6 Thoughts on New Year Goal Setting
There is something about turning the page on the calendar that seems to create a clean slate in our minds and a fresh start for our lives. A chance to look back and be thankful for past blessings. A chance to look forward and envision new goals and dreams.
This annual dreaming and goal setting is one of my favorite things about this time of year. I want to improve myself – be a better follower of Jesus, a better husband and father. I want to be healthier and get better at my work. I suspect a lot of you are like me and desire good things for yourself and your family this next year. If you’re also like me, you may have found success reaching your goals to be difficult.
If you’ve ever joined the gym in January and then not darkened the gym doorstep the other 11 months of the year, you are not alone! This has been me on several occasions! I wanted to share a few thoughts on goal setting that have been helpful to me over the years.
Begin with Thankfulness
James 1:17 begins with “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” God is the provider of all our blessings and our sustainer, joy, and hope through all circumstances. I love reflecting on the past year and remembering and thanking God for all his blessings. Set yourself a challenge of writing down as many of God’s blessings from the past year as you can and then thanking Him. As you begin remembering and writing you will be amazed at how many things come to mind.
This is a big encouragement as you see a visual reminder of how much God loves and takes care of you. Also, reflecting on the things you are most thankful for can help you identify possible goals for the coming year.
Goals vs. Plans
In thinking of your goals for next year, recognize that goals and plans are not the same thing. A goal is the end result, the plan is the series of steps you take to achieve the goal. If you set goals but fail to plan, then the probability of reaching your goal decreases drastically. For each goal you set, think through your plan for achieving it. What steps do you need to take? How and when will you take them? What habits do you need to start or stop? For example, if my goal is to eat healthier, I might set action steps like eating a salad for 3 meals a week, or not eating sweets after 7 pm or something like that. I could then develop a plan and build some habits around this.
Related to the topic of goals versus plans is the benefit of setting “SMART” goals. SMART is an acronym for:
Specific – well defined and clear
Measurable – have specific criteria that can be used to gauge your progress and if you have actually achieved the goal
Achievable – the goal should be something possible
Realistic – goal should be something that you can realistically achieve with discipline/work
Timely – goals should be pegged to a specific timeline
Studies show that using SMART goals improves your chances of success. So, for example, instead of having the ambiguous goal of “exercising more” I might set a SMART goal of “going for a 30-minute evening walk 3 nights a week for the next 6 months.”
Set Wholistic Goals
God created you as a unique, special person and your life is a rich balance of several different areas. As you look at your goals, consider your whole life or self as God created and intended you to be. Some keys areas for goal setting are:
- Family (or Relationships)
- Focus (work, ministry, intellectual, etc)
Trying to grow in each of these areas will reap a lot of rewards.
Changing bad habits or creating good ones is hard. One way to improve your chances of developing new habits and routines is to work smarter by developing systems to help you. James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, is a fantastic read that I recommend to everyone interested in making incremental improvements to their life and developing better habits that stick.
Clear has many great tips about developing better habit-forming systems such as “habit stacking” where you perform a desired new habit immediately after doing a current habit. So, if the new habit I want to develop is praying more for my wife, I might stack that habit with my current habit of brushing my teeth. So that every time I finish brushing my teeth I will pray for my wife.
Submit your Goals to the Lord
Finally, as you dream about goals and develop your plans to reach them, submit them all to the Lord in prayer. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” This verse does not turn God into some divine genie who grants our wishes! When you read this verse in the whole context of Proverbs 16 you can see that we should align our goals with God’s will and His heart. Goal setting is a prayerful activity as we seek God’s will and His best for us. The Bible is a wonderful source of wisdom about God’s will, and we should be using Scripture as our goal-setting compass to make sure our goals are aligned with God’s.
Enjoy this special time of year as you seek God and dream big for the coming year! Give thanks to the Lord for His faithfulness and His goodness!
This time of year is also a perfect time to review your financial goals and plans! We’ve put together an annual checklist to walk you through some financial planning topics you may want to review or plan for the coming year.