This last December I kept bumping into goal-setting courses and e-books that promised to show me how to make 2016 the best year ever. You too?
Though I’m usually a sucker for these things, this year I resisted. However, I am still using the first weeks of January to examine my life, evaluate, edit, and tweak. I often make these changes instinctively. This year, knowing I would be writing this blog post, I’ve thought about my process more than usual and even reread an old book. Many of the ideas below originate in How to Set Goals and Really Reach Them by Mark Lee (Horizon Books, 1978).
So how do we examine our lives and activities to figure out what to spend our time on and what to omit in the coming year? It really only involves three steps.
1. Ask and answer the big, overarching questions.
Evaluating where we are begins with knowing where we want to end up. We get a sense of that by answering questions like these:
What do I want written on my tombstone?
“How do I want to be remembered?” – Michael Hyatt, Creating Your Best Life Plan, p. 8,9.
– “How would I like to spend the next five years?” – Mark Lee, How to Set Goals and Really Reach Them, p. 79.
2. Consider the purposes of our lives.
For this process, we’re defining purpose as a general statement of what we’d like to achieve or be known for.
We would write a purpose for every role we play. For example, I am a homemaker. My purpose as a homemaker might be to run an organized, clean, and attractive home. I am also a writer. My purpose as a writer could be to steward my gift of writing in order to glorify God and help fulfill the Great Commission.
3. Set goals to achieve our purposes.
A goal is a specific, measurable action. “A goal has 1) a practical time limit for its completion and 2) a way in which we can evaluate or determine whether or not it has been completed” – Lee, p. 59.
Reaching our goals is the way we achieve our life’s purposes.
We would set goals in every area of life for which we wrote a purpose statement. For example to realize my purpose as a homemaker, one goal might be to dust furniture, vacuum floors, and scrub the bathrooms once a week. To achieve my purpose as a writer, two goals might be to spend an hour each day on some aspect of writing and submit a manuscript for publication twice a month.
In his book, Lee spends much time exploring the right and wrong way to set goals. He cautions against making goals…
– based on wrong information – e.g. we think we’re more talented than we really are.
– before we’ve had input from those who know us well.
– based on what’s in style or what everyone else is doing.
Goals may be influenced by:
If we’re a mom with toddlers and a goal of spending two hours writing every day, we’ll need the support and cooperation of hubby to achieve that goal.
If our aging mother suddenly needs more care or someone in our family falls ill, our goals will be affected.
Each life stage—from going to school to retirement—has implications for the goals we set.
What We Learn in a Trial Run
Sometimes it helps to try things out. Suppose we’ve written and want to self-publish a novel. We might set as a goal the publishing and marketing of a shorter work to see how we take to the realities of the self-published author’s life.
To those who object that setting goals is presuming on God’s will, Lee says, “God is able, even willing, to close doors in my life. I proceed, not presumptuously but with the best insight available to me, to do what I feel ought to be done. All is to be touched by prayer” – Lee p. 36.
And finally …
Of course writing out our goals is only the first step. It’s important to review them throughout the year to see how we’re doing and make changes. It also helps to bring others into the process to keep us accountable.
Does it sound like a big job? It is, but, I would submit, worth it as we seek to sharpen our focus, improve our efficiency, and make the best use we can of those still pristine pages of our 2016 calendars.
Violet Nesdoly uses fiction, nonfiction, meditations, and poetry to do what she is passionate about—bringing the Bible to life. Her debut novel Destiny’s Hands, a Bible fiction, was a finalist in the 2013 Word Awards. She blogs book reviews at Violet Nesdoly.com and daily devotions at Other Food: daily devos.
A goal has a time limit and a way we can tell whether or not it has been achieved.
We need goals to achieve life’s purpose.
Setting goals is only the first step. It’s important to review our them throughout the year.