I’ve confessed my tendency to serve my goals, rather than allowing them to serve me.
And I’ve established six areas in which I believe every Christian ought to be setting goals.
In my next post (I keep putting it off), I intend to publish some of my goals for the year, but first I will offer a poor attempt at explaining what I’m calling a “goal.” This is the part of the post in which I give definitions to English words that probably are not actually true — but illustrate well the way I think through all of this in my head:
- Objective = the end result, what I actually want to attain
- Goal = a very tangible accomplishment en route to an obective, or even a tangible demonstration of having met an objective
- Strategy = a plan of action for accomplishing a goal and/or reaching an objective
So… I would suggest that I accomplish goals, while I reach objectives. And a strategy is the way in which I go about this. For example, one objective of mine for the year 2010 is to become healthier physically. The objective is somewhat vague and nondescript (as objectives often are); so I’ve set several goals to help me gauge my progress along the way. One goal I’ve set, for example, is to run a marathon under 3:30 before December 31, 2010. But in order to accomplish my goal and reach my objective, I must have a strategy. So I will run four days a week in 2010, and one of those days will be speed work, something I haven’t done a lot of in the past.
I believe it’s important to:
- first and foremost, have a clear and worthwhile objective. As a Christian, my ultimate objective should be to bring glory to God in all things. Each objective I have must in some way fall under this overarching theme. In my last post on this subject, I covered six areas a Christian needs to address when setting goals. This list provides me with a sort of outline of objectives. I want to reach my full capacity in each of these areas of my life, so I need to improve in each of these categories. [ie. I want to improve in my relationship with God, I want to improve in my relationship with my family, etc]
- formulate a strategy for reaching that objective. I can’t reach an objective by merely dreaming of, or desiring to attain, a particular end. I also cannot reach an objective by setting goals alone. When an individual sets a goal, but fails to make a plan of action to accomplish said goal, he is stating the kind of person he would like to be, but never will become.
- be realistic when formulating a strategy. If I’ve never been a runner, should I plan to run at 5 am, Monday through Saturday? If I’ve never kept up with a Bible reading in my whole life, should I promise myself I’ll read for an hour seven days a week?
- find balance in our goals and objectives, and in our energies to accomplish them. That doesn’t mean equal time or attention, but it means appropriate time and attention. Improving my marriage is more important than losing weight.
- not to worship your strategies and goals in uncompromising rigidity. Goals are for the man and not man for his goals. Forgive yourself when you fall short of a marathon pace or when you miss a day of Bible reading. Then do better. It’s kind of a “Neither-do-I-condemn-you.-Go-and-sin-no-more.” thing. Especially don’t fret when you miss a run to spend time with your wife. [Remember: appropriate balance and attention.]
- when setting goals, set goals that are tangible and concrete, and can be checked off as accomplished. That means they should be 1) measurable and 2) written down. [I should add here, though, I don't think it's necessarily important (depending on the individual) to set goals per se. I want to improve my relationship with God (objective), so I begin every day with a time of prayer (strategy). I don't think I have a single "goal" in that area of my life; but I have a lot of strategy (Spiritual disciplines). I don't measure my relationship with my wife in terms of "goals," but I do have a strategy to ensure I'm improving in this area. The principle here is that I should be able to measure whether or not I'm reaching my objective. I measure my relationship with God in terms of obedience to God and the fruit of the Spirit being manifest in my life. I suppose if I really want to have a "goal," I could make my strategy itself the goal (to pray every morning in 2010), or I could make the measurement the goal (that I be more obedient to God in 2010 than in 2009). For me, though, the strategy and an (measurable) objective is enough in this case.]
- Share your objectives, goals, and strategies with someone who can help hold you accountable. Or better yet, with someone who can work with you to attain the desired results.
- Pray throughout the entire process for God’s guidance and strength.
All of this said, I should explain that when I use the phrase “setting goals” outside this post, I generally am talking about the entire process: realizing my objectives — I find they’re often already there and rarely change from year to year — and then setting goals and forming a strategy around those objectives.
In my next post, I will list some of my goals and strategies for the year 2010.