It’s that time of the year where gyms become crowded, the sales of diet products increase and enrolments for part-time study courses soar to record heights. It’s New Year’s resolution time.

I do not consciously make a resolutions list, since I know that I rebel against discipline and rigidity. However, the deeper root of my dislike of resolutions rests in the fact that it is ultimately an exercise in finding fault with ourselves. We’re not fit enough, we’re too fat, we haven’t met our full potential. We should look prettier, slimmer, earn that promotion, get another degree. We can—so we believe—achieve all these things by trying harder.

Not only do we tell ourselves these things, but we’re also inundated with these messages in the world—messages to be more…successful… famous… rich…excellent.

I struggle with these external and internal messages. Of course, like most of us, I want to be the very best I can be and meet my God-given potential. However, does this depend on my own efforts? I have a sneaking suspicion that all our striving doesn’t accomplish very much. Trying harder—at our marriages, careers, parenting, bodies, character—might not be the answer.

So what is the answer?

Here are three insights that I was reminded of this morning in my Quiet Time:

Set the right goals

One of my great ambitions, which I would love to see accomplished this year, is the publication of my book. Yet as I was praying about this, God reminded me that the far greater goal for this year should be to walk closely with Him. I can live without a book credit to my name; I can’t live without Him in my life.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

If each one of us can look back at the end of 2013, and see that we wholeheartedly sought God and drew closer to Him, our year will have been a success, no matter what else we did or didn’t accomplish. Don’t give up on your dreams, but keep them in the right perspective.

Partner with God

Another gentle reminder that I received this morning, is that God loves us and wants the very best for our lives. We are not alone in making a success of our life. I constantly have to remind myself of this. Generally, when I’m feeling anxious about life and the achievement of my goals, it’s a sign that I’ve forgotten it.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Let’s bring our hopes and dreams to God in prayer, and then trust Him to direct our paths. Instead of striving harder, I believe the key is to trust Him harder, and then follow His directions for our lives.

Lighten up on Ourselves

A principle I try to apply to my life is that of ‘being gentle with myself’. I don’t have the perfect figure, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I couldn’t run a marathon (or even a half-marathon) to save my life, but I’m happy walking the dog three times a week. Some might think this is a lack of drive or ambition, but for me it’s accepting my limitations and choosing to be content. That’s why I’m not one of the “January-gymmers.”

God also doesn’t demand perfection. Psalm 103:14 says:

“He understands how weak we are; He knows we are only dust.”

I find this verse comforting. I don’t have to be perfect for God . He loves—and accepts—me the way I am. And because He does, so can I.

Friends, may 2013 be a year of contentment, of drawing closer to God, becoming aware of His purposes in your life and then walking in them.