Setting Goals

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When I talk goal setting, I often introduce the concept with this analogy.  I explain that there are two kinds of people.  There are the ones who paint a target on their barn and then shoot the arrow, hoping for the bull’s-eye. They may not always hit the center of the target; but they discover that the clearer the target; the better the result.  Then, there are people who shoot the arrow at the barn and then paint the target to impress people with their self-adjusted accuracy.  

Three simple questions will help a leader stay focused: 


1.      What do you want to accomplish?  

In some situations, this may not be obvious. All of us know second or third year college students who have no idea what they want to accomplish. The result is a loss of time and money while they focus on something that doesn’t help them reach their goal.  Some believe spending time in college will help clarify these goals.  My perspective is that it would be better to work through these questions first before spending $20-$40,000 a year on college fees.

I was talking with one young person who wanted to be a veterinarian.  I helped the student find a volunteer job in an animal clinic to help clarify if it was a direction to pursue.  After a month or so, the young person realized this was not their goal. 

When we seek the Lord, He will direct us toward the right goals. We also need to seek wise counsel and take time to understand what we want to achieve.  The failure to identify key goals and to understand what one wants to achieve wastes time, energy and money, at any age.  

Throughout our life our goals may change due to circumstances, age, or because we accomplish them.  Then, we need to make new goals.

2.     What is your target date for completing your goal(s).

One of my personal projects is writing a book on Biblical coins. The stories these coins tell will pull people to a stronger faith in Christ or open the door to belief.  The goal was to accomplish this in approximately 12 months. However, given the extensive research necessary and other activities that take my time; I’ve had to reconsider the time needed to accomplish this goal.  

When we set a timeline on our projects and goals, we can measure how well we’re doing. If we fall behind, we can look for ways to pick up our pace or alter our deadline. My experience is that without a timeline, we don’t make as much progress.  We get stuck and continue to flounder.  Without a timeline, we don’t worry about it too much.  

3.     How much am I willing to commit to achieve this goal?

My wife was acquainted with an Olympic champion figure skater whose parents rented a skating rink four to six hours a day for training. Often these training sessions had to be late at night or very early in the morning.  The training, financial cost and physical commitment was incredible.  In that time, the Olympics were only held every four years; and most athletes only had one shot for the gold.  

Your commitment may not be as significant.  However, if you’re interested in building a business within ten years that will generate good cash flow, you can’t be taking six weeks off in the summer to go backpacking in Colorado. You must be focused on the business. 

Every goal has a cost.  We pay in time and/or money.  We must count the cost, understand the cost and commit to paying it if we want to accomplish our goals.  

Remember this, you can change your goal.  I knew a hockey player who had dreams of a professional career. He worked day and night on strength exercises.  He practiced and studied the game. Unfortunately, on one Saturday, he ripped apart his knee. While the damage was mostly repaired, the knee would never be strong enough to support a professional hockey career. Obviously, his goals needed to change.  Better to change a goal than to keep working on one that will never happen.

Additionally, we can change a plan. I share with clients that it is much better to have a bad plan than no plan.  A failing plan can be altered, adjusted and changed while you keep moving toward your goal.   

Scripture gives us a clear picture of God’s goals for us: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) When we make a commitment to Jesus Christ, it is the most important decision we can make. Then we can focus on what we want to achieve, by when, and what we are willing to commit to accomplish it.  Letting God direct this kind of goal-setting commitment will go a long way to help us find the path the Lord wants us to go, a road that will take us to the goals that will prosper us.