We are approaching the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. It is a time of the year when many people think about setting goals for the new year. Many of these goals revolve around living a healthier lifestyle such as eating better, exercising more, and being more relational.
Some people also make it a priority to reconnect with God in a greater way. This might mean making Sunday morning worship a greater priority, praying more regularly, or making a commitment to read the Bible daily.
Unfortunately, we fail with many of these goals after only a short time and end up frustrated. We are piled on with extra guilt and are left feeling worse than before. We are left with remorse and frustration for letting God, our friends, our family, and ourselves down.
Over the next two weeks, I would like to offer some thoughts on how we might move towards better accomplishing our goals and practicing grace with ourselves when we fail to accomplish those goals.
One goal I had for a long time was to read the entire Bible. This was something I tried every year, but inevitably would fail. Eventually, I was able to accomplish my goal after many unsuccessful attempts. Through the process, there was much I learned about accomplishing a goal and I wanted to share them with you:
1) Remember what it is about. For me, the ultimate goal was not reading the Bible in year. That is not the end into itself. The purpose of reading and studying the Bible is spending time with Jesus and to be able to more faithfully follow him. This leads to greater joy, peace, and all the fruit of the spirit. When you are struggling with a goal, always go back to the “why.”
2) Don’t let the calendar defeat you. When I would get behind a few days, I would become overwhelmed by the amount of reading I would need to do to “catch up.” But remember, the calendar is a guide. If you get behind, so what? You are no less of a person because you finish two weeks or even a month late. Another thing you might do is consider starting early. We have two weeks until the end of the year. Start now. You will have two weeks of grace built into your schedule. No one told you you had to start on January 1. If you have a goal to participate in the Good Shepherd Daily Bible Readings in 2014, they are now available online. Why not get started today?
3) Get some accountability! Find someone else to partner with you. Get an accountability partner to join with you in accomplishing your goals. This is someone who will hold you accountable and give you encouragement as well. You are much much more likely to accomplish something when you know someone is going to ask you how you are doing. Make sure the people in your life are aware of what you are trying accomplish so they can help you and not hinder you.
4) Write down your goal and put it somewhere you will regularly review it. Many studies have shown that you are far more likely to succeed in fulfilling your goals if you write them down and clearly articulate them with words. A goal is not really a goal until you put it into words.
5) Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Less is more. Oftentimes we destine ourselves for failure, because we try to do too much, too soon. Instead of trying to read the whole Bible over the course of the year, read the New Testament this year and the Old Testament next year. Or rather than thinking in terms of a year, make a goal to read the Book of Proverbs over the course of a month. There are conveniently 31 chapters in that book. Making your goal too overwhelming will only lead to frustration.
6) Keep going. It is inevitable that you will stumble. Life will encroach upon your ideal circumstances. How will you handle the interruptions that life brings to your well laid out plan? Think through the potential pitfalls that will hinder the accomplishment of your goals before you hit them. Consider why you failed in the past and what will be different this time.
7) Make it fun and enjoyable. If it is not something that is enjoyable, any excuse will do.
8) Make sure your goals are God honoring. There are many good things we can do, but is it the God thing. Make sure what you are working toward is what God would have you work towards. If not, it is going to be a hard road.
9) What do you need to quit? Sometimes it is not a matter of being more determined, but rather learning to say no. You can’t do everything. For example, to spend more time in God’s Word you may need to spend less time on Facebook or watching TV. Make sure to regularly examine your use of time.
What other ideas do you have? Would love to hear. Make sure to share in the comments section below. Next week we will talk about how to pick ourselves up after we fall down.