Since it is the season of good intentions and new resolutions, as well as announcing the annual diet (sigh), why not also decide upon the direction of your heart and mind in the days ahead? At the start of this year, why not select your attitude approach for the coming season? Plan your spiritual journey. And choose your comrades carefully – because they will make all the difference to your destination.

Of course, we will all be tempted to settle for the easier attitude approach – a dose of cynicism, high expectations of others (with accompanying low expectation of ourselves), a smattering of gossip, mutual self-righteous opinion-sharing (cleverer gossip), persistent problem spotting and a consumerist analysis of our fellow human beings – whether they be our politicians, our boss, our church leaders, our small group, our friends or our colleagues. Plenty of scope there. And plenty of people who will be more than willing to travel with us and share our frustration at the human race.

Or there is the road less travelled. The tougher but ultimately far more fulfilling approach – believing the best of others, being a solution finder, working out how to make a difference, committing to creating change, loving against the odds, sticking the course, cheerfully giving, speaking honourably of others, challenging in an appropriate way with the appropriate people at the appropriate time, creating a climate of hope and expectation and enjoyment. Going the extra mile. The more Christ-like approach, you could say. Plenty of scope there actually. But it takes intentionality, a surrendered life, God’s strength and deliberately choosing the right people to travel with.

More and more, I can see why the bible tells us to walk with the wise. Proverbs 13:20 tells us to “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
When I spend time with people who make finding solutions fun, I gain optimism about the future. When I am with folks who find reasons for hope rather than reasons for complaint, my perspective of the situation changes. When I encounter people who think ‘why not?’ instead of ‘why should I?’ and friends, ministry buddies or colleagues who take every opportunity to express thanks instead of wishing their needs had been more fully met – I always feel better (understatement) and am inspired to aim higher myself.

The question is – what kind of person will I be in 2016? And what kind of person will you be? And who will make that journey possible and enjoyable? Who will you ask to cheer you on and stand with you? Who will you commit to standing with and cheering? How will you and your tribe create a climate and a culture of hope around you so that possibility enters the room when you do? How will you use the influence you have been given? Don’t allow yourself to become a person who accepts failure or grumbling as your destiny. Decide to grow stronger this year with people who are facing the same direction of travel as you.

I believe that consciously choosing which friendships will help us to grow could be the most important decisions we make for the year ahead. It’s not that we can’t have a variety of relationships, but we can’t travel closely with everybody. Who we travel with most closely matters. I lost a special friend to cancer last year. She was always asking “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” Vicky challenged me and inspired me to greater things. The wisest friends do not always agree with us or allow us to settle for second best. They are more precious than we often realise.

The truth is, many of us unconsciously slide into patterns of thinking and behaviour that were never our intention. But the good news is that we can change our direction of travel. We probably won’t need to trade in everything and everybody to make our soul a better place – often a shift in our own attitude is primarily what is needed. A new lens to see things afresh. A spiritual reboot if you will. We will trade in cynicism, self-pity or constant self-doubt for an increase in empathy, humility and a confidence that as we set godly goals, we will find healthy challenges to occupy our minds rather than those pesky petty distractions. We can turn off the tap of negativity and turn on the tap of positivity. God has given you certain people for such a time as this to keep that tap switched to the right position. Pray for wisdom about those friendships, invest yourself in them fully and encourage each other to greater things in the days ahead.

Declare that 2016 will be a year of building up and not tearing down. Decide that this year great things really are possible – in your church, your company, your community and your family. Don’t be tempted to place yourself on the slippery slope of commentary and criticism. Instead, choose carefully who you walk with and travel well.