28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
Are you living a life of intention or just going through the motions. Those who live with the most joy are those who take accountability for their lives by making a plan, charting a course and setting goals. If you don’t have a plan for where you are going you are much more likely to end up in places you don’t really want to be.
I am a list maker and that has been one consistency in my life… my notebooks with the lists of what I want to get done each day. I love the satisfaction of crossing off the things I have accomplished. I also ponder at the beginning of the year on what one word I would like to focus on to improve my life for that year. For my business I am constantly setting and working on goals to offer new stories and downloads to help families teach their children the scriptures. As a writer and speaker I create goals and challenges that help me reach out to the world in my attempt to help individuals find ways to better anchor in Christ and His teachings. Goals are a very important part of my life.
I know personally how important it is to have a plan and to be setting goals. There was one point in my life where I found myself in a very miserable place. I had made some really poor choices that almost devastated my family and caused myself a huge setback in life. It took a lot of time, introspection and work to get back to a place where I was truly happy again. Part of my introspection revealed to me that it was the first time in my life I had not been using my lists or setting and assessing goals for myself. Goal setting became a big part of my return to happiness. I will never again have a time in my life where I am not charting a course and setting goals for myself.
Why is it important to set goals? I completely agree with Mark Twain when he said, “Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.” We were sent to this earth for a purpose. We are supposed to be working on becoming our very best self, striving to achieve the potential God sees inside of us. We cannot possibly reach this potential if we are not living with intention, if we are just going through the motions. Goals give us direction and clarity for what is most important in life. They help us determine where we want to end up and what we must do to get there. They help focus our efforts and give us motivation to move towards self improvement. They help us acquire knowledge and develop new skills and talents. Goals help us manage our time and use it most effectively. They help us live with real intent and achieve a higher quality of life. When we have defined our own personal purpose, goals have an even more powerful affect on our lives and on the lives of those around us.
What does an effective goal look like? There are four different categories of my life that I like to focus my goals in. I feel like most goals that help us reach our full potential can be sorted into these four categories… Physical, Mental, Social and Spiritual. I am inserting a chart you can save to your computer and print if it will help for you to see your goals more visually.
For a goal to be its most effective it needs to be a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Specific: If a goal is vague it is not motivating, achievable or measurable. You must be very specific about the goal you want to set. If for instance, I wanted to learn how to play the piano rather than just say, “I want to be more musical.” I would say instead, “I am going to learn to play the piano.” That is more specific and more attainable.
Measurable: A goal needs to have the ability to be measured so I know if I am making progress. I could even make this goal more measurable by picking a specific song I am going to work on. I should be able to tell week by week through my practice efforts if I am getting closer to achieving my goal.
Achievable: It is very important that we set goals that are difficult enough to challenge us so that there is actual improvement but not so difficult that it is impossible. A goal that is impossible only causes us frustration and disappointment. It would be smarter in our scenario to pick a song like the birthday song rather than Fur Elise to start with. We can always increase the difficulty of our goals as we increase our abilities.
Relevant: A goal needs to be relevant to the direction we want to be headed in. If we want to be more musical than a goal to learn the piano, especially a particular song is a good way to move in that direction, it is relevant to the overall direction we want to be headed in.
Time Based: We must set a deadline for our goal for it to be effective. There is a law referred to as Parkinson’s Law that states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion.” It is for exactly this reason that almost every one of us when we were in high school stayed up until midnight to finish a report that was due the next day. But we did get it done! And if it had been due the week before, we would have gotten done then too. So setting a goal with a deadline is much more likely to be achieved then one that has no finish date.
Now that we know what a good goal looks like, how does one set a goal?
*Visualize the change you want to see. What is the end result you are looking for?
*Decide how you will word your goal.
*Write it down. You are much more likely to follow through with a goal that you have taken the time to write down. (And at my age, more likely to actually remember it. Ha!) Then post your goal somewhere you will see it each day. Then read it out loud each day. This will help you stay focused on it.
*Tell someone about your goal. Or tell 3 someones. The more you talk about your goal the more likely you are to stay on track with it. It helps tremendously to have accountability to someone else who will be checking on your progress.
*Make a plan. Break your goal down into small measurable sections. What will you do to work on it this week? What will you do each day to move toward the weekly accomplishment? I love this saying, “Little by little, a little bit makes a lot!”
*Set a deadline. Once you have decided when you want to have your goal accomplished, write it in the same place your goal is.
*Pick a reward for your goal. Our brains are very trainable. When they associate a reward with the accomplishment of a goal they become much more helpful in our achieving it.
*Act on your goal. Be diligent. Read and research where you need to for optimum success. The more you learn about what you are doing the more successful you will be. Be disciplined in pursuing your goal. Remember that motivation comes and goes but discipline is what keeps us moving forward.
*Take a break. Don’t burn yourself out. Work on your goal for 6 days and then take a day off. Let you brain breathe. Do something relaxing and invigorating. This allows us to come back to the goal with fresh eyes and an ability to see where we need to make adjustments.
*Partner with God: This is perhaps the most important step. I believe in a God who loves me passionately and wants to see me have success in my life, not just in my spiritual pursuits but in every good and worthy cause. Not only does He want to see me succeed but He wants to help me. If I have a goal in mind and I make Him my partner He can give me strength beyond my own endurance, inspiration when I draw a blank, and ideas when I need adjustments. If I can’t come up with a goal, I am well aware of how much He absolutely loves the humble question, “Where do you think I need improvement in my life?” My best and most successful goals have started with this question.
Soul Searching Question: What goal will you set today?
The Motions by Matthew West
Face to face with the author: