1. Keep first things first. A thousand little things will crowd out the important things every single time. The Bible says the little foxes spoil the vines, and yes, they do indeed. Distraction, delay, encumbrances, wasting time, doing the urgent thing over the important thing, doing the visible thing over the unseen eternal thing, will all rob you of the best. Little things often need attention, but learn to put the first things first.
2. Strategize for the distant goal. Christians live today in the light of eternity and God's glory. Even if a Christian doesn't know too much Bible or theology yet, he can usually chart a fairly strong course for life by asking, "What will I care about in heaven, and what brings glory to God?" This question is a very good counselor when decisions need to be made. Of course, many decisions are complicated, way too complicated to be resolved by simplistic reasoning, but this is a good start. Live today, but live for eternity.
3. Set goals, make plans, and create a schedule to evaluate. Christians read their Bibles, then seek to obey Christ by God's strength and grace. They do this by focusing on goals and making plans to reach those goals. Goals without plans are fairly useless. Plans must include details and thorough thinking about procedure and process. The Christian knows that he does not know the future, and God will indeed change things as he runs the race set before him. So, flexibility and submission are required for progress. But plans are needed none-the-less. And Christians take the time to stop periodically and evaluate where they are in life, to review their progress, confess their failures to God, and ask God to renew their vision.
4. Keep looking up as your feet walk on earth. The Christian walks on earth (every day life) but his heart and head are in heaven (see Colossians 3:1-4). Christians don't drop out of practical living, but they live their lives with a heart awareness and appreciation for things that ultimately matter every day. I think this is what is meant by "stop and smell the roses." Take time to listen to children giggle, roll in the grass and get grass stains on your bluejeans. Sometimes sip your coffee really slowly. Take the time to read a chapter of the Bible slowly and meaningfully asking yourself questions about the text as you go. Call someone on the phone who is lonely. Bake a cake for a sick person. Do something that matters while you do something that just NEEDS TO BE DONE, but will be forgotten in 72 hours.
5. Watch out for the legalism trap. In the process of changing your life you might begin to feel you are doing pretty well. Or, if you begin to be critical of others because they are not doing as well as you are. Then, you are falling into the "legalism trap." When one tries to improve life, there are two traps: the discouragement trap and the "I'm good" trap. Both are deadly, but the latter one is more subtle and pervasive. When you are comparing yourself with others, when you try to correct everything in everyone else's life, when you try to show others how good you are (there is a theological word for this - - - it is - - - YUCK!), then you are one big STINKO! Nobody died and made you boss. Back off and go to the temple, kneel beside a humble tax collector, and pray with him "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
6. Learn to enjoy God's gift of life to you. Which brings me to my final suggestion (actually this belongs in the "legalism trap", but it is so powerfully deadly I wanted to put it in a separate category); enjoy the life that God has given to you. Nothing will ever be perfect; live with it. Pain and sorrow will come; pour out your heart to God and trust in Him. Try to breathe in a cup of divine glory every day! "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it", the Scriptures say in Psalms. Read your Bible, pray, go to church, confess your sins, and do all those things that are a means to helping you stay spiritually healthy. But don't forget to do other things that enable you to be the kind of human being God wants you to be: read a book, plant a garden, repaint the house, plant a tree, take a special trip and enjoy God's creation, hug your children a lot, and smile, smile, smile! You will probably never be rich (thank God!). You will never be a BIG MOVER AND SHAKER (does that come as a surprise to you?). Just live your life with the joyful knowledge that you are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. God's love and grace have been lavished upon you (and you didn't do anything to get it or deserve it, so there!), and there is in heaven today a reservation with your name on it! And angels are excited about having a party with you when you get there (forgive me, I have a rich, and I trust sanctified, imagination!).
So, the new year is here, forget the diet and the trash and credit card bills (well, better pay the bills!), and let's get on with it!