Not your usual goal-setting guide
What was January like for you?
Did it start with fresh hope that it would be nothing like 2020? Did you put in place some habits only to find enthusiasm fizzling out in the second half of the month?
Or perhaps you felt 2021 has just been 2020 2.0. Not that much has changed.
And now, we find ourselves in February. A month has gone, and somehow, there is a hope that 2021 will turn out differently. Some of it will require prayer and conviction. Others will require change.
You may be reading this in February. Or June. Or even November. Perhaps you took a while to warm up to the idea of change. We hear you. Change can be hard, especially if you’ve tried time and again and wonder why you keep trying. It can be daunting when you come back to square one.
We’re no experts in goal setting, and more often than not we find ourselves finding some difficulty in meeting the very goals we’ve set. Yet, what is life if we do not learn to struggle powerfully - knowing that through the twists and turns, the sweat and tears, we’ll drink from the fount of mercy and grace?
Here’s what we’ve found helpful. Grab a notebook and a pen, or a tablet and stylus if you prefer to go digital. Carve out some time, put on some music and grab your favourite drink. Ready?
Dear God, thank you for the year - and the month - that’s passed. It’s been a tough year, and I want to acknowledge that it’s been hard. But I also want to thank you for being my constant, even when I didn’t think so. For being faithful when I was faithless. For lifting me up in ways I didn't even realise.
I commit 2021 to you. Help me see how You would like to shape my life. Reveal what I need to change, tell me what needs to remain, and encourage me to walk away from people and memories that no longer have a place in my life. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
FIRST, WHAT WORKED?
The first valuable thing we’ve learned is to take a look at what worked well for you in the past - even if you only tried it once.
Did you drag yourself out of bed to work out at 6.45am that one time - and felt energized after? Or did you try cutting back on sugar for a week but found it too hard and never went back? Think about what it was that worked for you, and how you can sustain the habit while feeling positive about it.
Importantly, too, is celebrating what you’ve done so far that should be taken into your new season - be it blocking out Sundays for family time, not checking emails past 11pm, or simply carving out time each week to really listen to God. Good job!
“A wise warrior is better than a strong one, a man of knowledge than one of strength” - Proverbs 24:5 (CSB)
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO LET GO OF?
Next, make a list of habits that you found yourself disliking, or easing into as a means of escape. Our list looks something like this:
- Binge watching Netflix when I didn’t want to deal with a particular conflict
- Reaching out for food as a source of comfort
- Not going as deep in the Bible as I would’ve liked
- Finding fulfillment in work
- Spending too much on random snacks like bubble tea
What’s next is to note how you feel after indulging in them. While some of these bring short-term comfort, you’ve listed them down because you know they do not actually help in the long-term.
That said, we are only human and no matter how disciplined we are, we are bound to slip back into our bad habits. Give yourself some grace and space to pick yourself back up.
“Let your eyes look forward;
Fix your gaze straight ahead.
Carefully consider the path for your feet,
And all your ways will be established.” - Proverbs 4:25-26 (CSB)
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Before we move on to the actual goal setting, we’d like to invite you to take some time to think about what is important to you. A year can change a lot - what are your priorities in the coming months? What are the values that you hold dear?
These can include: Friendships, family time, making space for creative pursuits, being a good steward of your time and finances … the list goes on, so long as it aligns with your heart, and what you believe God has spoken to you about.
Write these down and keep them in mind as we move to the next question.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD?
This is the actual goal setting part. Phew, like finally! You made it!
First, we examined what’s working and what’s not working, before digging deeper into what you’d really like to accomplish this year, and why.
Why would you like to build an exercise habit? Or why would you like to read your Bible for 15 minutes a day?
Getting really clear on why you’re starting will help you get through those days when your goal feels more like a pain than a joy.
HOW WILL YOU ACHIEVE THEM?
In Small Beginnings Journal we talk about the importance of a “trigger”. Not in the negative sense! Rather, when starting a new habit, what will help trigger your memory to kick you into action? For instance, would making a cup of coffee at 8.45am help set up 15 minutes to read the Bible before work? Or would laying out your exercise mat the night before remind you to work out in the morning?
You’ve probably also heard of SMART goals. Set yourself clear goals (e.g. Reading the Bible for 15 minutes a day, six days a week, at 8.45am each day, as opposed to - “I will read my Bible every day”), and ensure they are achievable too - it’s a form of encouragement for yourself when you can keep going!
If you own a Small Beginnings Journal, note down 3 big goals you’d like to achieve that week, and use the habit trackers at the bottom right to keep track of how you are doing. Remember - progress is key. God’s cheering you on, and so are we!
WHO WILL JOIN YOU?
Last but not least, we were never meant to do life alone. This is arguably the hardest part, because being accountable to somebody else means - for the most part - not being able to back out of your goals anymore.
It doesn’t need to be a year-long thing, either. Break it up into smaller, manageable chunks - perhaps you could challenge yourself to share a takeaway from a verse with your small group every fortnight, gleaning from your time spent reading the Bible. Or grab a friend to share exercise videos with, even if you may not work out together. Or tell your core group of friends that you are trying to hit a savings goal, and may not be able to spend as much on outings anymore.
Starting these conversations can be hard. And it can feel absolutely overwhelming when you do not meet your target and someone else bears witness. Yet we love how the Bible is so gentle in doling out wisdom:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
So tell us, did these tips help? Or if you have any prayer requests feel free to let us know.
As you mull on your goals for the year ahead, we’ll end with this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”