Myth-Busters: Goal-Setting Style-How Might I be Getting in My Own Way?

It’s that time of year again, folks—the nearing of the wrap-up of summer (bummers. Why did I have to go there, right?)! For many people, this time of year marks a time for a fresh start into fall, a “clean slate” for some, and the opportunity to make some changes in the days to come. But how often do we find ourselves extremely motivated and eager at the idea of this venture, but struggle to carry out these changes on a consistent basis, let alone for very long?

I call this the “idealism syndrome” (OK, so it’s not TRULY an official name, but let me explain!).

We tend to see this time of year in the way that I just described above. While this view is not false or negative, it does not take into account the HOW factor: how we will plan to maintain our new positive habits or new perspectives once the luster of the “new changes” wears off. We become giddy with idea of all the bright and shiny new habits we can begin to form, and we look at this time as a whole while setting monumental (and oftentimes overly lofty) goals for ourselves. And once the sparkle wears off, it can leave us feeling unmotivated and defeated. We’ve all seen this before—how great we are doing in the beginning! And then once the middle of October rolls around…we struggle, start to fall off of the “changes galore horse,” and lose sight of what we set out to do in the first place.

This happens because we can unintentionally set ourselves up for a few common mishaps:

  • Setting a goal without breaking down the steps of how we will go about achieving it
  • Setting large goals without breaking down smaller goal “milestones” in order to keep us on track
  • Seeing the “big picture” without seeing the various components of the “journey”
  • Using “fresh start to fall” time as the only time we set goals for ourselves (or even “New Year’s Resolution” time)
  • Not focusing enough on the “why” behind our goal

We tend to do these things without even realizing—because goal-setting is positive, right? What we tend to overlook is the fact that sometimes we set goals in which we actually inhibit ourselves instead of empower ourselves. Goal-setting is a tricky science, but luckily there are positive methods for goal-setting that have the power to empower,increasing the likelihood of sticking to goals, which makes change more likely to be successful.

Let’s bust through some of these goal-setting myths that tend to center around this time of year:

Setting a goal without breaking down the steps of how we will go about achieving it.This tends to happen when we become very excited around the kick-off to fall, but what we fail to do is further examine the HOW factor. While I’m definitely not knocking enthusiasm, the HOW is equally as important.

  • Instead, try this: Remember to ask yourself, “Do I know what it will take to work toward this goal? What other changes might I need to make as a result of this intended change? How will I fit creating these habits into my schedule?” It may be helpful to write these down as they are important factors of goal success! Remembering the HOW will aid the goal into coming into fruition.

Setting large goals without breaking down smaller goal “milestones” in order to keep us on track. While I agree with the statement that you need to have a clear idea of where you are going in order to be able to guide yourself toward your goal destination, when we forget to keep track of the mile-markers along the way, we sometimes veer off of our goal path and into a ditch of disaster! Focusing only on the end of the goal (or the completion state of the goal) will not be enough.

  • Instead, try this: Think of your goal-setting process as creating a roadmap. Just like on road trips, you have to plan to make those necessary stops along the way in addition to your final destination. Breaking down your goal destination into smaller steps helps your goal seem more manageable. It will also prompt action in order to reach smaller steps that compile into your goal. This method helps keep the motivation going, and gives you opportunities to celebrate the smaller successes in order to keep you on track and keep the motivation flowing (even when “new goals” hype wears off)!

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Seeing the “big picture” without seeing various components of the “journey.” This is very similar to the points above. When we only have our “end point” in sight, the journey or the smaller successes can be overlooked, and we tend to miss out on the enjoyment of working toward our goals.

  • Instead, try this: Don’t allow yourself to miss out on the blessings that are in the journey! While it is a wonderful feeling to accomplish the end stage of your goals, there is beauty in the transitions, the growth, and the journey. Allow yourself to embrace the steps along the way, and reflect on the changes you are not only seeing but feeling as a result of all your hard work. Don’t forget to praise yourself for the smaller victories!

Using “fresh start” time as the only time we set goals for ourselves. Out of all of these goal-setting myths, this one may be the most ironic. It passes under our radar because we view goal-setting in general as positive. However, when we center on kick-off to fall as the only (or most monumental) time for goal-setting, we place ourselves in a situation that is hard to live up to. In addition, once the hype wears off, so can our goal-work and motivation.

  • Instead, try this: Try making a habit of employing goal-setting at various times during the year. This can be on a monthly, or even weekly, basis. In this sense, we create a habit and (just as importantly) a mindset of goal-setting that can carry through the entire year. In utilizing this technique, we create more opportunities for success, constant reflection, and re-evaluation of our mindset and habits, along with opportunities to see our work pay off and our motivation to hold steady. Don’t be afraid to scale back the “big idea goals” to monthly goal guideposts in order to further prompt your growth and dedication!

Not focusing enough on the “why” behind our goal. It’s difficult to stay motivated, energized, and dedicated toward a cause unless we know the purpose behind our activity. We tend to make our main motivator behind setting fall goals as “Because it’s the moving into the new season! I want a fresh start. That’s what you do at this time of year.” When that is our largest motivation for our goals, we struggle to keep those as priorities and tend to not stay on track for very long.

  • Instead, try this: Firmly establish your “why” behind your goals. Explore goal options that you have a personal tie to, something that tugs at the inner part of you. Challenge yourself to find inner motivation toward your goals that goes beyond the specific time of the year. These goals will speak so much more to us and pull us toward action if we feel personally and emotionally connected to our “why” factor.

While the wrap of of summer is an excellent time to think about new beginnings, opportunities, and all the blessings God has for us, it doesn’t have to end around mid-October! We were made for more. Busting through the “myths” of goal-setting and employing techniques that aid in consistent growth and motivation have the power to give us the consistency that we crave. Now get ready, get set, get going! The Lord’s richest blessings on all you seek in His name.

Stay tuned,

-AF

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Dwell, Abide, and Delight

Lately, this verse has been ever-present in my mind:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I think it’s more than fair to say that when life throws us curveballs, we either

  1. a. Hold on to Christ for dear life, leaning into him for that necessary guidance, or
  2. b. Shift our focus from him to the overwhelming stressors this earthly life is throwing at us.

It is so easy to get clouded by the demands of this world. I speak from personal experience as a fellow sinner, recovering perfectionist, and someone that has a slightly (or more) unhealthy relationship with control. One of the first things to go out the window when life appears to be in a constant state of overwhelm is my intentionality with fostering my personal relationship with Christ. I wish I could say that I never fall into this trap of getting wrapped up in what the world is asking of me vs. seeking God’s kingdom first. But truly, my sinful self at times gets off track, causing my focus to shift from the security I find in Christ to the endless “to do’s” and the mindset of “how can this ever be accomplished?!”

Which tailspins the anxiety. Which catalysts the rushing. Which leads to the social neglect. Which ends up in depletion.

There are some telltale warning signs that occur when our focus is a bit off-kilter. Maybe you’ve experienced them:

  • Fatigue
  • A sense of overwhelming worry
  • Feeling “burdened” by life; feeling a heavy weight of obligation
  • Living a more “rushed” lifestyle—finding very little wiggle room in which to be intentional about learning from God’s Word
  • Expressing more “If only this would happen…” vs. “I’m so grateful that…”

Sound familiar? I’m sure by now we know these all too well. These feelings or behaviors start to become “red flags” that something is out of balance. More times than not, our overwhelm, ironically, overshadows our ability to deliberately foster our personal relationship with our loving God.

That’s where this verse from Psalms that I mentioned above comes into play. It is something so simply stated, but it truly packs a punch in the comfort department. And it starts off with such a refreshing word: delight. How can one say this word and not feel a sense of relief? Let’s zone in on this word—an interpretation of the word “delight” in this context may be “to find the purest joy in, or “to lovingly and earnestly invest yourself in.” In essence, to throw ourselves fully into—emotionally, spiritually, and mentally—the presence of God and his everlasting promises. “Delighting ourselves” in him illustrates us as his children, seeking first his will and comfort, and finding the peace and joy that comes from the ever-fervent guidance of our heavenly Father.

Doing this requires our recognition of our need for a Savior (especially during the more trying times) as well as the motivation to constantly foster our spiritual relationship with him in order to have a sense of comfort carry over into every aspect of our earthly lives—including the overwhelm! And doing this requires both time in our minds and time on our calendars.

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Whew. Not an easy balance to maintain, especially when life appears to get more and more hectic each day, making a sustainable lifestyle that includes spiritual growth through Christ quite challenging. As Christ’s children in an age of “I need this done yesterday” and constant overload, what are some habits we can incorporate to keep our focus on delighting ourselves in him?

  • Pick a verse of the day to meditate on. While reading sections of Scripture in a devotion is a wonderful way to foster our relationship with Christ, for the “pulled in a million different ways” individual, more focused and in-depth meditation on smaller passages can be carried out throughout the day outside of devotional time. For example, the passage from Psalms above can be meditated on throughout the day. Placing this passage as an hourly reminder on your phone or writing it on a sticky note and placing it on your computer desk or on your planner (things we look at numerous times throughout the day) are small reminders to keep God’s Word at the forefront of our minds all day long, even when our schedule gets hectic. This provides the intentionality factor of actively opening up our hearts to what the Lord is telling us through his Word and how it can be applied to the everyday happenings of our lives. Biblegateway.com has a verse of the day each day to help get you going!
  • Carry your Bible with you to use as you travel throughout the day. This is something a friend of mine told me that I thought was extremely unique. Even the physical weight of an object has the ability to shift our focus onto what really matters. The act of carrying your Bible with you as you venture to work, pick up the kids, head to the gym, and so on and so forth is a constant reminder to keep our eyes open to how Christ is revealing his mercy to us each day.
  • Have a Christian playlist geared up and ready to go. Music is a wonderful way that God reveals himself to us! There are many places that we can incorporate music into our daily routine: in the car as we sit through our morning traffic routine, in the office during our lunch break, and even during our exercise routines. Having music ready to go that speaks of Christ’s love and sacrifice and encourages us to seek him in his Word is a wonderful reminder of the focus we ought to have each day. AND this is a fun and energy-boosting way to hear of God’s promises for us!
  • Utilize transitions as time for brief prayer. There are many times during our workdays in which we transition between activities or move from place to place. Utilizing these time periods as times to spend a few minutes in prayer with our God (even if it’s just to say “thank you!” or “Lord, let me be your vessel”) can aid us in keeping God as the focus of our day even in the hustle and bustle of life.

Each of the above examples can be done with a sense of joy, as Christ provides us with the comfort that the world cannot give. One of the opportunities we receive from our God is the ability to come into his presence no matter where we are during the day: God can be seen in the struggle of work deadlines, in the abundance of activities to get the children to, and even in the busyness of a packed schedule. We need to delight ourselves in him fully and intentionally in order to dwell in the peace that comes from seeking him out in unique ways.

Join me this week in delighting yourself in the ever-comforting presence of the Lord! It is amazing how we can thrive under the hectic demands of this world when we are first delighting ourselves in our relationship with God and the comfort only he can provide. It is through the strength of God that we persevere, and it is through his grace that he restores our hearts and minds.

May He always bless our mess.

Stay tuned,

-AF