I was blessed a few weeks ago to participate on an Internet talk show panel in which one of the panelists reminded me of the importance of goal setting in my own life. For the past few weeks I have been really thinking about this issue of goal setting. As I am in the midst of transition, this is a great time for me revisit and revise my goals. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about goal-setting down through the years.
Goals are targets for which we aim. Like the archer who squints her eye to focus on the inner circle of the target, the bulls-eye, goals help us focus our sight on our desired accomplishments. Goals are motivational aims. They help us move toward our ultimate purposes.
Goals help us to stay on track. For the second year in a row, I am leading the process of writing and publishing our church’s daily devotional book. Sometimes this feels like an overwhelming task for non publishers. Yet by the grace of God, last year we accomplished this project and are again publishing a devotional for the upcoming year. Goal setting helped. As the project lead, I set goals for the multiple teams working on the project. Twenty-five writers had specific deadlines for writing their assigned devotional entries. Depending on the experience and availability, writers were assigned between 5-15 articles to research and write and given a deadline. Three theological reviewers each had 122 articles to review.
Deadlines are time goals. They drive us to reach a goal. I remember having to write five additional devotional entries near the end of our writing project. I was scheduled to travel to Orlando to celebrate my cousin Larraine’s 50th birthday along with two other cousins. Reaching goals may mean making sacrifices! My cousins enjoyed Orlando during the day, while I researched and wrote. I joined them for dinner and shopping in the evening. My goal was to write five devotionals in four days. From writing the previous entries I knew it would take me three hours or so to pray, research, exegete and listen for the Holy Spirit’s “hook” for the devotional. It often took me about two hours to write, edit, and rewrite. I set goals for writing that weekend and focused.
In my experience there are two types of goals – (1) product or outcome goals and (2) process goals. The first are end result goals, for instance the number of books we targeted to pre-sell by the January 1 launch. Outcome goals include the number of pounds you set to lose by a specific date; the number of sales dollars for a given quarter; the number of ministry programs to be developed for the year; or the number of leaders trained in two years.
Process goals are the targeted activities we set in order to reach the outcome goal. They may include the timeline and targets for writing and editing 366 entries by Oct 1. Or they could include sending four e-blasts to market the book by December 31. For the dieter, it could be eating 1600 calories a day and burning 400 a day during aerobic activity. These activities are part of the process that helps us reach our outcome goals, and help us stay on track.
I have found when I am diligent with goal setting and tracking, I stay more focused, get less distracted. I stay committed to my aspirations and became less likely to over-commit. The goals help me to prioritize. My most successful years are the years I set and consistently track goals in five major areas.
1. Spiritual. These included my commitments to daily spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible and inspirational reading, journaling, weekly Sabbath time and annual retreat & reflection time. It is from this spiritual time with the Lord that I receive strategies, ideas and from which I set goals!
2. Professional/Financial. As a minister and professional service provider this category encompassed business/ministry development, product/program development and delivery goals. Because I was self-employed for so long, my financial goals were tied to my business. So this category also included income goals, saving and investment goals.
3. Relational. These included commitments to build and maintain healthy relationships with the important people in my life by making time with them a priority! These include weekly date nights, and bi-annual visits to the family back home.
4. Physical. These included my daily workout goals, eating goals and weight loss/maintenance targets; it is also in this category where I write down my target dates for my annual health exams.
5. Personal & Recreational. OK, don’t laugh–yes, I had to write down goals for having fun. These included my vacations, short trips tagged on to consulting trips, and summer lakefront biking goals. I’m a big fan of August Wilson, the late playwright who creatively chronicled African American life in each decade of the 20th century. So for a few years my P&R goals included aiming to see 1-2 August Wilson plays a year until I had seen all 10. I have now seen 9! In this category I also include personal development goals such as taking classes, visiting museums, reading specific authors.
My most significant seasons have been those in which my goals were aligned in those areas above, as well as with the institution or organizations in which I led. When I let other people’s goals over-ride my goals or let the institutional goals jeopardize personal goals, I felt stressed. I felt overworked and overwhelmed because I failed to set reasonable goals that were win-win for me and the team/organization. The best situation for me has occurred when reaching my goals served to help my teams reach our organizational goals.
I’ll spare you the gory details of my actual targets for the above categories, but know that for years I used a spreadsheet to write them down and track them. A great aha for me in writing this piece was to realize that one of the reasons I have been feeling overwhelmed with so much to get done lately, is that I have not maintained my own practice of staying focused on significant goals, and I have not maintained balance in my target areas. Instead I’ve been trying to do everything at once–reacting to the most pressing needs. Hmm. It’s time to change that! Goals are good.
So, how about you? Take some time today and reflect on the various dimensions of your life and the aims in each. What targets do you need to identify in each? What goals do you need to set in each? Set a goal to start goal setting today—pray and ask God for the first goal you need to set in at least one area of your life. Then set the next; and then the next. Then track the first and then the next, until setting and reaching goals becomes a habit!
Happy Goal Setting!
© 2012 TransPorter Communication LLC