I started talking last week about New Year’s Resolutions and goal setting, something we all seem to think about a lot at this time of year. I’ve always struggled with accomplishing “goals” or at least in accomplishing the types of goals mentioned most often…food, finances and fitness. In fact I can go back through years of journals to show you all the ‘resolutions’ I made with determination in my pen, that fizzled, deflated and got lost before six months had passed!
Last week I shared with you how important it is to know ‘why’ you are setting a specific goal. We get lost quicker if we don’t have a strong sense of why it’s important to accomplish the goal. I shared with you how often we make the mistake of having the why be about all the ‘shoulds’ screaming in our heads. The shoulds, and the resulting shame that comes from not measuring up to what we perceive we ‘should’ be or do, actually works against the motivation we need to continue towards our goals.
The better, deeper, why to goal setting is—because we want to grow. As you find the ‘why you want to grow’ in a specific area the roots to your goal go deeper so your success at accomplishing that goal can reach higher.
However, it is possible to work hard to accomplish something that doesn’t really matter. Many a man and woman has strived hard and overcome obstacles to accomplish something they found to be empty when it was finally achieved. So the question becomes—what lasts and is valuable enough to build our goals around? I have found the things that are worth the most are hardest to track on goal sheets.
As I look at my life I see the areas where I have grown the most were never on any goal setting list I made. They never involved spreadsheets and tracking and charts. They were so much a deeper part of me. More than growing a bank account, a physique, or a skill—they grew me, my character.
In Galatians 5:22-23 we find the list of areas that grow character. How would it feel to grow in love…joy…peace…patience…kindness…gentleness…faithfulness…goodness…and self control? Doesn’t that list cover the heart of just about everything we might ever put on a goal sheet? This list is referred to Biblically as the “fruits of the spirit” and in it I believe we find what is valuable enough to build our goals around.
These character building fruits are not as ‘soft’ and lacking in ambition as they may seem to some. It takes great strength to learn to love in spite of all the hurt one has experienced. It requires determination to choose joy and notice small blessings in the midst of difficult circumstances. Character is not for the faint of heart.
We struggle with these as goals though because there isn’t an ending point with them. We never reach the final destination of being fully grown in them. The more we grow in these the more we realize how much we have to grow. This frustrates our instant gratification and achievement mindset, but also offers us so much grace for the long slow process true growth takes.
As we come to understand why we set goals (to grow) and what is most important to grow (our character) we come to see that achievement looks a lot more like this
than like this
The more we grow the more we see how much we have to grow and cyclically return back to learn another layer of the fruit that is growing.
Pretty heady stuff, I know, but these concepts are an important foundation for effective goal setting. We need to understand the ‘why’ and ‘what’ before we move on to the ‘how.’
Next week we will begin looking at the how of goal setting. For now spend time reflecting on the why and what. We set goals in order to grow, and desiring to grow our character is a goal that will not be empty when achieved.
In what areas of your character would you like to see growth happen?
What will look different in your life if you grow in this way?