Its that time of year again, when people make resolutions to lose weight, clean out the garage, save money, quit smoking, learn a new skill, read a certain book, go to Church, be a better friend, mother,wife or parent …. or, you fill in the blank.
Its a tradition in the US to make New Year’s resolutions. Most of us know what we need to do and are eager to jump on the bandwagon of changing things in our lives. The problem with resolutions is that they are easily abandoned with the first misstep. The first time a problem is encountered, the resolution is laid to the side and forgotten until next New Year when we go through the same motions of changing things but not really experiencing change.
If we’re serious about changing something in our lives, then we must set a goal to do so. Goals are so much better than resolutions. Goals have permanence. Goals have steps to achieving them. They have more weight in our minds because we have to really give them a lot of thought and prayer. Goals are for people who are serious about change.
Here is a primer on Goal Setting. This is how I set goals and go about achieving them and what has helped me throughout the years.
Step One: Pray about your goals
God is intensely interested in your goals. He already knows what you should be doing and what you should be trying to do in life. So it makes perfect sense to consult Him and find out what your goals should be. Pray and ask God to show you what goals should be a priority in your life for the coming year. God speaks through His Word. So, as you pray, read the Bible. Use your usual reading method or a yearly reading chart or a devotional such as Our Daily Bread. Jot down impressions, thoughts and ideas as you read and pray.
Step Two: Write It Down
Take time to pray and search out God’s goals for your life. When you are sure you know what your goals are, list them. Then, one goal at a time, write down steps to achieving that goal.
Each goal can have several steps to achieving it. But like anything else in life, you start with the first thing, first. Read your steps to each goal and order them according to what must be done first. For example: If your goal is to give more money to charity in the coming year, you may need to start with a budget. Then, your next step may be to save $20 per week from each paycheck and put it into a savings account. Writing down your steps makes the path to the goal clearer.
Step Three: Start Working
When you begin to work on a particular goal and you are doing each step to achieving the goal, take each step prayerfully. We’re not perfect people, and God may need to steer us in a somewhat different direction as we take each step. The idea is to do one thing at a time, always in prayer, seeking God’s input and direction. And remember that God’s input doesn’t mean He is suggesting something …. it means when He speaks we obey!
When you have achieved a step, celebrate! Praise God and thank Him for leading you this far. Note the occasion by writing it down. In the Old Testament, people set up Memorial Stones called Eb-en-ezer (1 Samuel 7:12). A memorial stone is there for all time to remind us of something God has done in our lives. As you accomplish each step, memorialize it in some way to God’s glory.
When your steps are done, you will have achieved your goal!
There will be some set-backs.
There are inevitably some things that just don’t go right. There will be times when the goal seems very far off. And there will be times when you feel like giving up.
When things don’t go right, you must ask yourself if you have done every step as God has shown you to do. You must pray and make sure you are hearing God correctly and be honest with yourself about what God is saying to you. God is always the same, but we are changeable creatures and we are often dishonest with ourselves because we want things our way. Be honest. Listen to God and then obey. His Word to you will always be upheld by what the Bible says. It will never violate the scriptures. So listen and obey to the letter.
When your goals seem far off and unattainable, its time to stop looking at the goals and pining for them. Its time to get focused back on the steps to achieving the goals and getting those steps accomplished.
And when you feel like giving up, look up. God will give you strength to carry on. Remember, He knew what those goals were before you ever asked Him. So, He also has a plan for you to achieve them. The strength, knowledge, ability and desire to get those goals accomplished are all in His hands, and He will give them to you if you ask and keep on asking. Don’t give up!
There is a great poem entitled, Do The Next Thing that was shared many years ago by Elizabeth Elliot. The poem talks about life being difficult and not knowing what to do, and feeling defeated… but doing the next thing. That is how it is with goal setting sometimes. Those steps are not always pleasant to do. You can’t always see the goal clearly as you take the steps, but if you want to reach the goal, you simply must do the next thing.
Resolution making is fun. Its sometimes encouraging and motivating. Goal setting though is for the long-haul of life. My prayer for you, you who are reading here, is that God will give you what you need to reach your goals and that you will remember that if you are serious about change …. you will set goals, write down steps to accomplishing those goals and rely on God to guide you to your goal.
From an old English parsonage,
Down by the sea,
There came in the twilight,
A message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend,
Hath, as it seems to me,
Teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours
The quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration-
DO THE NEXT THING
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment,
Let down from Heaven,
Guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows,
Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus,
DO THE NEXT THING
Do it immediately;
Do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence,
Tracing His Hand,
Who placed it before thee with
Stayed on Omnipotence,
Safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings,
DO THE NEXT THING
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering)
Be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence,
The rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance
Be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness,
Praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee,
DO THE NEXT THING