The new year is now a little less shiny. The sparkly sheen has now worn off one week in. People are no longer saying “Happy New Year” (well, one person said that to me today, but she did not see me last week). Many people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions. I have kept mine: I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions.
However, that does not mean I have no desire to become a better person or to live a better life in 2011. It just means I have broadened my perspective and will seek something deeper. Resolutions are a little tricky: They are often a very simple quick statement of something we want to do, or want to stop doing. One person’s resolution is, “I will exercise more.” Another person might say, “I want to lose weight.” Still another New Year’s resolution might be, “I want to draw closer to Christ in the coming year.”
These are all great things. Yet, by themselves, they will be quickly forgotten. Instead of stopping at a resolution, one should set goals. Resolutions tell us what we want to do. Goals give us an idea of how we will accomplish it. Goal-setting defines a destination and describes the steps to reach it.
Granted, this must be done with some humility. We can plan our steps, but we often have to leave the results to God. I can resolve to make more money in 2011. I can take clear steps to pursue that goal (update my resume, apply for better-paying positions, seek a second job, or write a book and submit it to a major publisher). However, even after all of my best efforts, I cannot guarantee that my desired goal will be achieved.
So, before everything else, one should pray. I am planning to sit down one day and think through some personal goals for 2011. Yet, before I do that, I will set aside some quiet time to pray and ask God what my goals should be. What passion has He placed in my heart? What gifts has He bestowed on me? Where has He led me in the past? This should be done in a time of solitude, silently listening to the voice of the Lord as He speaks to your heart. Such meditative prayer is a lost art for many modern persons, even those who profess a deep personal relationship with Christ.
In his book, Old Man New Man (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2000), Stephen Strang offers the following advice regarding goal setting:
- Begin with general goals — the familiar New Year’s resolutions mentioned above would be among these.
- Break your general goals down into specific daily tasks. For example, if my goal is to publish a book in 2011, one of my daily tasks would be, “Write first draft of chapter 1.”
- Set some life goals. These might include five-year goals, such as “owning my own company.”
- Establish a personal mission statement. Strang quotes author Patrick Morley, who said a personal life mission statement should include the following four elements:
- A life purpose: why you exist
- A calling: what you do
- A visual or mental picture of what you want to happen
- A mission: how you will go about it.
Goals do not need to be merely financial. Strang says goals can be spiritual, family, physical, and financial. There are probably a few more categories one can add.
It has been said that those who fail to plan are planning to fail. As I seek to reject passivity in my personal life, I realize that I must continue to move forward. That involves a choice. It also means I need to know where I want to go. Otherwise, I will either drift aimlessly through life, missing out my dreams and opportunities; or I will end up being carried by circumstances away from God’s purpose in my life.