Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions according to ancient Roman religion and myth. The Latin form of his name is Ianus, pronounced is nus. He is usually shown as having two faces, one to look to the future while one still looks at the past. The Romans thought so much of Janus that they name a month in his honor; thus, their Ianuarius became our January.
The end of an old year and the beginning of a new year is usually a time of reflection and planning. Most of us have made resolutions or goals for what we want to accomplish in the coming year. Making resolutions or setting goals is easy; the difficult part is to keep them.
I enjoy making new starts, whether it is a new day, a new week, a new month, or a new year. I like starting over with a clean slate. I particularly enjoy being able to start over when I have made a mistake or committed a sin. I think this is one reason why I appreciate the gospel principle of repentance so much and am a firm believer in it.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf wrote of new beginnings in his First Presidency message for January and compared the opportunity to “start again with a clean slate” to getting a new computer. “I love getting a new computer with a clean hard drive. For a time it works perfectly. But as the days and weeks pass by and more and more programs get installed (some intentional, some not so intentional), eventually the computer begins to stall, and things it used to do quickly and efficiently become sluggish. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Even getting it to start can become a chore as the hard drive becomes cluttered with miscellaneous chaos and electronic debris. There are times when the only recourse is to reformat the computer and start over.
“Human beings can likewise become cluttered with fears, doubts, and burdensome guilt. The mistake we have made (both intentional and unintentional) can weigh upon us until it may seem hard to do what we know we should.
“In the case of sin, there is a wonderful reformatting process called repentance that allows us to clear our internal hard drives of the clutter that burdens our hearts. The gospel, through the miraculous and compassionate Atonement of Jesus Christ, shows us the way to cleanse our souls of the stain of sin and once again become new, pure, and as innocent as a child.
“But sometimes other things slow us down and hold us back, causing unproductive thoughts and actions that make it hard for us to get started.”
President Uchtdorf continued in his article to warn us against procrastination – “waiting for the right moment to begin.” He said that sometimes we put off making changes because of fear and then possibly give up entirely. “Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this. We almost certainly will fail – at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now. It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short. Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure.
“When we approach our goals this way, failure doesn’t have to limit us. Remember, even if we fail to reach our ultimate, desired destination right away, we will have made progress along the road that will lead to it.
“And that matters – it means a lot.
“Even though we might fall short of our finish line, just continuing the journey will make us greater than we were before” (“The Best Time to Plant a Tree,” Ensign, January 2014, pp. 4-6).
When we set personal goals and work towards them, they can “bring out the best in us”; however, we should exercise wisdom as we choose our goals. We may feel good as we write a long list of “resolutions”, but we may become discouraged and give up on all of them. I prayerfully select a few goals in two or three areas of my life – physical, spiritual, social, etc. – and make sure they are measurable, attainable but challenging, and something I can control. We are more apt to work towards our goals if we have written them down. A good place to write our goals is in our journals where we can describe our goals in detail.
I set goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis as well as at the beginning of year. My big goals are of course for longer periods of time; my shorter goals are more like daily chores. I am a firm believer in goal setting.
I have always struggled to floss my teeth until a few years ago when I set flossing my teeth daily as a goal. I have not missed a single day of flossing since that time because I do not want to miss my goal. Simply having the goal keeps me flossing my teeth daily! I have enjoyed many successes simply because I set goals and write them down on paper, but I have also met failure. Last year I set a goal to lose some weight, and I worked diligently all year long to lose it. I stepped up my exercise, and I was much more careful about the food I ate. In spite of all my efforts, I lost about half as much weight as I wanted to lose. At first, I was discouraged with my lack of success, but then I looked at my progress. I simply set a new goal to lose the other half of the weight in 2014!
The best time to make changes is now. When we realize that we need to change something or desire to become better, there is no time like the present to begin that process. I encourage you to join with millions of other people all over the world in making resolutions for change in the coming year. Be sure to be reasonable in your goals and determine to keep working towards them. You will feel better about yourself and eventually will become the person you desire to be.