Posts Tagged With: planning

Just for Today (Not a Whole Year)

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34, NASB1995).

Photo by Peter Janzen, published under a Creative Commons copyright.

As the New Year begins, many people have made resolutions. For the most part, they are good ideas: many are sincere efforts to adopt healthy lifestyles and habits or eliminate harmful behaviors.

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I usually set periodic goals for myself. These may be around New Year’s Day, but other times of the year offer opportunities to make changes in one’s life. For Christians, Lent is an opportune time for self-reflection, repentance, and developing new habits.

Studies show that most people do not stick with their resolutions. The average New Year’s resolution lasts about 17 days. Fitness centers will be crowded for about two weeks. After that, much of the New Year’s crowd will dwindle, and attendance will be back to last year’s levels by February 1. (Apparently, January 17 is an unofficial holiday—Ditch New Years Resolutions Day. This is the date that the average resolution is abandoned.)

There are perhaps several reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail. First, fulfilling plans for a long time demands endurance. It is easy to do things once or twice. It is harder to do it every day at the same time. Many people grow discouraged and give up when they fail to keep a habit going for a while. “I vowed to go to the gym every day. I was too tired on Thursday. I failed. I quit.”

A second reason is that we cannot see what will happen in the future. I have a pretty good idea about my schedule for tomorrow. There are other upcoming events that I am looking forward to in the coming weeks. However, I do not know what will happen in June or July. When our circumstances change, we may need to change our plans. Plans and promises we make in January may be completely unrealistic in June or July if our health, obligations, or finances change unexpectedly.

So, what is the solution? How can we attempt to make meaningful, lasting, positive changes in our lives while avoiding the risk of disappointment by failing to fulfill long-term promises? Twelve-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous recommend living one day at a time. A popular resource in such groups is “Just for Today,” which you can read in its entirety here. The basic premise is that you do not try to tackle every problem in your life at once; you simply face the coming day’s challenges and get through those. Many recovering alcoholics say things like, “I have 10 years of sobriety,” meaning that they have not had any alcohol in that time. A friend of mine, when preparing to celebrate his sobriety anniversary at AA, once said, “I only have one day of sobriety, but I have those ‘one days’ for 25 straight years.” He did not focus on never drinking again; he just focused on getting through the next day.

For some, one day may be too much. We need to just get through the next temptation: the next hour, the next fifteen minutes, etc. One day might seem overwhelming, let alone an entire year or the rest of your life.

Part of Matthew 6:34 painted under a bridge. Photo by Evelyn Simak, via Wikimedia Commons. Published under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Seize the next day. Redeem the time for the next 24 hours and use it to God’s glory. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34, do not look too far ahead. The next 24 hours will bring enough problems. You do not know what crisis or temptation you will face in the future.

This does not mean we have to just wander impulsively through life without a plan or goals, but we need to realize that our goals should always be focused on the short term. Few authors write an entire book in one day. They plan ahead, set realistic short-term goals, and achieve them. Novelist Stephen King writes about 2000 words (about 8 page) per day. He recommends that novice authors aim for 1000 words per day; if that seems too daunting, they should aim for 300-500 words. That small commitment eventually adds up to a full-length novel.

Turn any long-term goals into short-term goals. Make them manageable for the next day. Write them down. Make the best use of your time to achieve them. If you can schedule a particularly important activity, write it in a calendar and make it a top priority for that period.

If you fail to achieve that goal, do not give up. Do not let discouragement or a fear of failure hold you back. Try again tomorrow. One day’s failure does not have to become a lifelong defeat.

Realize that your goals may need to change with your circumstances. Early in 2021, I planned to write at least one post per week on Darkened Glass Reflections; I hoped to aim for two or three posts per week when time allowed. However, my total output was only 47 articles—less than one per week, far below my original goal. Between a vacation in July, my mother’s illness and death from August through November, and other challenges to my time thereafter, my productivity dropped significantly during the last half of the year. There was no way I could plan for some of those obstacles one year ago. I had to adjust to new stresses and unexpected crises.

For 2022, my goal is to be faithful to God one day at a time. I might have an idea what that will look like over the next few weeks, but only God knows what the world and my life will look like much after that. However, He always knows the best path for our lives, and we can always look to Him for wisdom and guidance.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8, NASB1995).

What has worked for you when trying to change habits or behaviors? How do you accomplish personal goals most effectively? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Setting Goals

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.

Categories: Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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