As the red and green plastic boxes come back out of the basement to receive their precious cargo once again, I cannot help but look toward next week with anticipation. I love new beginnings. I look forward to January 1, the first of every month, Mondays, mornings–any chance to hit the reset button and look forward toward the possibilities. I set goals at the beginning of every year. It thrills me to open a fresh journal or notebook and list out the things I plan to accomplish in the coming 365 days.
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Philippians 3:12-18, The Message
I am an occupational therapist by trade. Goal setting is a huge part of my job description. As I evaluate the strengths and challenges of each patient, I make a mental list of areas we need to work on during their therapy time. I find out what is most important to my patient. I ask about support systems and home environment. We set long term goals–those goals we hope to meet by the time therapy is over. I also set short term goals to help us get to the finish line step-by-step. I used those same principles when establishing my grand plan for 2015.
Goals must have value. What is important to me may not be so important to you. Evaluate your life and list out the most important things, your priorities and passions. For example, my husband is passionate about tennis. When he exercises, he has the goal of improving in tennis in mind. His runs often include foot work drills (so if you see a guy running sideways or doing crossovers down the street, you will know why!). While I enjoy playing tennis, I am not competitive, nor do I want to be. Tennis does not provide the motivation I need to run. However, the thought of maintaining my weight gets me out there every time!
Goals should be measurable. It is important to be able to measure the outcome of a goal. Set a timeline and a value. Be specific. You want to know when you have “arrived.” Perhaps you want to memorize more scripture this year. If my goal is “memorize more scripture,” I really have no direction, no set amount in mind. However, if I set a goal to memorize one passage every two weeks, I have something to work toward. It would be even better if I outlined which passages I want to commit to memory in the coming year. That makes my goal specific, measurable, and bound by a timeline.
Goals should be attainable. It would be ridiculous for me to set a goal of running a marathon in February if I can not run a mile in January. A goal that lofty will only lead to discouragement and frustration. However, I can set a goal to run a 5k by March. That gives me enough time to build my endurance slowly and progressively. Dream big, but be real with yourself as you set your goals.
Goals get you where you want to go one step at a time. Where are you now? Where do you want to be by December? Once you have the end in mind, decide what steps you need to take to get there. If I want less clutter in my home by the end of 2015, I can set a goal to take on one de-cluttering project a week. Break down those big goals into short term goals or steps. Do you want to improve your health? List out steps such as doing a Couch to 5k, drink 8 glasses of water, and cooking 2 healthier meals each week. Goal setting is a way to turn your vision for your life into doable steps.
Write your goals down. Writing something down makes it real. It takes an idea from a cloud in your mind to something tangible, something to hold you accountable. If you journal, record your goals there; dog-ear the page so you can revisit them. If you have a planner, find an empty page to list your goals. Maybe you are less pencil-paper, more plug-in. Create a document or open a new note on your phone or tablet. There are even goal setting apps! Whatever method you chose, make it easy to return to your list frequently.
Don’t set too many goals. I could write a goal for every area in my life. Trying to meet that many goals is overwhelming, discouraging, and just not possible. To determine which goals to set, I go back to my passions and priorities. The things that are most important to me go on my list. My faith, my family, my health, and my ministry opportunities made the list this year. Everything else will have to wait.
Re-evaluate your goals often. As the year moves along, I may meet a goal earlier than I thought and need to set a new benchmark. I sometimes find my goal just isn’t working out. I remember trying to read through the entire Bible several years ago. Around March, I fizzled. Instead of giving up the practice of daily Bible reading completely, I updated my goal to fit my spiritual life. Maybe a study that grabbed my interest or met a specific need. There are times to double your efforts and stick to a goal. Just don’t let the goal defeat you. The purpose of a goal is to give you direction, not discourage you.
Celebrate the victories. Meeting a goal is like crossing a finish line. You should lift your arms and celebrate! You may even want to build in rewards for yourself to motivate you. Have a special dinner with your husband when you pay off that credit card. Get a new pair of jeans when you reach your weight loss goal. Sometimes reaching the goal is, itself, a great reward. A monthly date-night with your husband is a goal with built-in motivation!
I spent more time thinking through my goals this year. I read through a lot of books and blogs to help guide my goal setting. I found a few helpful resources which I will share with you next time. I plan to revisit my goals each month to monitor my progress. I hope to record my journey here, with you, to add some accountability to my process. Join in! It’s going to be a good year!
Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. Philippians 3:17, The Message