I’ll admit right now that I’m a goal-setting junkie. This time of year is always exciting and full of new possibilities!
Setting goals has always been an important part of my life. Growing up, I enjoyed reviewing the past year and setting new goals with my parents during our Christmas break each year. Now my wife and I have our own goal-setting tradition, and I can hardly wait for this week’s coffee-shop-planning-date where we’ll discuss new goals for ourselves and our family in 2015.
Wise people keep saying that life just gets faster and crazier. My oldest is just five, but I know they are right when they tell me “You watch out; you’ll blink and they’ll be all grown up on you!”
Life moves fast, and we’ll all be looking back on 2015 in no time. What do you want to see when you look back a year from now?
This week is a prime time to consider this question. Get some time alone if you can, and think about what is truly important to you in the coming year. To help you set meaningful goals, here are six simple questions that can help you set better goals and grow in faithfulness this year.
(You may also use this free printable planning sheet to write down your own goals as you consider your answers to these questions.)
1. How intentionally do I want to spend this year of my life?
Without deliberate planning, most of us could survive alright, just taking life as it comes. But it’s too easy for the ever-present “urgent” things to crowd out our real priorities when we live this way. As my pastor so aptly put it, “Do you want to keep playing whack-a-mole with your life?”
Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, but in the big scheme of things, our lives make a greater difference and God gets more glory when we’re intentional about how we spend our limited time on this earth. Don’t feel bad about taking time to plan; it’s time well-spent.
2. What responsibilities has God given me?
It’s not hard to think up a few of my own goals or wishes for the new year. Knowing what I want for myself comes pretty easily. But our goal setting changes when we approach it from outside of ourselves. Rather than asking “what do I want out of this year?” I should ask “what does God expect of me this year?”
What commitments have we made to others? What life roles have we assumed that need to be fulfilled in a godly manner? As children of God, as husbands and wives, and as parents, we have certain obligations that should shape our dreams and desires for 2015. Every relationship we’re in carries some kind of responsibility, and those responsibilities are a great place to start when we consider our goals.
Example: My goals are organized according to my areas of responsibility, starting with “Personal/Spiritual” and including “Marriage”, “Children”, “Church” and more. (You can list each of your own responsibilities on this planning sheet.)
3. What does faithfulness look like in each of these areas?
Once we’ve identified our important relationships and commitments, we need a clear picture of what faithfulness looks like in each of these areas. What, specifically, do we owe to God, to our spouses, to our children, and to others around us? Stop and imagine (or better yet, write down) what it would look like to have a closer relationship with God this year. What would it mean to be a more godly husband or wife? What would it look like for us to take our responsibilities as parents more seriously?
If the picture is not clear in your mind, ask God for guidance. Perhaps this will provide direction for your next Bible study 🙂
Example: While helping create two new studies on godly love this year, I’ve become aware of how much room I have to grow in my love for others. My desire for the “Personal/Spiritual” dimension is to be continually growing in godly maturity, and this year, I specifically want to become more of a loving person. This theme carries into my goals for my marriage and my children as well.
4. What specific goals can I set for each of my areas of responsibility in 2015?
With a picture of faithful living fresh in our minds, now we can set goals that will bring us closer to those ideals. How would you like to see yourself grow in the next 365 days? Do you see sin in your life that God is calling you to overcome? What can you do in 2015 that your spouse, your children, or your friends will appreciate? What do these people need from you? What specific changes or accomplishments would you like to look back on one year from now?
Example: My specific goal in the “Personal/Spiritual” category is to spend time reading and studying the Bible and praying each day, which will provide the grounding and direction for pursuing most of my other goals. This will include finishing the Thirty Days in 1 Corinthians 13 Bible study with my wife and gaining a better perspective on godly love.
5. What will it take to reach those goals over the course of this year?
Specific goals are good, but often it takes one more step to get the ball rolling. If I leave my goal at “Read the Bible and pray each day,” the chances of realizing this goal are pretty slim. We need to get down to the tactical level and devise a sufficiently detailed plan for achieving each goal. Ask yourself “What will it take for me to accomplish this goal this year?”
Examples: I have a goal of reading the Bible and praying each day. Unfortunately that won’t happen unless I specify when and where that will happen. So, I’m scheduling 30 minutes in my office in the morning when I won’t be interrupted, and I’m laying out my Bible and study materials on a desk for that purpose. On weekends, I will plan for a shorter study time in the evening after our children are in bed.
6. WHY will I pursue these goals in 2015?
This is the important question that is easy to miss. As Michael Hyatt helpfully points out, people often fail at goals and resolutions because they aren’t connected to the WHY behind their goals. Personally, I find it exciting (and fairly easy) to make plans and goals, but it’s much harder to actually do them. I’m learning that I need to be more aware of what actually motivates me as I set goals. Knowing what’s at stake helps us stay committed and see our goals through to completion.
Furthermore, if we’re pursuing big goals and accomplishments to feed our own pride or build a sense of control, then it’s all a waste of time. Our motivation needs to be God-centered, not self-centered.
God calls us to deliberately pursue wise goals as His servants. Let’s plan now to be faithful stewards of the relationships, time, resources, and gifts He has given each of us this year.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1 ESV)
(If you don’t have your own system for setting goals, you are welcome to print and use this PDF for your goal setting. Consider spending some goal-setting time with each of your children as well, if they are old enough.)