By Terry Porter
For the past 15 years, I have made it a habit to take some time each December to look back on the year past and then to look ahead (as best as I can) to the year coming up. I usually take a full day; camp out at a coffee shop; equipped with legal pads, a journal, a Bible, and a calendar. I also bring the notes I had made the previous year for a reference point. Why do I do this each year; why is it important to me? I do it because it helps me to be focused in life, to be motivated, and to work at accomplishing things that are truly important.
What follows is my outline of why and how I work at making a difference. I hope it helps and inspires you, and if you have any suggestions please reply back – I’d love to hear from you.
Why Should We Set and Work At Goals?
To Glorify God
Matthew 5:16 (NASB95)
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
We all have things we would like to change about ourselves; some are selfish and self-serving; while others will better themselves while helping the community around us. When we work on life goals that create a better us (i.e. character and integrity issues) we will become deeper people in our relationships – this will then glorify God who calls us to be more like His Son Christ.
To Organize Our Life
Proverbs 21:5 (NLT)
Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
A goal worksheet can be a quick way to bring some order to your life (if you follow-through with it). I’m sure that if you sat down and evaluated your life you could come up with several unfinished projects, broken or strained relationships, clutter piles, and other “should do’s” that need to be turned into “must-do’s” before something really bad happens.
For me, a few of those projects include finishing our basement and painting the trim around the house. Now, both of these projects will require some planning on my part and some time/resources will be expended. The trim project will only take a few hours (if that, it’s the trim that is on the outside of the house that is around the five exterior doors). However, if I don’t get it down soon, there will be a time that it is beyond painting and I’ll need to replace it (did I mention I’m not a carpenter?). The basement project is much larger (probably about $5000 larger). This will require me to budget money, figure out what I can do and what I cannot do, and then start plugging away at it. If our family can stay on our budget for the year I believe that we can have the basement over half-way done by fall (that would be awesome – it would create an entirely new space for our family to hang out in during the long winters).
So what do you want to accomplish this year? What are you willing to sacrifice to obtain those goals? I don’t know who said but I like it; “Anything worth having is worth the sacrifice.”
To Accept New Challenges
Philippians 3:14 (NASB95)
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes the “status quo” seems like an easy life; however, when we live without new challenges in life that’s when we find ourselves falling into spiritual ruts. A new challenge is like an exercise for our character development. There are many types of challenges that one could set for himself:
- Read the Bible through in a year
- Read a new book each month
- Give up that bad habit that you have been trying to kick
- Enter a race (running, biking, etc.)
- Reach and maintain your ideal weight
- Save a % of your total income
- Give a % of your total income to charity
- Learn a new language
To Lean On God
Hebrews 12:2 (MSG)
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
It’s great to see God “show up” in our life. The fact is, He is always there and He is always blessing us and ready to bless us. Yet, many times we are so consumed with the “here and now” that we often miss out on what God is doing all around us. What I have learned to do is share my goal list with God and listen to that “still, small voice” to what goals He desires me to pursue – it usually means that I cut out the selfish goals and I get stretched with challenging goals that I would need His help to accomplish. Now, here’s a great thing! When we set challenging goals that our just beyond our reach, and we lift those goals up to God when we accomplish them we can go back to God and praise HIM for what HE is doing in our life!
I remember taking a mission trip a few years ago and a member of the team wanted to be stretched by God in their evangelism. As they prayed and were faithful, God gave them the courage to share their faith and lead children to salvation! That’s a great goal!
To Show Our Growth
Proverbs 19:8 (MSG)
Grow a wise heart—you’ll do yourself a favor; keep a clear head—you’ll find a good life.
Write down your goals, post them in a place you will see them regularly, pray about them, and start plugging away. At the end of the year, you might be surprised at what you were able to accomplish.
Each year we have a garden in our backyard; it takes hard work (weeding, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and more weeding). Nevertheless, at the end of the summer when we see and taste the harvest it gives us a great feeling to know that our hard work and God’s providence came together.
How To Set Great Goals
Writing your goals down might seem pretty easy; yet, I would recommend you give it some time and thought (I like to set aside at least 3 hours to work on mine at the end of the year). Below I will give you some tips on writing out a goal sheet but before we get to that I want to give you a few important steps to remember. First, spend some time in prayer before starting your goal list. Ask God to bring to your mind things He would like you to accomplish in the year ahead. Second, ask the people close to you what they think would be good goals for you that would challenge you. And third, go to a place that you can be alone and turn the phone off. This is critical! As you work through the goal sheet your mind will probably wonder and it would be very easy to get off of task or un-focused with your thoughts; so go to a quiet place.
Okay, here are some principles to follow to complete your goal sheet:
- Be Realistic with your goals – if you have never ran before don’t set a goal to run a marathon; instead, set a goal to run a 3k or 5k in 6-8 months.
- Make Your Goals Challenging – don’t be too easy on yourself; set the bar a bit higher, you can always re-adjust your goals later in the year.
- Categorize Your Goals – Come up with at least five goals for each of the following categories.
- Goals as a family member – How can you add value to your family this year?
- Spiritual Life Goals – What can you do this year to grow in your faith?
- Professional Goals
- Financial Goals – Family vacation, Credit card to pay off, Loan to pay down
- Personal Development Goals – Learn a new skill, read a new book each month, start your own blog, go back to school
- Just For Fun Goals – The bucket list… (Some of my favorites include: Jump from a plane, attend a major college football game, visit a different continent).
- Fill In The Goal Sheet – Email me if you want a template
- Find An Accountability Partner – this is significant, share your goals with someone who would be a “cheerleader” in your life, then make it a point to visit with them monthly for the purpose of review/evaluating your goals.
- Pray About Your Goals
- Post Your Goals
- Celebrate – once you complete a goal take time to praise God and celebrate the growth step you accomplished.
I hope this encourages you and gives you some motivation to accomplish great things with your life in the year ahead. Remember, email me back and let me know if you need a template of the goal sheet I use or if you just want to shoot some ideas back at me.