Goal-Setting: Secrets to Success

Goal-Setting: Secrets to Success

By Meredith Ryburn

Recently, while sitting in a local cafe sipping my soy latte, I overheard two friends discussing 2018. “Oh, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not into that stuff,” the one proudly declared to her comrade. I smirked a little to myself. Not because I find a lack of goal-setting so amusing, but because I, too, used to approach my new year with a similar mentality. I had adopted a well-formulated theory that “There is nothing special to the rolling of the calendar and changing of a year, I will just continue to be awesome again this year!”

It sounds nice and, if you say it with enough confidence, people even think it’s wise.

Scripture, however, tells us that “There is a season for everything, a time for every matter under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV). The real truth was that casting goals for a new year left me feeling pretty overwhelmed. Where do I start? How do I find the time? And, of course… what if I set goals I don’t accomplish?

I am really not into failure. So much so that sometimes I would rather not do something than risk the potential of trying and not succeeding. Yikes! How did that vulnerability hit you? It’s not a great trait, but it certainly had gotten the best of me when it came to goal-setting .

Let me share with you some simple strategies I’ve been using.

Where do I start?

Just start! No, seriously. Get a piece of paper or a blank Word document and spit out some words. Over the years, I have tried several approaches to forecasting my year including giant wall Post-Its, Pinterest boards, web diagrams, and SMART goals. The common denominator? Action.

Perhaps you were hoping for a little more guidance than that, and I’m happy to oblige. The question I always go back to for goal setting is “How am I – spirit, soul, and body?” If God created me to be a three-part being, then I want to be healthy in all three parts.

I suggest taking a blank sheet and writing out these three words: Spirit, Soul, and Body/Physical in column style. Then, consider each area of your life. This is brain dump space – just write what comes to your mind first!

Spirit – How is your spiritual life right now, today? How is your relationship with God? What is missing and what might improve it (even just a little)?

Soul – How are you doing on the inside? Your thoughts, your emotions, your mental health? Are you doing things that add energy to you?

Body/Physical – How is your physical world? Try to think bigger than “I want to lose 15 pounds.” Perhaps you do, and perhaps that’s a really healthy goal for you this year, but there are many things that involve our physical world. I include finances and home in this area, as well, since they are part of my “physical” world.

Once you have done a little reflecting on these areas, look back and pick out one thing that you want to grow in for each area. (*Note: you can certainly do more than one each, but resist the urge to go overboard here). Then, I like to write out the “big idea” statement for each category. This is not the part where you get specific, it’s the part that makes you smile when you read it and proud when you think about being that person. I also find it useful to write a quick “why” statement with each one. It helps me evaluate if I am doing something because other people say it’s a good thing, or because I genuinely want to grow that fruit.

Here are some example of goals and how I would format them:

Spirit – This year I want to grow to be a more grateful person. Why? I believe that gratefulness cultivates contentment, and I want to live a life satisfied with that I have, not striving for what others have.

Soul – I am going to intentionally invest in the relationships that fill me up. Why? I believe that all good things flow through relationships, I cannot give or receive those good things when I don’t prioritize them.

Body/Physical – Pay more attention to how I nourish my body. Why? I only have one body and I want to accomplish everything God has for me. I don’t want my body to limit that, so I need to develop a practice of caring for it now.

How do I find time?

You won’t. Sorry, but that’s the truth. I also used to tell myself the lie that “I am just too busy doing things to sit down and write out goals.” The more I read about and talked to accomplished individuals, the more I found out that they were doing more than I was and making time for getting intentional with their growth. Bubble popped.

The time for goal-setting won’t just magically appear in your week. You make it appear. I like to use Stephen Covey’s Prioritization Matrix, which gives us a visual cue for evaluating the urgency and importance of things we’re trying to prioritize. Urgent activities require our immediate attention. Important ones are consistent with our values and help us achieve our goals. The idea is to focus most of your energy what is important but non-urgent.  Goal-setting most certainly falls into this section of the matrix. Your kids will keep living and your business will still open tomorrow if you don’t prioritize goals. But, like a slow leak, in 10 years, your kids may not be the kind of people you were hoping for and your business may have dwindled.

Set aside the time and guard it fiercely.

What if I don’t accomplish my goals?

Your dreams will be crushed  and everyone will know you are a huge failure.

Obviously not, but if you are prone to the immobilizing kind of hyper-perfectionism that I am, you might be thinking something along those lines. (Bless you if you aren’t!) I have always had eyes that were bigger than my stomach. I still pile more on my plate at a buffet than I can finish, and I still pile more goals on my list than I can manage.

Let me tell you a secret. As my husband Phil and I reflected on our 2017 goals, there were several things on my list that I did not accomplish. (Gasp!) There were also plenty of things that I did accomplish. (Victory!) Learn to focus on those things. Movement is always better than stagnation.

Here are 3 tips that have helped me make my goals a reality:

1. Put some strings on those balloons. Now that you have charted out this grand idea of the kind of person you want to be, put some practical steps in place that will help tie it down and make it a reality. This is where you get detailed – as detailed as you can. Put measurable steps down that you can look at and say “Yes, I hit it this week,” or “No, I missed it this week.” Let’s work with the examples from above and see how this might work out:

Spirit: This year I want to grow to be a more grateful person.
– Start a gratitude journal, write one thing each night that I am thankful for
– Send one card each week to someone, expressing thanks

Soul: I am going to intentionally invest in the relationships that fill me up.
– In January, list 5 key people in my life who fill me up
– Starting in February, schedule time once a week with one of those 5 people
– Remember those 5 people’s birthdays and do something special (maybe learn their love language to help with this.

Body: Pay more attention to how I nourish my body.
– Right away, start drinking eight 8oz. glasses of water each day (download a free app to track it)During January, talk to people – I know who do well with this and find out what works for them
– During February, keep a food journal to track what I am eating; start planning meals
– During April, evaluate and reassess

2. Engage with your goals on a regular basis. I think this is where I came short for so many years. I would write down big dreams in January, tuck them in a journal, and not look at them again until December. Then, I would pour on the guilt for not having accomplished any of it. Each week, maybe even each day, take a few minutes to look back over your goals. And, this is so important, keep adjusting your goals as necessary to move that marker. If you wrote down an action step in January and it just is not working in March, find another route to getting to your goal! Maybe by March, I realize that getting a handwritten note out is not working, but what would work is sending a text message. If it still helps me foster gratitude, swap the action item and save the goal! Too often, we give up on the whole goal because our initial approach did not work.

3. Find a buddy. It makes such a difference to have someone to talk things over with, someone who will keep you accountable and encouraged toward your goals. Find someone you trust, see often, and who will encourage you, but also push you.

In 2018, let’s lay down the false bravado about not needing goals or being “too cool” to get into it, let’s overcome our fear of failure and combat the busyness that leads to fruitlessness, and let’s get intentional about setting goals . This year is yours!

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”
3 John 1:2


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