We are all called to be focused. But how do we decide what to focus on? And how do we ensure we are steadily working toward it? Here’s how you can set goals that are God-honoring and follow through with them.
Have you ever seen a New Year’s Resolution kept throughout the year?
From now on, I won’t eat fast food.
The first 2 months into the year might find these resolutions solemnly kept. But that’s about it—two months instead of the twelve you resolved to work on what you promised.
And it isn’t just for New Year’s Resolutions that we find keeping commitments to be a challenge. From the smallest promises like taking the children to a movie night, to bigger commitments like finishing graduate studies, there are times when our steps falter and our resolve fades.
It’s easy to fall prey to a que-sera-sera, fatalistic way of going about the year—casually making promises we know we won’t deliver on without thinking them through. Then later apologizing for falling short. After all, we can’t control what happens tomorrow, so why bother?
While this setup can sound like a convenient scapegoat every time we fail to achieve our goals, it’s not the biblical way of going about things. Matthew makes it clear: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37) Whatever we’ve committed to doing, we must do—even when it’s not as easy as we initially thought it would be.
But how do we set goals that are good, godly, and achievable? How do we find the balance between striving to pursue godly things and not being caught in our own promises?
If we wish to pursue God’s glory and our good, we need to be able to evaluate, build, and execute our goals well.
Evaluating your Goals
Before you start chasing after a goal, it’s important to know whether or not the goal is actually a godly pursuit. The main qualifying question when we assess and evaluate goals is, “Does this goal line up with Scripture?” Is the goal something that is founded on the Bible, either as a direct command of God to us or as a means for us to obey God?
Here’s the question: “How will I bring God glory through this goal?”
Praying over your goal and sincerely surrendering it to God helps you evaluate your goals biblically too. Some of the things we might desire to go after are not really worthy of a Christian’s pursuit. Prayerful evaluation saves you from pursuing goals that are not worth your time.
When praying over our goals, perhaps we can learn from David’s disposition in Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Building your Goals
When you’ve decided to commit to a goal, it’s best to make the goal as concrete as possible so that you can progressively work towards achieving it. A vague goal is difficult to measure, and thus frustrating to try to achieve. On the contrary, the best goals are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Specific. Good goals have a specific outcome and result that is easily observable. When you set goals, make your intention clear. What do you want to achieve?
Measurable. Desired outcomes without a metric for success are simply wishful thinking. Good goals also include a quantifiable aspect to them which makes it easier to work towards. How will you quantify your progress toward this goal?
Achievable. Your goals must be realistic. No one can win an Olympic swimming medal if they don’t know the strokes. Achievable goals are ones that are several steps ahead of you, but still within feasible reach. James Clear calls this the Goldilocks Rule. It’s also helpful to ask, “What resources do I need to get to this goal?” If the resources are beyond your reach, most likely your goal is as well.
Relevant. Pursuing goals that don’t contribute to your ultimate calling is like getting sidetracked from your main quest. Make your goals matter by ensuring that everything you pursue positively helps you achieve your ultimate calling—to be Christlike, glorify God, and enjoy Him forever. How does this goal contribute to your unique calling? If it doesn’t, then why are you doing it?
Time-bound. Ideally, we want to accomplish all our goals, which makes it necessary for us to set a hard deadline for when we should complete each goal we decide to pursue. Setting a timeframe for your goals helps you pace yourself so you won’t burn out or procrastinate when working towards them. Ask yourself, “When will I complete this goal?”
Here are a few examples of SMART goals:
Executing your Goals
Seeing a goal through takes more than just motivation and willpower. Those are great when you have them, but they aren’t reliable power sources for the long journey of pursuing your goals. To succeed goals need to be transformed into a solid plan with mapped-out steps and milestones.
Look at your goal as an end result. What does it take for you to get there? Reverse engineer your desired outcome (remember, we are targeting a SMART goal) and place significant milestones or indicators of your progress. Add small steps that will help you get to each milestone. These milestones will be your projects and these steps to each project will be your tasks and habits.
Learn to develop habits that get you closer and closer to your goal. Learn to invest in projects that will propel you toward the result you wish to get. For instance, if your goal is to get to a certain weight, plan your activities, meals, and even your daily schedule so that all these components will strategically help you with your progress.
We make plans, but God directs
As creatures made in the image of God, we are created for a specific purpose: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Our life should be set on a course that will lead us to that chief end. Setting goals that contribute to that goal of goals helps us to bring God more of the glory He so richly deserves. Planning is simply biblical wisdom in action. And having a concrete, repeatable process for reaching those goals ensures that do so consistently.
Still, with all the planning and executing we do need to remember, “Man makes plans, but God directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Along the way as you pursue your goals, God may close specific paths to redirect you elsewhere. So it’s important to acknowledge God’s providence and recalibrate your plans accordingly. At the end of the day, we are called to do all things for the glory of God.
Need help setting Godly goals for your good? Enroll in Goal Setting and the Glory of God.