Each year I encourage you to set a few spiritual goals for 2017. I’ve found that setting specific goals for myself each year, beyond just wanting to read the Bible and pray daily, help me stay on track with my desire to be connected to God.
If your goals are simply to "pray more" or "read the Bible more often," you're going to have a hard time knowing if you're making progress and staying motivated throughout the year. Setting specific goals can help you if you have struggled in the past to be consistent or if you are looking for a way to deepen your connection from year to year.
Here are 3 tips for making good goals that will succeed in growing you closer to God (and growing in other areas of your life, too!).
TIP #1: FEW BEATS MANY
You are more likely to be successful in achieving your goals if you don’t set too many. I recommend just three or four.
TIP #2: MEASURABLE, DATED, WORTHWHILE, DESIRABLE, REACHABLE & CONTROLLABLE
Prayerfully spend some time thinking through your goals for this year and then score them using the worksheet.
Good goals are:
1. Measurable - How will you track your progress and know if you've been successful?
2. Dated - Give yourself a deadline and maybe some progress checkpoints along the way.
3. Worthwhile - It may seem obvious, but really consider if your goal is worth putting forth all the effort and discipline required. Will you be a better spouse, friend, parent, Christian, employee, etc. in the end?
4. Desirable - Again, this may seem obvious, but it's actually not always a characteristic of goals people set. We have all sorts of motivations for our goals (what we think our spouse wants from us, what we think God is expecting of us), but if you don't really want the outcome, you're sure to fail when the going gets tough. One indication of a good goal is that you look forward to implementing it.
5. Reachable - Make sure your goal is something you can attain in a reasonable amount of time. Don't set goals that are too lofty or next to impossible to achieve. If your goal seems too big, break it down into baby steps and make step 1 this year's goal.
6. Controllable - What is required to achieve your goal? Are those action steps within your control or up to others or outside forces? Make adjustments to your goal to focus on what you have the ability to change.
How do your goals score?
TIP #3: EVALUATE
Don't just set goals here in January and never think about them again until December. Evaluate your progress from time to time. Are your goals helping you connect to God or deepen your connection to Him?
When we are close to God, it is a pleasure to do things for Him and to spend time with Him. It is a pleasure to give to Him. But when we are not especially close to God, spending time with Him and doing things for Him become a duty. The longer the status is duty the more those tasks are agony rather than pleasure. Make your goals work for you as you seek to connect to God, but don’t let your goals become a slave master.
Often, even seasoned goal setters over- or under-reach when they set their goals. You are always free to adjust goals during the year and should do so without guilt. But it is also important that you exercise self-discipline when you find it a little harder to achieve them than you expected. Your goals should be reachable, but they should also stretch you.
Set aside time to prayerfully evaluate your goals at the end of each month.
God bless you as you set goals for the coming year and diligently work towards them. May you see your connection to God deepen this year because of them.
This blog post is adapted from the 2017 Connection Guide, which includes an annual Bible reading plan.