Simplicity: New Year Goal-Setting

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
–Benjamin Franklin

I have a love-hate relationship with New Year resolutions. And I’m sure you do too. On the one hand, New Year resolutions provide much-needed direction for the coming year. It’s a new year. It’s the perfect time for a new start. On the other hand, we just can’t seem to accomplish these goals past the first month. It’s the perennial problem with New Year resolutions.

We might as well just give up on creating New Year resolutions in the first place. But our lack of consistency shouldn’t negate the importance of goal-setting for our lives. It’s valuable for us to a paint a target on the wall to aim for as we journey towards Christ-likeness. If not, we’ll go about our lives in a chaotic fashion because of a lack of clear direction. Here are a few things that might help you in setting your goals for 2016.

Start with God. In setting our goals for the coming year, it’s important for us to begin with God and His clearly expressed desires, expectations, and commands. In goal-setting, we often begin with ourselves—what we want to do with our lives. But that’s one of the surest ways to create self-centered and godless goals. The truth is, God has already set His expectations for how we are to live as followers of Jesus Christ. And by the power of the Spirit, we should aim to meet these clearly defined expectations. Here are the top 3 expectations from God that I often repeat in this blog:

Love God completely.
Serve others sacrificially.
Make disciples wholeheartedly.

As we create our goals, we should frame them within these three expectations from God. They serve as our overarching lifetime goals.

Set the goals. With God’s expectations in mind, we can now set year-long goals that will reflect His desires. Some of your goals may look like one of these:

Do devotions every day (prayer, Scripture reading, etc.).
Have a consistent day of rest (i.e. Sabbath).
Mentor people.
Get proper rest and exercise.
Keep a spiritual journal.
Share the gospel to family, friends, and co-workers.
Start a business or non-profit that will help fight poverty.

Notice that these goals have one or more of God’s expectations at its core.

Now don’t set too many year-long goals. Some goals might be better suited for next year. Also, don’t set too few goals (or too easy ones) or you’ll have a boring year. And nobody wants a boring year.

Aside from year-long goals, create smaller quarterly goals (or a frequency of your choice) that will help you progress throughout the year. This will make your year-long goals more manageable and will motivate you because you’ll get to see the progress you make along the way.

For example, doing devotions every day could translate into “I will pray for at least 5 minutes a day.” That’s a good start. Getting proper rest and exercise could translate into “sleep by 11 PM” or “run for 15 minutes a day.” Sharing the gospel could translate into something as simple as “read about how I can share the gospel to people.”

Make your smaller goals simple, concrete, and manageable and set a time frame for accomplishing them. Personally, I create 3-month goals that line up with my year-long goals and that ultimately line up with my lifetime goals (God’s expectations). Don’t worry about creating fancy and complicated quarterly goals. You want to aim for slow, incremental growth in your personal and spiritual life rather than attempting to achieve perfection (an impossibility in this lifetime anyway) on your first month.

See them through. Goals are of little value if we don’t properly see them through. A firm commitment on our end is required and the support of family and friends will hopefully make things easier. Here are some things you can do that will increase the likelihood of accomplishing the goals you’ve set:

  • Review your goals on a regular basis. For me, I review my year-long and quarterly goals during my weekly Sabbath (my chosen day of rest).
  • Get an accountability group together. Stick to a doable schedule. Ask the tough questions. I share my goals with a good number of people I trust so that they can keep me accountable to fulfilling them.
  • Celebrate the small victories. Note the progress you've made and celebrate it. This will hopefully keep you motivated in moving through the rest of your goals.
  • Keep moving. Once you’ve accomplished a small goal, set another one. Keep moving forward.
  • Lastly, rely on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. None of this is ultimately achievable without the Spirit working in our lives.

I hope this helps you with your 2016 resolutions. Happy New Year, friends.