Anyone buy a planner for 2020? Anyone throw away a partially filled out planner from 2020? If there is ever a verse to describe last year, James 4:14 definitely fits “Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” Truth—so why bother to make goals? Is it a waste of time and energy simply setting oneself up for disappointment? No, even after a year like 2020 there is still value in setting goals. “Shoot for the moon,” the popular saying goes. “Even if you miss you will land among the stars.” Without goals less tends to happen. It’s the scientific principle of Newton’s law of motion: an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will to stay in motion… A well-set goal can be that push that gets someone moving. But just setting goals is not enough. A goal has to be realistic and attainable in order to be a successful.
What is a well-set goal? Why are so many gyms packed in January but mostly empty again in April? Let’s look at five steps for setting a successful goal—a goal that you can get to at the end of 2021 and say, “I actually accomplished that.”
1. Be ok with failure; adjust and try again– For many people it is easier to not set any goals then to admit that a goal might fail. Guess which goal I failed to keep in 2020? My long awaited goal to travel, spend time with my nieces and just enjoy time with family and friends in the US. I actually thought this would be the easiest goal to keep when I set some goals for the beginning of 2020 (haha). We had tickets booked but then flights were cancelled and the visa process closed, so we wait and try again.
2. Be ambitious but realistic-One of the biggest issues people have when setting goals is being too ambitious wanting to write a best selling novel, lose 20 pounds, motorcycle across the Sahara desert, and spend more time with family. Try picking one or two big goals and really focus on that. Although, I suppose it would be possible to lose 20 pounds while motorcycling across the Sahara, and it might make a great setting for a best seller; but then there would still be the issue of figuring out how to bring the rest of the family along with. Be honest with yourself. What goal or goals can be realistically accomplished in the time frame that you have set up for yourself? The more realistic you are when setting goals the more likely you are to succeed. One of my goals for last year was finishing the first draft of a book that I started writing eight years ago. But I have two young kids now, so I can’t just lock myself in a cabin for two months and write (as tempting as that sounds). My goals needs to fit with my other current responsibilities in order for them to be successful and for me not to neglect other responsibilities already on my plate.
3. Be Clear in your Steps- Breaking a goal down into steps is so key for success. For my book, I wanted to complete 13 chapters by the end of the year, so my goal was finishing a chapter a month with two chapters in December. I also had weekly goals which involved setting aside 3 hours on Thursdays to write and working towards a word goal each week. Having a specific day to work on my goal made such a difference because, of course at the beginning of the year, I wanted to write 24/7. But, I have kids who like to eat and a house that’s constantly needing to be cleaned and ministry responsibilities as well; so when I would get an idea through out the week I would jot down a note on my phone knowing that on Thursday I would have time dedicated to writing. Thursday became my favorite day of the week as I looked forward to that writing time. But, then Thursday would come and I would feel so tired or distracted by so many other things that I often did not feel I had the energy to write. Knowing that this was the time I had for the week to write would give me the motivation to push other things aside and work on my goal. So don’t just set a yearly goal. Break your goal down into monthly goals or even weekly or daily goals. If you want to lose 24 pounds, for example, a goal of consistently losing 2 pounds a month will get you to that goal by the end of the year. Then break down what changes will you make each week to get help you lose those two pounds. Slow and steady really does win the race and can keep you in the gym in April when others have lost their steam.
4. Be flexible- Make plans knowing that they will likely change. Don’t see a change of plan as necessarily a bad thing—adjust, be flexible. When I started writing on Thursdays the time I was pretty certain I could dedicate to writing was 9pm until 12pm. The kiddos were usually in bed by then and I could write without interruption. As the year went on and especially now as we are expecting baby number 3, this time frame no longer worked. I was just too tired to think straight. I still was able to stick with Thursdays, and thankfully my husband would often take the kids for the morning so that I could write. If a Thursday did not work for him to take the kids, I would often write on Fridays or write for an hour or so on Thursdays and then another hour on Friday. I also adjusted my page goal for the book from 250 pages down to 200 pages. As I said, I’m still in the draft stage, but as I work on it more, I think what I want to say fits within 200 pages so no need to keep adding pages just for the sake of the goal. Adjust the goal for the project when necessary not the project to fit the goal.
5. Be willing to give something up to get what you want- If you truly want to reach a goal what are you willing to give up in order to make it happen? For me it was less sleep and less time on Netflix. Maybe you will need to be willing to give up those daily soft drinks or spend less time on social media to make time for the new thing you want to do. Maybe it is eating out less with the goal of putting that money towards paying off debt. It is possible. It takes sacrifice and discipline, but there is something truly satisfying about reaching a goal—one flexible, but determined, step at a time.