To start with, let me wish you all a Happy New Year and God’s blessings continually, this year too.
As always, the new year offers so much promise and a whole lot of possibilities. We are still in that time of the year when we get to make or begin to pursue our resolutions and goals for the brand new year. If you are like me, you are probably still reflecting on 2015 andrecounting your steps or decisions as a way of helping you live out out the year as you pursue your new goals.
That’s been me over the past week or so. Interestingly, my lovely wife Lisa – who I think has some serious Jedi powers – read my mind and shared something that I have found useful in my goal setting for this year. She shared the “Ten Steps for Setting God-ordained Goals.” These were written by Mark Batterson, an American pastor and author of the bestselling prayer book, The Circle Maker.
According to Mark, goals are as unique as we are and should reflect our unique personality and passions. He acknowledges that people arrive at their goals using different avenues, but rightly points out that these ten steps can guide us in circling our life goals. I hope you will find these helpful.
1. Start with Prayer
Prayer is the best way to jump-start the process of goal setting. A personal retreat or season of fasting is highly recommend. If you set goals in the context of prayer, there is a much higher likelihood that your goals will glorify God, and if they don’t glorify God, then they aren’t worth setting in the first place.
So start with prayer.
2. Check Your Motives
If you set selfish goals, you would be better off spiritually if you didn’t accomplish them. That’s why you need to check your motives. You need to take a long, honest look in the mirror and make sure you’re going after your goals for the right reasons.
3. Think in Categories
It is hard to pull life goals out of thin air, so Mark recommends thinking in categories. Some categories you may consider are (1) family, (2) financial, (3) spiritual, (4) experiential, (5) physical, (6) travel or (7) influential.
4. Be Specific
Mark says “just like our prayers, our goals need to be specific.” The ideas is that if a goal isn’t measurable, we have no way of knowing whether we’ve accomplished it. For example, losing weight isn’t a goal if we don’t have a target weight within a target timeline.
Remember, it is better to aim high and fall short than to aim low and hit the target. It’s also OK to make reasonable revisions to our visions.
5. Write It Down
Using the phrase “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory,” Mark contends that if you haven’t written down your goals, you haven’t really set them. Further, you need to muster the courage to verbalize your goals at some point in the process. That act of verbalization is an act of faith.
“When you write down a goal, it holds you accountable. The same goes for a prayer journal… Too often we fail to celebrate an answer to prayer simply because we forget what we asked for before God answers!”
6. Include Others
“Nothing cements a relationship like a shared goal. Goals are relational glue. And God set the standard with the Great Commission. If you want to grow closer to God, go after the God-sized goal He set nearly two thousand years ago. When you go after a goal with another person, it doubles your joy.
7. Celebrate Along the Way
Mark writes: When you accomplish a goal, celebrate it. When God answers a prayer, throw a party. We should celebrate with the same intensity with which we pray. One of my favorite Hebrew words is ebenezer. It means “thus far the Lord has helped us.” When you accomplish a God-ordained goal, it is an ebenezer moment. You need to find a unique way to celebrate it and commemorate it.
Setting goals is the way you turn imaginations into memories, and once you do, you need to celebrate them.
8. Dream Big
Your life goal list will include goals that are big and small. It will include goals that are short-term and long-term. But I have one piece of advice: Make sure you have a few BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) on the list. You need some God-sized goals that qualify as crazy. Here’s why: big goals turn us into big people.
9. Think Long
Most of us overestimate what we can accomplish in two years, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years. If we want to dream big, we need to think long. Big dreams often translate into long goals. And it’s never too late to start.
10. Pray Hard
Goal setting begins and ends with prayer. God-ordained goals are conceived in the context of prayer, and prayer is what brings them to full term. You need to keep circling your goals in prayer, like the Israelites circled Jericho. As you circle your goals, it not only creates God-ordained opportunities; it also helps us recognize God-ordained opportunities by sanctifying our reticular activating system.
And so, I wish you the very best as you make and take steps to achieve your goals this year and beyond. Happy New Year!
Excerts from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, copyright Zondervan.