Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson
Blog, Life Issues

Turning Over a New Leaf

I have noticed that it is a bit harder finding a parking spot at the athletic club. Currently, there is a surge in the aquatic classes. The locker room has a few less towels, and the weight room has a few more bodies. It happens every January. I read somewhere that losing weight and getting in shape are always the top New Year’s resolutions. And given the numerous physiques I have observed, it could not have come a day too soon!

Fortunately, if past statistics repeat themselves, space at the club will soon open up. Those things we have resolved to do have a high mortality rate (80% within the first six weeks!).

Still, setting resolutions can be good. There’s something healthy about starting fresh, turning over a new leaf, even if it is hard. Oscar Wilde once said that he earnestly intended to turn over a new leaf, but he hadn’t gotten to the bottom of the page yet. But coming to the end of the year, we do come to the bottom of a page. Time to assess, and in some areas, start over.

James Clear is an author who sends out an occasional mailing. Each year, he gives his readers his annual review (which is pretty brave). Every year, he asks three questions—

1-What went well this year? 

2-What didn’t go so well this year?

3-What did I learn this year?

Among his accomplishments was a published work, one that is an Amazon bestseller. On the other hand, it did not go so well when it came to deadlines. He did not meet a single one. With respect to learnings, he realized anew his need to focus on the fundamentals. He rediscovered the importance of being a curious learner. He found that you are only as mentally tough as your life requires you to be. As he puts it, “An easy life fashions a mind that can only handle ease.” He learned that it is important to move toward the next thing—not away from the last thing. And he grasped the significance of saying yes. When you say no, you say no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option.

Given that a new year is a time to assess and resolve, here’s my short list—


What went well for me? I also finished a book, Missing Voices, which should come out in the Spring. (Whether it will be a best seller is another matter).

What didn’t go so well this year? My teaching abroad. I flew to India, only to be turned away at customs. My sight, My left eye has never recovered from surgery. My restlessness. Still learning how to navigate through the third third. Finding a church home. It’s hard being a church orphan.

What did I learn this year? Drink when you are thirsty. (Heat exhaustion in Egypt was no fun thing). Spiritual transformation is slow, but a needful process. God does not conform to my time schedule (wait, I learned this last year). Writing does not get easier, but it becomes more fulfilling.


1-to exercise one hour a day. At this juncture, I figure it is what is minimally required to maintain and slow the slide

2-to go deeper with God, coming to terms with the fact he is increasingly moving me from doing to being—a good thing

3-to find a church community where I can practice some of the accountability John Wesley’s Band Societies required (e.g. What spiritual gains and losses did you experience this week? What is the state of your soul?)

4-to keep a weekly date night with the wife of my youth

5-to pour my life into five men this year

6-to get out of my rut and discover a new kayak adventure

7-to get past customs and teach at least one course overseas

8-to complete a third book

9-to read twelve substantive books—ones that demand that I read well and expand my thinking

10-to read at least one provocative article a week

11-to present a paper at a theological conference—one that will stretch my brain and contribute to spiritual life

12-to speak to a group about one of my favorite books–Under an Open Heaven

13-to write a new post every Friday, no matter what!

14-to focus on habits that bring a great return (start always with God; make a list before you start the day; pray great prayers; get good sleep)

15-to leverage all that I have for the glory of God



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