Setting Goals

Keeping Goals

Plan ahead. Set goals. Be deliberate. Stay on target.

Goals you have deliberately thought through and determined to pursue are usually good, important, and needed. You would not typically set flippant goals for yourself. The goals you set are usually significant to you in some way—perhaps for personal, spiritual, or intellectual growth. Sometimes they are significant to you, but not others. Goals are often hard to keep, and without support they can be even harder. 

Here’s the thing, you will falter! With or without support, you will falter. Whether the goal is great or small, you will falter. Why? Well, you are not perfect. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to make. It is easy to slide back into the “norm.” 

Your goals are outside of your norm. That’s why they are goals! Knowing you will falter is not an excuse to give up and quit when you do falter. Instead, this knowledge can and should be the knowledge you need to prepare you for the challenge of “getting back on the horse” when you fall off. Knowing in advance you will be tempted to quit when you misstep in the pursuit of your goal is the power you need to press on. Knowing is half the battle.

The research available regarding what it takes to set a new habit is very varied.  Personally, I haven’t found any good information to “bank” on. What I do know is the the firmly anchored habits that exist in our lives become rituals.  For example, I have been writing in a journal off and on for thirty-eight years. In the beginning, it was a struggle to keep it up. In fact, there are several periods in the thirty-eight years that I did not write for months or even a year. However, I always “got back on the horse.”  Now, journal writing is such a habit, I would call it a ritual. When I miss a day, I don’t have to “make” myself pick it back up the next day—it’s automatic. Not to write in my journal is now odd. Journal writing is no longer a goal. It is a part of my life.

Be prepared to falter. Know you will need to “get back on track.”  Predetermine you will not let a setback stop you. Give yourself a little flexibility regarding the completion of your goal. For example, there may be a day in the week that it is impossible for you to work on your goal—that’s OKAY! Perhaps you cannot work on your goal when you take a family vacation or are away on a business trip—that’s OKAY! Build interruptions like this into your planning.  When you have a big snag in pursing your goal, perhaps you have missed multiple steps in your process or you haven’t completed a daily goal for many days, revisit the reason you set your goal and get back at it! You can do it!  

Remember these Scriptures:

  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 ESV).
  • 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).

Search the Scripture. Find the verse(s) God impresses upon you for motivation as you strive toward the completion of your goal(s).

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

But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded (2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV).

 

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