• Archive of "Setting Goals" Category

    PART SEVEN: Resolutions you can keep!

    January 3, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    A few final thoughts on this resolution business. We’ve been through the four steps: 1) Reflect, 2) Write down a few specific, positive goals, 3) Write out a plan for achieving your goals, and 4) Ask a few positive, encouraging people to hold you accountable. Now all that’s left is to go for it. As you do, remember …

    Any day can be New Year’s Day.

    True, there’s only one January 1 each year, but you can start the year anew any day. Businesses have fiscal years that rarely follow our wall calendars. Why should your goals? If you get to February and discover, “Dang, I’ve not made any progress on my goals,” don’t be discouraged, cynical, and defeated. Celebrate New Year’s all over. Seriously, pull out the stale, half-drunk bottle of champagne from the fridge and toast the beginning of something new. Life is too precious to fall back into resolutions-don’t-work-for-me thinking.

    Schedule a six-month check-up.

    Not with your dentist–although you should do that, too. Schedule a six-month check-up with yourself to see how your goals are going. A year is a long time. About six months in is a good time to schedule an hour of reflection to look at the status of your life in relation to your goals. Then, make adjustments as needed. Life is fluid. We change as we grow. Our goals need to be flexible as well.

    Big things are possible.

    I like how Emily Dickinson put it: “I dwell in possibility.” Literally, I exist within the realm of “all things possible.” Be reasonable with your goals, sure. You aren’t likely to go from City Council Member to President of the United States in a year, but don’t underestimate what you can do, either. Writing a book seemed just on the edge of what was possible for me. I’d never written anything longer than an article before. I had no connections to the publishing industry. I wasn’t famous. And everyone seemed to be trying to write a book back then, so I had plenty of competition. Yet, I ended up with, not one, but two books coming out in the same year. Big things are possible.

    The journey is the thing.

    For years, I’d dreamed of the moment I’d hold my book in my hands for the first time. My very own book! In reality, however, that moment was entirely anti-climactic. Almost no emotion at all. Turns out, the process of getting to that moment was the real joy: the many walks through the woods asking God for his help, wrestling with writer’s block only to have a sudden burst of inspiration, and the gradual, day-by-day, sentence-by-sentence push toward the finish line–that was the real fun! So yes, aim for your goals, and celebrate your successes when you get there, but realize that you’re living–truly living!–all along the way, because you are living with purpose, shunning a life of aimless conduct.

    Blessings for a wonderful 2012.

    Posted in General, Setting Goals

    PART SIX: Resolutions you can keep!

    January 2, 2012 // No Comments »

    Step 4: Ask encouraging people to hold you accountable.

    Okay, you’ve reflected, you’ve written down a few specific, positive goals, and you’ve written out a plan for achieving your goals. Now you need some accountability. Ask a few optimistic, encouraging people to periodically check in to see you how you’re doing with your goals. And stress on the words “optimistic” and “encouraging.” No Debbie Downers. The last thing you want is a bunch of glass-half-empty people asking about your goals.

    Don’t skip this step! As Craig Groeschel says, “Accountability makes the difference between what you say you want to do and what you actually do.”

    When I made the goal to write a book, I asked one of my then-co-pastors to offer some accountability for me. I knew Jim had quite a gift of faith. He just seemed, more than the average person, to believe that big things were possible. And I knew he believed in me. Years before I made the goal to write my first book, Jim would tell me, “Matt, I can see your book on my shelf.” That is the kind of person you want checking up on you to see how you’re doing with your goals.

    I also decided to tell my church that I was going to try writing a book. Nothing so lights a fire under one’s tail than enlisting the aid of 700 accountability partners! I figured the Debbie Downers in the crowd wouldn’t bother checking in since they weren’t likely to believe in me. And the ones who did believe, who were excited to see this thing happen, would offer some needed encouragement along the protracted path toward a published book. That’s just what happened.

    Tomorrow: seeing the dream come true.

    Posted in General, Setting Goals

    PART FIVE: Resolutions you can keep!

    January 1, 2012 // No Comments »

    Step 3: Write down a plan for achieving your written goals.

    Now that you have a few specific, positive goals on paper, you need a strategy for making them happen because a goal without a plan for achieving it is just wishful thinking. Missing this step, especially if you have a big goal, is why I think many, many people fail at their resolutions and become cynical about New Year’s. The problem isn’t a lack of motivation. It’s not that our goals are too big. And it’s not that we make bad resolutions. People have the best intentions but no plan for how to fulfill them. Your goal may be to reach your ideal weight by losing 30 pounds in 2012, but how are you going to lose those pounds? What is your strategy?

    You’ll recall that my goal in 2006 was to write a book. That’s a pretty hefty project requiring months of work. Without a plan for accomplishing my goal, I could very easily have reached February with little or no progress, decided that writing a book was just a childish fantasy anyway, and given up on my goal. So I devised a plan for achieving my goal: I would write 500 words a day until the thing was done. Now, did I stick to that plan? Often, no. I discovered quickly that writing 500 words a day was easy; writing 500 words a day worth publishing was difficult. But, having a clear strategy for making progress kept me on target. A little a day would equal a whole in the end.

    Now I had a goal, and I had a plan for making it happen. All done, right? Not quite. One more step to go. Come on back now, ya hear?

    Posted in General, Setting Goals

    PART FOUR: Resolutions you can keep!

    December 30, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    Step 2: Write down specific goals.

    Write out a few specific resolutions based on your time of reflection. “Specific” is a key word. Don’t say, “I want to be healthier.” Say, “I want to lose _____ pounds and be able to run three miles without dying.” And really write out your goals. Put them down on paper so you can see them, so they’re not just swimming around in your head. And make positive goals! Don’t say, “I want to stop eating pizza, chocolate, and bacon fat.” Instead, “I want to eat vegetables at every lunch and dinner and save the pizza, sweets, and bacon fat for an occasional treat.”

    Another example: For me, on that mountain in 2006, I made the goal to write a book. It’s specific. I did not say, “I want to write more.” I said what I wanted to write. My goal was positive. I did not say, “I want to stop wasting the gift of writing that God gave me.” That’s not the kind of goal you’ll keep. It’ll just make you feel bad. And anyway, it’s not specific, so you have no way of measuring your success, which will only lead to a feeling of failure. Specific. Positive. And written down. When I actually put pen to paper and wrote out my goal, I realized what had kept me from making that goal in the past: 1) I was scared. What if I fail? And 2) It seemed like such a big goal. Perhaps, too big?

    Tomorrow, we’ll look at what to do with a goal that seems right on the edge of what is possible for you. Step 3 in the goal-making process is the most crucial of all, and failure to follow it is why I think so many people become cynical and discouraged and give up on their goals by February. So come back tomorrow!

    Posted in General, Setting Goals

    PART THREE: Resolutions you can keep!

    December 29, 2011 // No Comments »

    My cliche mountain top experience

    January 1, 2006, I hiked up to Tinker Cliffs along the Appalachian Trail in southwest Virginia. I went to get away, to be alone, and to reflect. I remember praying, asking God to show me if there were any talents he’d given me that I wasn’t putting to good use. I had known since fifth grade that I had a knack for writing, but aside from keeping a personal journal and writing the occasional article for an online magazine, I’d never done much with that talent. For years, I’d dreamed of being published, but I hadn’t taken any steps toward making that happen. It was there on that mountain, New Year’s Day, 2006, that I made the goal to write a book. (The pic to the left is the view from Tinker Cliffs that day.)

    Step 1: Reflect

    The first step to making a good New Year’s resolution, one you can actually keep, is to take significant time to reflect. Get alone, away from all distractions, and look back over the last year for clues to how your life went. What was good? What needs work? Be honest with yourself, and take as much time as you need–I recommend at least an hour–to really get a feel for how last year went. Author Craig Groeschel suggests five areas to consider: relationship with God, relationship with people, financial health, physical health, your life’s work. I’d add mental/psychological health since so much of our unhappiness begins with our self talk, what we tell ourselves about our life’s circumstances. Have a notepad and pen with you so you can write down whatever comes to mind as you reflect.

    Tomorrow we’ll look at what to do in response to the things we learn from our time of reflection.

    Posted in General, Setting Goals

    PART TWO: Resolutions you can keep!

    December 28, 2011 // No Comments »

    Why bother making New Year’s resolutions?

    “Resolution” is just a fancy-pants synonym of “goal.” I resolve to ________ in 2012. It is my goal to __________ in 2012. Same meaning, different terms. Why make goals? Mike Bickle says, “To waste time is to squander destiny.” Read that quote a few times and dwell on it until you really feel its weight. When we sail through life without a plan, we waste a lot of time and miss out on the good we might have accomplished had we only set some goals, or made some resolutions. Goals give our lives direction. Without them, we’re adrift. I hate that feeling, the sense that I’m listless, without purpose, without intention. I need dreams worth pursuing and a plan for achieving them.

    Several years ago I was struck by a couple verses from the Bible. One said that with God, anything was possible (Mark 10.27). Absolutely anything! The other said, “… You were redeemed [by Christ] from your empty way of life” (1 Peter 1.18). One translation said “your aimless conduct” (NKJV). One verse was telling me I could accomplish anything with God. The other was telling me I needed to know what I was trying to accomplish. Otherwise, I was living a life of aimless conduct, which Jesus had died to free me from. How could I simply live adrift?

    I needed goals, and if anything was possible, then I needed to aim big. Since this feeling of urgency gripped me around New Year’s, I made a resolution. A big one. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow and give you the first step I took toward keeping that resolution.

    Posted in General, Setting Goals

    PART ONE: Resolutions you can keep!

    // No Comments »

    People can be so cynical about New Year’s. Mark Twain wrote, “New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Oscar Wilde said, “Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” William Thomas: “It wouldn’t be New Year’s if I didn’t have regrets.” And, my “favorite,” by F.M. Knowles: “He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; he who makes one is a fool.”

    Is that true? Is he right? Are we foolish for making resolutions? Are we weak for not keeping them? I don’t believe so because my own life contradicts these quotes. I have made many goals at New Year’s that I’ve kept. I’ve decided to write books, and I’ve written them. I’ve said I would get in shape, and I’ve gotten in shape. I’ve planned to read the Bible through in a year, and I’ve read it in five months. I’ve resolved to get a handle on my finances, and I’ve stuck to a budget.

    I think we have two problems when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. We buy the cynicism of Twain and others, so we go into the goal-setting process anticipating failure. And we simply do not know how to make good goals. Over the next few days, I will post my suggestions for how to make quality resolutions you can actually keep. I know these ideas work because I’ve followed them in past years, and people have been sick of hearing about my books ever since.

    See you back here tomorrow.

    Posted in General, Setting Goals