Constant Challenge and Goal Adjustment

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

Strong Motivation Required

Setting goals is one thing. Following through is another. In order to stay on target, strong motivation is required. Personal goals are much harder to reach because the motivation to compete these goals often must be self-generated. In other words, no one else is holding your “feet to the fire” so you must do it yourself!

When you set goals for yourself you often start out strong and make good progress toward your goals; but, as time goes by, your motivation often wanes and you see your goals slipping away— often never fulfilled. So, why is it you are able to reach some goals and not others? The result largely depends on motivation. Motivation is your desire or drive to accomplish something. Psychologists say motivation is the process that arouses, sustains, and regulates behavior. In a nutshell, when it comes to goals, motivation comes down to 1.) the reason you set a goal in the first place, and 2.) what’s going to sustain the behavior needed to complete your goal.

The harder and longer it takes to complete goals, the stronger your motivation will need to be to see you through.

When I realize I’m hungry, it does not take any more motivation than that realization to cause me to reach the goal of satisfying that feeling. In fact, it is very easy to be over-motivated and indulge in this area.  When I notice the grass in my yard needs mowing the motivation to get it done may be low, but then there’s the realization that the taller and thicker it gets, the harder it is to deal with. That realization can be just the little motivation needed to get the job done.

The goals you truly wrestle with are of greater significance than eating or mowing the lawn. Sometimes you know you should to set certain goals. The thought of setting these goals can create real anxiety. Why, because you know they will be difficult to reach. You know you could fail. You know pursing the goal will create pain physically and/or mentally. You are afraid of them. In order to set and reach these goals, your motivation must be STRONG!

Some examples of difficult goals could be losing weight, setting and maintaining a quiet time, reading your Bible through in a year, stopping a habit like smoking or nail biting, reading “x” number of books during the year, studying a subject like real estate for self-improvement, etc. 

You have probably all struggled with setting goals in some areas of your life and there are probably some goals you have known you need to set, but never have. 

How do you set and reach goals that are difficult? You must be motivated to set the goal. You must look deep within yourself and pray often seeking God’s help for the motivation you need. God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit can help you find motivation in many areas of your life. God wants you to be as healthy as you can be, He wants you to be as intellectually sound as you can be, and He wants you to grow in your spiritual lives. There are many aspects of life in which God has very specific instructions.  When your desires become God’s desires, strong motivation can result.

How to maintain strong motivation:

  1. Revisit the reason/motivation for setting your goal in the first place. Continually return to your original thoughts. Your original motivation can be a strong influence to keep you going.
  2. Measure your progress. To do this, the goals you set must be measurable. Be pleased with forward progress. Movement toward your goal IS SUCCESS! Also, that success can be additional motivation!
  3. Have at least one cheerleader. Tell someone who will be supportive and ask them to be a positive voice in the pursuit of your goals. At the same time, ask “Debbie Downers” to keep their comments to themselves.
  4. Interact with others who have the same goal(s). When two or more seeking the same thing(s) come together, there can be mutual encouragement and mutual commissary. Yes, sometimes a little sympathy can actually be motivating.
  5. Pray and seek God’s help through the Holy Spirit. Pray daily about your goals. Back up your goals with Scripture. Scripture can be extremely motivational. Just remembering these two verses can be motivation to complete any good goal.
    1. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him Colossians 3:17 (ESV).  
    2. I can do all things through him who strengthens me Philippians 4:13 (ESV).

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

So far, we have discussed setting challenging yet reasonable goals and establishing strong motivation for your goals. The next blog post will discuss the need for continuous challenge. Build these essentials into your goals and you will be successful!

Joe McDowell, Director of Missions

Concord Baptist Association


Set Challenging but Reasonable Goals

Setting goals for ourselves can be overwhelming. The possibilities are just about endless. Some goals are set for us. Usually these are set by our employer. They may be related to sales quotas or the number of contacts made, etc. In this series, I’m not talking about the mandatory goals placed on us by others, though some of the principles I discuss may be helpful with these goals. My focus is on goals that we make for ourselves for personal growth. I will address goals we may make in three areas of our lives. They are spiritual goals, intellectual goals, and physical goals. These goals are typically not mandatory (though there maybe some cases when they are) and these are areas of growth the Bible places emphasis on in some way.

Of spiritual growth, the Bible says:

  • Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (John 15:4).
  • And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
  • Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Of knowledge, the Bible says:

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
  • Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold (Proverbs 8:10).
  • The wise lay up knowledge (Proverbs 10:14).
  • When a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge (Proverbs 21:1).

Of the body, the Bible says:

  • Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19).
  • Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

These are but a few verses that pertain to growth in these areas. We can also see from Scripture that Jesus as a young man was focused on these areas of life and grew in them:

  • And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40).
  • And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).
  • After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.  And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart (Luke 2:46–51).

What are some goals you might challenge yourself to set in these areas of life?

For spiritual goals, perhaps you want to read your Bible more, spend more time in prayer, be more involved in church, or act on certain biblical principles you know are missing in your life.

For intellectual goals, perhaps you want to read more or take a class related to a particular subject or to be better informed on local, national and world news. 

For physical goals, perhaps you want to lose weight, exercise more, or eat in a more healthy way.

As you ponder these three areas of your life, jot down the potential goals you might set for yourself.  After you have written your goals down, you may have several under each heading. If you are not careful, you can overwhelm yourself with these goals. I suggest that you choose one or two from each area and develop your plan to accomplish these goals. Start simple! It is often a good idea to set your goals in incremental stages.

For example. let’s say you want to read you Bible through in one year. To do this, you choose a Bible reading plan. First, choose a simple one, one that goes though each part of the Bible once.  The “M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan” takes you through the entire Bible but it also takes you through the New Testament and Psalms twice. This plan may be a bit ambitious for your first try. So choose a basic Old Testament/New Testament plan, a beginning to end plan or a chronological plan. Now if you can complete each reading every day GREAT, but it might be good idea to begin with a time limit. Begin by reading 15 minutes each day. Plan to do this for two weeks. Keep track of where you are in the reading plan. After two weeks, increase your reading time to 20 minutes each day for another week. Then move up to 30 minutes each day. Read for 30 minutes each day for several months. You will probably soon catch up with where your reading plan says you should be. If you want to read longer than 30 minutes each day, after several months, increase your reading time 10 to 15 minutes. Do this until you reach your goal for daily reading time. BUT, keep the maximum time reasonable for your overall schedule.

Setting your goals up in an incrementally increasing way can help you be successful in reaching your goals. This process can help you with any goal you may set in any of the growth areas we are discussing.

Remember goals can have a biblical perspective! Make your goals with biblical principles in mind and choose Bible verses that pertain to the goals you are setting. Make your goals challenging but reasonable and you will be successful.


Joe McDowell, Director of Missions

Concord Baptist Association


Setting and Keeping Goals (New Year’s Resolutions)

The coming of the New Year is a time of evaluation. With the turn of the calendar from the current year to the new, we envision a new opportunity. The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions is very old!  “The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year” ( I imagine the Babylonians had a hard time keeping their New Year’s resolutions just as we do. 

We celebrate the new year and make our resolution pledges, but the fact is January 1 is just another day and 2018 will be just another year, unless we set and keep the resolutions we talk and dream of.

This time of year, we think of the things of life we want to accomplish or that we desire to be different. Most often we just let our thoughts and desires for change slide into nothingness—we never act on them. Sometimes we begin the new year working to make our resolutions a reality. Often we are excited and determined, but by March or even sooner, we have given up and written off the possibility for change.  

What can we do to help ourselves and others make and keep New Year’s resolutions?

First, we need to set challenging, but reasonable goals.

Second, we must understand the motivation for reaching our goals and the motivation must be real.

Third, we need to be challenged continually to continue our pursuit of the goals.

Fourth, we need to adjust our goals along the way, if necessary—it is better to adjust goals than to give up altogether.

Lastly, we must not quit if we falter. Rather than giving up, we must renew our resolve and begin again.

Choosing a Scripture passage can help you maintain your motivation. Some possible Scriptures to contemplate:

    • I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 ESV).
    • Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23 ESV).
    • Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV).

New Year’s Resolutions (goals) can be connected with any part of our lives. Maybe we need better time management. Maybe we want to lose weight. Maybe we want to read our Bible more. Whatever the desired change may be, in order to make the resolution a reality in our lives, 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

Making a New Year’s Resolution a reality is difficult. Why? Resolutions normally require a change in or a new habit. Habits are hard to break and they are hard to make, but with a plan you can do it.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss each of these points in more detail to help you develop a tangible plan to accomplish the resolutions you make for your life.

Rev. Joe McDowell, Director of Missions

Concord Baptist Association