The goals you set for yourself are typically meant to challenge you in some way. They challenge you to complete a task or to grow in some area of your life. The word challenge constitutes the idea of competition. So, a personal goal sets up a competition with yourself. It is often a desired habit against an undesirable one—the new against the old. Maybe even good verses evil! It can surely feel like that at times. I set out to lose weight almost a year ago. I set a weight loss goal and proceeded to change my eating habits (there’s a goal) and created some exercise habits (There’s another goal). It wasn’t long before the competition was fierce! Those sweets I wasn’t going to eat were calling my name! The muscles I was exercising were screaming for me to give them a break. Who would win—the old or the new; the good or the evil?
I found I needed an ongoing challenge to keep me focused. A smartphone app that tracks calorie intake and calories burned allowed me to see where I stood each day. It also allowed me to occasionally decide that I could treat myself to a little sweet every now and then. This was a tremendous help! I also set some specific goals with regard to exercise. I decided that three to five exercise sessions per week were adequate.
There are many ways you can provide yourself with continual challenge. You can:
use lists (like a “to-do” list — make the to-dos specific and time stamped)
use a calendar (set mini-goals that are date-driven)
use target dates (what you will accomplish by when)
use a written guide (a “how to”)
use a journal to write about your experiences
use feedback and advice from others
use prayer to help you focus
use Scripture to motivate and to keep you focused
Along the way, you may find it necessary to adjust your goals. Perhaps you “bit off more than you can chew.” In other words, you realize the goal(s) are not reasonable. In this case, it is perfectly all right to adjust your goals. It is better to adjust than to give up.
Some years ago, I challenged my church to read the Bible through in a year. A good number of people accepted the challenge. Some gave up along the way and others completed their goal. I presented a certificate to those who completed their reading of the Bible within the year. There was one person who let me know they were falling behind very quickly after the challenge started. I challenged this person to keep at it. Every now then, I would ask them how it was going and they always answered they were further and further behind. I decided this person needed a new goal. Rather than reading the Bible with the challenge (goal) of completing the reading within a year, I encouraged them to read the Bible so they would have a good understanding of the Bible’s overarching story. This person did not finish within the year—but, they had a new goal. About six months later, this person told me they had finished reading the entire Bible. We were both so excited their adjusted goal was met.
In this case, adjusting the goal allowed the goal to be completed rather than given up. Don’t use excuses, but if a goal NEEDS adjusting, adjust it! Is it so much better to reach a modified goal than not to reach any goal.
Whatever goals you set for yourself, in order to make them a reality in your life, the following are essential:
1. Set Your Goals — Challenging yet reasonable
2. Establish Strong Motivation — The reason you set your goals
3. Continuous Challenge — The constant reminder to stay on target
4. Adjust Your Goals — Adjust the goal if it is unreasonable
5. Acknowledge you may falter — Predetermine a falter will not stop you
In the next blog post, we’ll discuss the final essential—what to do if you falter.
Joe McDowell, Director of Missions
Concord Baptist Association