I haven’t set goals for the New Year in a long time. I used to do it every year, but I kept feeling so discouraged when I wouldn’t reach my goals that eventually, I gave up and stopped doing it.
I had no plans of returning to the practice this year, but I happened to come across two resources which have persuaded me to change my mind, and give it another try.
The first one was a book Ben gave me for Christmas, which was on my Amazon wish list, but I’d forgotten about it. It’s called “Living Well, Spending Less”, and it’s fantastic. It covers all my usual favourite topics, like pursuing contentment, rejecting consumerism, budgeting, getting groceries for cheaper, decluttering, and all that good stuff.
But then the author slipped in a chapter on setting goals. I was not expecting to enjoy it so much, but she hooked me in! She wrote about picturing what you would like your life to look like ten years from now, and breaking it down into manageable steps to take each year, month, week, and even day, so that you are constantly taking specific steps to get closer to your goals. I think this was one of my big problems with accomplishing goals in the past – I didn’t break things down, and couldn’t pursue my goals with clear enough direction or intention.
The day after reading the chapter on goals, one of my favourite podcasters shared an interview with Michael Hyatt. I’ve enjoyed a number of articles he’s written, so I knew the interview would be interesting. And guess what it was about – writing down your goals!! He said that by simply writing down your goals, you are 42% more likely to accomplish them. What?! He also shared some great thoughts on how to set good, helpful goals.
After enjoying these two resources, and spending some time thinking about why my goals failed in the past, I’ve put together a few tips for setting goals for the New Year:
1) Pay attention to what God is already calling you to.
Making goals on our own without discerning what God is already calling us to means we’re setting ourselves up for an internal tug-of-war. We have to choose between fighting for our own way, and pursuing our own desires, or getting into the flow of what God is already doing. When we allow Him to lead our passions, goals, and ambitions, we can trust that He’ll take us down the best path.
This is the biggest reason I used to fail with goals when I was younger. (And why I wrote a blog series years ago called “Ditching the Five Year Plan”.) I kept dreaming up all kinds of plans that seemed like great ideas, but didn’t spend enough time discerning if all these “good things” were what God actually wanted for my life.
But over the years, I’ve been able to determine little nudgings or passions growing in me which seemed in line with what God wanted for me, and learned how to trust His guidance instead of my own ideas and plans.
I want to make sure to pray a lot about what I commit my time to, not just go with whatever sounds good, or seems to be a popular goal for other people. There are many good things to spend our time on, but we can’t do them all. Prayer can bring a lot of clarity when it comes to discerning what goals to choose, and which direction to focus our energy.
2) Don’t make a goal too hard OR too easy!
Michael Hyatt had some great things to say about finding the sweet spot for goals which are attainable, while still challenging us. He said a goal that’s easy to reach is not motivating, and won’t push you to accomplish it. But goals that are far too hard and unrealistic can be discouraging, and not helpful, either. (This is where my old goals usually fell!) He suggests dreaming up a goal that’s unrealistic, and then scaling back to something a little more reasonable will help set the best goals.
3) Come up with goals for a few different categories.
In “Living Well, Spending Less”, she writes about asking yourself what you’d like to accomplish in your marriage, your parenting, your work, etc. And in another great episode of The Model Health Show, Shawn Stevenson talks about how everyone should have goals for what they want to accomplish in each category of nutrition, fitness, mindset, sleep, and stress management.
I really like the idea of categorizing goals, because too many goals can get overwhelming, but if I pick one for each different area of my life, there’s always something I can be focusing on, and being intentional with, whether I’m homeschooling, or writing, or whatever.
4) Stay flexible.
This is another area where I usually messed up in the past – I wasn’t willing to quit or change direction when my goals weren’t working out well for me. But goals aren’t supposed to be terrible commitments we’re chained to, no matter what!! Goals that fit well can be fun and life-giving. Unexpected opportunities can come up, and there is freedom to pursue different goals than what we originally anticipated.
I never set out to declutter 2015 things in 2015 – it was something I sort of stumbled onto. My original goal was to declutter one thing a day, but somewhere around January or February, I realized that was no where near challenging enough. I’m so glad I changed direction, because I had a lot of fun, I accomplished the more challenging goal, and it changed the way our family views material possessions.
5) Know the difference between a goal and a dream.
A goal is something you can do something about, while a dream is something you really hope will happen, but there’s nothing you can do to make it happen.
Making dreams our goals can lead to disappointment or frustration. My friend once said, “It’s my goal to have a white Christmas!” In Manitoba, that’s pretty much a sure thing, but it’s still not a goal, because there are no actionable steps to take. He could not make it snow. A goal would be more like, “It’s my goal to travel to the mountains so we will have lots of snow for Christmas”, or something like that.
It’s usually possible to figure out how to set goals which make it more likely to see a dream come to pass, but it always needs to involve actionable steps. I’ve found this very helpful to discuss with my kids. Anika has a lot of dreams for her future, but when she was younger, it was hard for her to determine how to take steps towards those things. Or sometimes I’m the one who really wants to see something happen, but I need Ben’s wild and creative imagination to give me a fresh perspective on how to get out of my rut, and take action. Another person can see things from a different angle, and help you figure out how to turn your dreams into practical, realistic goals.
I’ve been keeping a list of things I would love to accomplish this year, but I want to take some time to consider each one more prayerfully before I commit to anything. As I’ve been thinking through all of this, I’ve been getting so excited for the New Year, and motivated to accomplish some great things!
I would love to hear any of your tips or suggestions for setting goals! Or if you already know what goals you’re shooting for this year, share those, too! For every tip or goal you share, your name will be entered into a draw for a free copy of “Living Well, Spending Less”! I’ll do a draw at the end of the week, so you have a little bit of time to figure out some awesome goals to share! 🙂