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It is that time of year again! The time when most people set New Year’s Resolutions–goals. Some people are cynical about New Year’s Resolutions, proclaiming that by February first the goal is a thing of the past and is dropped in failure.
While that may be true, I think it is important and good for people to make and achieve goals. You do not need to wait for January first to do so. I think many of us want to be perfect in our new goal, so starting January first works because we can be perfect from that moment forward. However, once we break that possibility for perfection (which happens quite easily–we are human), we drop the goal altogether. So how do we make goals and stick with them?
WHY HAVE GOALS?
It always helps to know why you are doing something. Do goals even matter?
I submit that they do matter, and even that they are essential. What can goals do for us? They help us improve ourselves. Working toward a goal gives us direction to acomplish things. Having a goal helps us to prioritize our time. I love the idea of paddling upstream in a river. It takes effort. I think that is like life–life takes effort. What happens if you stop paddling? You go backward. You cannot sit idle–you are either progressing or moving backward.
It also gives us direction. If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter what road you take. I think it also helps us to prioritize our time. You can easily let time go by completely wasted if you don’t have a goal in mind. I am not saying you shouldn’t ever relax–you can have a goal to relax. But if you have to purpose in mind, you can find you just spent all of nap time on Pinterest when you didn’t really want to.
I think we all want to improve ourselves and having goals helps us do that, and it helps us to do that bit by bit, one step at a time.
I also think that having goals helps us avoid the need for “instant gratification.” You can’t have it all immediately. You need to work to attain it. I think many people in my generation graduated from college and wanted things in life the way their parents had it at that moment. Their parents had worked for the last 30ish years to get it, and we wanted it right then. We wanted as nice of a house. We wanted a nice car. We wanted all new furniture. Setting goals helps us to realize things take time. This helps us to be more content in life.
CAUTION FOR GOALS
If goals are so great, why do people fail at them?
Some people fail because they don’t have commitment for it. Achieving a goal takes time and effort, and some people simply can’t get past the need for instant gratification. Some lack drive and some lack discipline.
Some people fail because they set the bar too high. You want high goals, but not so high that you set yourself up for failure.
Another reason people fail is because they expect perfection. If they make a goal to do something every day, as soon as they miss a day they throw the whole goal out the window. I really like what Jillian Michaels says about perfection. She says perfection is boring. She says transformation is not a future event, but a present day activity. What does that mean? She is obviously referring to exercise, though it can be applied to any type of goal.
What she means is you aren’t going to wake up one day and suddenly have lost those 10 pounds and achieved that transformation moment. Transformation requires you right now–not in the future. Each day, you need to work toward transformation. If you miss a day, so what? Why let missing one day stop you from trying tomorrow? How is that logical? It isn’t the failing that matters, it is how you respond to that.
HOW TO SET GOALS
There is an art to setting goals if you want to be able to achieve them. You can just think a goal in you head and expect it to come to be.
Start with writing the goals down. You might write down every goal you can think of that you would like to work on. Then, break them up into short-term (things that can be accomplished relatively quickly) and long-term (things that take years) goals. If you are making goals for yourself, make this an individual event. You need to make your own goals.
An idea for making well-rounded and meaningful goals is to go by category. You could make a spiritual goal, emotional goal, physical goal, etc. You can also make goals in your roles in life. What are your roles? Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor. You might be an employee, employer, teacher, PTA member, etc. You can think of ways you want to improve in your various roles in life. I find these methods helps me focus in on the most important things to work on at the moment. We all have plenty of areas to improve, so narrowing our focus can help so we don’t get overwhelmed.
Once you have your list, choose what you think is reasonable to focus on. It might be one long-term and one short-term. Once you feel you have a handle on those, you can add some.
Once you have your goals, break them down into sub-goals if possible. Is your goal to lose ten pounds? What sub-goals do you need to achieve that? Do you need to exercise each day? Do you need to cut out certain foods? Write these things down.
Next, think through what you need to do to achieve this. Don’t just say, “I will work out each day.” When will you work out? Do you need to wake up early? Does that mean you then need to go to bed early? What are the steps you need to take to meet this goal.
Let me emphasize the importance of writing it down. If it is just in your head it is a dream rather than a goal. I have a little notebook I keep in my nightstand where I keep track of my goals. Each Monday morning, I ponder things I want to improve on. These are mostly short-term goals and character-trait goals. I keep track of these goals and look them over each week to see how I am doing at them. It is fun to look back over the years to see what I have worked on.
Once you have set and thought through your goals, the next step is to achieve those goals.
Regularly evaluate yourself. You might do better if you have someone to be accountable to. Maybe you get a group of friends together with similar goals and report to each other on your progress, successes, and failures.
Keep the Lord involved. Pray for help. Pray, pray, pray.
If (and when) you miss a step, keep going the next day. I promise you cannot be flawless at this. Why would it need to be a goal if you were already perfect at it? A goal is something you want to improve on. When you mess up, try again next time. All you can change is the future. It doesn’t hurt to analyze. Did you stay up too late last night? Maybe you shouldn’t tonight so you have the energy to get up.
Keep an open mind. Sometimes we will have made goals that are either unrealistic or just not important. Always be willing to reevaluate and adjust your goals. Don’t stubbornly press forward on a goal that in reality is not something you care about achieving. There are too many worthy goals out there to force yourself on a goal that is not of worth to you.
Make goal-setting a part of who you are. You don’t need to wait for a new year to make new goals. You can start on any random day. You should make new goals constantly. You can improve yourself, your family, and your marriage through simple goal setting and achieving. You will have more self-confidence and find you are very happy with your state as you continue to put forth effort into improving your life.
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