the right space for a joy-filled, productive day.
3. Speak it:
- Memorize key scriptures and say them over to yourself when you’re getting ready in the morning or doing chores.
- Make plans with someone encouraging in your life to sit down and talk about what you’re reading or listening to. A great way to digest the stuff that you’re working on in your life is to share it with others.
You Are the Gatekeeper
As well as intentionally adding in good stuff, we need to be intentional about rooting out the bad stuff. Proverbs 13:20 also says “associate with fools and get in trouble.” Negative influences can drag us down or keep us stuck in deeply entrenched defeating thoughts. Your mind is valuable real estate and you are the gatekeeper of what gets to come in and take up space. If something you’re reading, listening to or watching isn’t supporting your goals for growth, consider placing boundaries around it or cutting it out entirely.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Take Thoughts Captive
Along with being mindful of outside influences, start to identify the limiting beliefs you already hold. Think of yourself as an impartial observer of the thoughts running through your mind: do they align with scripture and what God says about you? Are they helping you or hurting you? If a loved one was saying the same things about themselves, would you agree with them?
“When you objectively observe your own thinking with the view to capturing rogue thoughts, you in effect direct your attention to stop the negative impact and rewire healthy new circuits into your brain.”
As soon as you recognize thoughts or beliefs that are holding you back from all that you would desire to be or achieve, you can take them captive. The best way to take thoughts captive is by confronting them with truth. Find scriptures that communicate the new truth that you want to replace the old belief with. For example, when you hear something run through your mind like, “I’m going to fail, I’ve always been a failure,” you can say out loud, “I don’t need to be afraid or discouraged because God is with me. He will help me and give me strength” (Isaiah 41:10).
“You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”
Transformed From The Inside Out
For years my first (and sometimes only) resolution was “lose weight.” I would industriously make lists of what I would and would not eat and how much I would exercise, along with short-term and long-term goals for the year ahead. It all felt very productive and significant and I would go to sleep at night envisioning myself skinnier and happier by the following January. Of course, my willpower would inevitably run out and I would become disheartened and disillusioned, eventually just giving up and sliding back into old patterns.
With new understanding, my attitude toward my body changed.
Things began to change in a real way for me when I began to make a point of renewing my mind. I started reading the Bible with the intention of internalizing it and began seeing myself as God saw me – not a failure, but a dearly loved daughter and capable of anything because He is my strength. I began reading books and listening to podcasts about health and wellness and began to see my body from a new perspective – it isn’t my enemy, it is a machine that requires the right type of fuel and regular maintenance. With new understanding, my attitude toward my body changed and instead of fighting with it, I had a new desire to care for it and honour it. Believing I am deeply loved and that my body is the residence of the living God has given me a new sense of purpose and dignity that has spread to transform every corner of my life.
“What you are thinking every moment of every day becomes a physical reality in your brain and body, which affects your optimal mental and physical health. These thoughts collectively form your attitude, which is your state of mind, and it’s your attitude and not your DNA that determines much of the quality of your life.”
With God all Things Are Possible!
Setting out to renew your mind may not feel as concrete and rewarding as a list of do’s and don’ts for the year ahead, but it’s so much more powerful than just seeking to modify your behaviour. Deliberately renewing your mind with truth is a spiritual principle with physical ramifications. The architecture of your brain will literally be remodelled and you will begin to think in brand new ways. These brand new ways of thinking will lead to brand new choices, choices that will positively transform your life from the inside out. Your realm of possibilities will open up wide. Things that seemed too hard for you in the past will suddenly become achievable when you begin to believe that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
The architecture of your brain will literally be remodelled
and you will begin to think in brand new ways.
So this January, rather than making a list of resolutions, why not commit to renewing your mind instead? What areas would you like to see change in this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, connecting with loved ones and taking some time to reflect and refocus for the year ahead. I will be back with a new post on Monday, January 9th. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!