As we near the end of January, I would ask you… how are you doing with those resolutions you made back on December 31st or January 1st?
Research tells me that you are probably not doing so well with them. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Scranton, only 8% of people are ultimately successful with their New Year’s resolutions. Furthermore, the average person makes the same resolution ten separate times without success. Then they give up.
How many times have you said, “I will never do that again!” only to do it again and again?
Good news! There is a better way.
It’s called GOALS.
Setting and pursuing goals is far more effective than making resolutions. Research says that you have a 42% greater chance of achieving your goals by this one simple action: WRITE THEM DOWN.
That’s right. There is something powerful about writing down goals.
A couple of years ago I was cleaning out some files and came across a “dream” goals sheet I had filled out when I was eighteen years old. It asked questions about long-range, lifetime goals in various areas of life. I had filled it out, filed it away, and then forgotten about it. I won’t share the details (they are private), but I was absolutely shocked by how much of those dreams had come true in that over quarter century time span, even some dreams that I had considered unrealistic. What is amazing to me is that I did not sit down to actually come up with a strategy to reach those dreams.
So what are some principles for setting and reaching goals? With a hat tip to Michael Hyatt and the late Zig Ziglar (both have influenced me much on this subject of goals), here is a top ten list I came up with that can help you get started in setting goals:
- Pray about your goals. Remember James 4.13-17… “If the Lord wills…”? You want your goals to be aligned with God’s will for your life.
- Set an appropriate number of goals and pursue only a few goals simultaneously. A good rule of thumb is to set 7-10 goals per year but only be working on 2-3 of those goals at a time.
- Be specific. It is not a good goal to “Get in shape.” A better goal would be: “Run a marathon.” That’s a specific goal that enables you to get in shape.
- Set a due date. Using our previous example, you might say, “Run a marathon by October 15th.” If you are setting a habit goal (a goal of doing something everyday until it becomes a habit), Make sure you set your date at least 67 days out. The old saying that it takes 21 days to make a new habit is a complete myth. Research says it takes about 66 days to make a new habit.
- Get an accountability partner. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”
- Develop an action plan. Break your goal down into manageable steps.
- Get started. An experienced author once counseled an aspiring writer, “The hardest sentence of a book to write is the first one.” Stop dreaming and start pursuing. Procrastination is the enemy of progress.
- Review your goals daily. There is an old saying, “Out of sight… out of mind.” If you do not keep your goals in front of you regularly, you will not stay focused. Come up with creative ways of keeping your goals in front of you… customized screen savers, notecards, bookmarks, etc.
- Eliminate stinking thinking. Proverbs 23.7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The number obstacle to achieving your goals is your own faulty thinking. Attitude determines your altitude. If you are believing lies about yourself or about God, it will limit your ability to press forward and accomplish your goals. So, identify what Michael Hyatt calls “limiting beliefs” in your life and replace them with “liberating truths.” I like to find a Scripture verse or passage that counteracts each of the limiting beliefs that have taken root in my thinking.
- Don’t be afraid to fail and then restart. Don’t give up. Keep trying. In 2009 I set a goal to read 52 books in a year (1 per week). I failed miserably that year, only reading 11. The next year I set the same goal and only read 17. Year after year I set the same goal and year after year I fell short. But on my 8th attempt, in 2016, I finally succeeded and read 53 books that year (including the whole Bible).
BONUS: Plan for a reward for accomplishing your goal.
So, you failed with your resolutions? Take heart… sit down with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Talk to God about setting some goals… and go for it!