We have talked about your mission and the things only you can do. We also talked about the three main areas of life and how to find your unique obligations and purpose in life. Now, we can get into the “meat” of goal-setting: the actual plan. To make a plan, we need to ask ourselves a few questions.
1. In which areas do I most want to grow this year?
As you look at each area of your life, one or several of them might jump out at you more than the others. If you are struggling to get in your daily Bible reading, you might want to take a look at your spiritual life first. If you have health issues or are overweight, you may want to focus on your physical health. And if you want to get out of debt this year, you might have to step up your finances by advancing your career.
Under each area of life, write down things you want to accomplish. Go ahead and write everything that comes to mind. You may not do them all, but think of this as brainstorming.
2. Which goals will have the most impact on my life?
When you have a list of all the things you want to accomplish under each heading, do not get overwhelmed. You have a lifetime to do these things! Right now, just ask yourself the question: “Which things will make the most impact on my life?”
In our above examples, we know that a vibrant relationship with the Lord will spill over into every area of life. Therefore, establishing a goal of regular Bible reading would make a great impact.
While you may be tempted to try to do everything at once, it is best to pick only a few goals. If they are big ones, you probably only want to choose 1-3 of them to focus on through 2014.
Smaller goals may be fine to add on as well, but I found that seven was a magic number for me. When I simplified them all, I have a couple really big goals like decluttering my house and a few smaller ones like reading aloud to the kids one chapter book a month.
3. What are some specific ways I can accomplish this?
So far we have been dreaming. Now it’s time to see how we’re really going to take action on these goals! Let’s use the previous example of losing weight. First of all, you have to be specific and decide how much you want to lose and the date you want to weigh in at your goal weight. Of course, you have to make it realistic. (Hint: Losing 1-2 pounds a week is plenty!)
Next, decide how you are going to lose the weight. Are you going to exercise more? Find an exercise plan that you can stick with and put it on your calendar. Are you going to eat healthier? What does that mean? Which foods do you need to eat more of and which do you need to cut out or limit?
As you go through this process, write everything down. Even if you’re a techie person, I would encourage you to write it down physically. Something about the process of writing with pen and paper makes it seem more real. You usually sign a contract in real ink on real paper, right?
4. How can I be sure I will follow through?
Now that you have a plan in place, you want to be sure you move on from the planning stage to the action stage. You know best what motivates you, but here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Pencil in appointments with yourself on the calendar. If you need to do some extra work to make your financial goal of getting out of debt, decide the hours you will do this and write them on your calendar. If you have a goal of spending more time with your children, make an appointment with them and put it on the calendar. While you’re at it, schedule a day each week or month to review your goals and your progress.
- Set up a reward system. Small rewards make the journey to reaching our goals much more enjoyable. If your goal is to read your Bible every day and you have a time on your calendar for it, make it something to look forward to. Brew your favorite coffee or tea. Find a pretty basket to keep your Bible and journal and devotional books in. And above all, pick a spot that is relaxing, but not so much so that you fall asleep during prayer! Long term rewards are great, too. An example of this would be giving yourself a night off or a shopping trip for every 5 pounds you lose. Just don’t use the shopping trip reward if your goal is to get out of debt!
- Get an accountability partner. Let’s face it: there are going to be days when you don’t want to do what it takes to reach your goal. It is important to have someone else who is going to check in with you. This may be finding a running partner or a friend to help with your closet decluttering. It may be as simple as starting an e-mail or Facebook group where you can check in after you have had your devotions each morning. (Hint: Here’s a great place to go for that one: Good Morning Girls.)
- Establish habits and routines. You are never going to accomplish anything new unless you make it a regular part of your life. The best way to reach a goal is to make it a habit each and every day. If you want to declutter your house, tack on a 15 minute declutter session to the end of your regular weekly cleaning in that room. If you always eat chocolate at a certain time of day and you are trying to lose weight, choose a healthy treat to replace the chocolate and eat it during that time instead. Make yourself do your new habit for 21-30 days, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is!
ACTION STEP: Find one to three things that will make a big impact on your life this year. Use some of the tips I’ve given or make up your own to get the ball rolling. I’d love to hear your goals and how you plan to implement them this year!