Ah, the smell of a new year is in the air. So are the sounds of new year resolutions.
The gyms are getting flooded with new members, diet and nutrition programs are flying off the shelf, and people are excited for the personal transformations they will experience this year. These are exciting times.
Don’t get too excited, though. Research tells us that most people will break their new year’s resolutions or give up on their commitments in less than two months. I know, it’s sad.
You see, it takes 20 to 60 days to form a new habit, so unless someone sticks it out for that long, the chances are they will not maintain the momentum throughout the year. However, there are specific things you can do today to ensure a better outcome for yourself this year.
It all starts with setting goals.
Whether you are new to goal setting, or have been doing it for years, the tips in this article will provide you a fresh perspective as you embark on your plans.
Why is it Important to Set Goals?
Newton’s first law of motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless a force acts upon it. The same goes for us as human beings. By nature, we are prone to remain inert or in our comfort zone. We don’t like to put in more effort than what is required. Goals, however, help us to break through that inertia in order to achieve more than what we thought was initially possible. And research shows that the bigger the goal the more we will accomplish.
Setting goals, though, is a thoughtful process — not something to be done in haste. One of the reasons why new year resolutions often fail is because people can be very hasty in their commitments.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” (Prov 21:5)
You don’t want your plans to go to waste, right? Someone might have never gone to the gym before and, all of a sudden, they’re planning to work out 3 times a week. Such a goal is very hasty, and that’s probably why it will fail. Instead, such a person should start off by working out once a week and slowly work their way up to a more aggressive schedule. I know because I, too, have had my fair share of failed gym resolutions.
I am providing a clear and easy-to-use goals template so you can get full access to that below.
Here, I will share with you some tips I have used when setting goals and how to think about your goals in a more holistic fashion.
Three Tips to Set Your Goals
1. Set SMART Goals
“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” (Prov 6: 6-8)
The ant gives us a perfect lesson on how to set meaningful goals. Notice here that the ant’s goal is to be well-stocked on food for the winter. To achieve this goal, however, she must go out every day and gather a certain portion of her winter provisions. She does not procrastinate until a week before winter: she goes out daily during the summer.
This is exactly how we must set goals.
First, the goal must be SMART, which is an acronym for:
Specific: make sure to be very specific about exactly what you want to accomplish.
Don’t just say: I want to lose weight.
Say: I want to lose 20 pounds.
Measurable: you need to understand exactly what success will look like once you have reached your goal.
Don’t just say: I want to lose weight and be healthier.
Say: I want to be able to run a 10K race at the end of my weight loss journey.
Attainable: avoid setting goals that are too far beyond your reach. If you have never gone to the gym before, for example, don’t commit to all of a sudden go to the gym 5 times per week. You are likely to miss target and become discouraged.
Don’t just say: I will go to the gym 5x per week.
Say: I will go to the gym twice a week for a month, then increase frequency every week thereafter.
Relevant: select goals that are aligned with your bigger purpose in life. What is your overarching focus? Stick to that.
Don’t just say: I plan to be more productive.
Say: I want to get my work in a regular 40-hour work week so that I can spend more time with my kids.
If you are interested in being more productive, I have some posts about that here:
- Three Time Management Tricks that Actually Work
- How to Balance Work and Family Life: A Biblical Perspective
Time-bound: Lastly, your goal must have a due date. Remember the ant. Her due date was the start of winter, and this helped her stay focused on the task at hand.
Don’t just say: I want to start my own business.
Say: I want to start my own construction business by March 30th.
2. Setting Goals is Not a Substitute for Daily Execution
“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.” (Prov 22:9)
After you have established your SMART goals, you must execute them daily. Otherwise, you will struggle to succeed. Consider the ant in the previous section. She got to work right away to prepare her store of food for the winter. So, after you have set your SMART goals, break them up into a daily routine of activities. This is where the real work happens. It’s all about developing daily habits of success, which build momentum to greater performance over time.
Let’s say your goal is to read through the Bible in one year (by the way, I encourage everyone to do this if you want to grow in your faith), how many chapters are you going to read per day? This is how granular you have to get with the details. Endeavor to set a daily routine of profitable activities, and in time you will be on autopilot with your goals.
And if your goals don’t require a daily routine, then consider a weekly routine. The idea is to have a regular cadence that will get you closer and closer to your goal.
3. Be Humble and Commit Your Plans to the Lord
“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5)
In all of my experience with goal setting, one thing has remain constant: my plans never go the way I imagined. This is why I encourage you to always commit your plans to the Lord. It’s okay to make plans, but know that God knows far more than you do, and can change your plans in any way he wants. You will never be disappointed, though. He knows what is good for you, and will lead you in that path, as long as you trust him to take you there.
Get our easy-to-use template to set and achieve your goals.
Eight years ago, my goal was to score a 30/45 on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in the fall of 2011 and enroll into Medical School by the fall of 2012. I prayed and committed my plans to the Lord. In a matter of 6 months, my entire trajectory changed. I’m not a doctor today, but I am very happy with where God has brought me.
So, remember, commit your ways to the Lord and you will never be disappointed with the results.
As the Bible says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
-Led by the Book