Why do we make goals?

We need goals, dreams, and we also need game plans for attaining them. Once we know those, we can determine the daily steps we can take to move us forward toward their completion. We measure often and adjust where necessary. Did you know that when NASA sent the Apollo mission to the moon, it was off course more than 95% of the time—but they measured and adjusted, measured and adjusted until they landed on the precise spot on the lunar surface they had targeted from 240,000 miles away. By the way, the smart phone you use every day has more computing power than the NASA computers that controlled that flight—just thought you would like to know that. So, in our lives, we keep focused on our target, we measure and adjust, measure and adjust until we reach our goals.

Because if we don’t, then by default we will go with the flow. Whichever way the wind blows is how our day-to-day life will unfold. In other words, by not having our own game plan, we will be responding to an agenda thrust upon us by outside influences. We call that being adrift. We can’t control which way the wind blows, but we can control the set of our sail! We can set a course for the horizon and steer the rudder of our life in that direction, checking our compass and adjusting as necessary. Then, one day soon, we can review whether we have reached that horizon or how close we came to reaching it.

Jesus told us how important plans were in Luke 14:28-31. Or, consider Proverbs 21:5. Or consider the work led by Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. You may recall that the walls were rebuilt in 52 days, and we find that impressive. However, if you read the third chapter of Nehemiah, it lists at least 45 different work groups that participated in the project. Nehemiah started with a goal of rebuilding the walls, but there were numerous tasks and assignments along the way. Work had to be assigned to specific teams in specific areas; each team’s work had to match seamlessly with the work on either side of it.  As the work progressed, security details were formed and assigned, workers had to be housed and fed, worship services were planned and put on, and more. Given all these moving parts, 52 days is truly amazing! In Congress this bill would still be in subcommittee. Here’s the point—you can be sure that this massive project was broken down to smaller, perhaps daily tasks, assigned appropriately, and that progress on those tasks was measured, perhaps daily, with adjustments taking place as needed. Should we do any less?

So, it starts with deciding on our own goals. May I suggest we consider selecting one primary goal in each of the main areas of our life: a goal for our spiritual life, for our family, for our physical health, for our vocation, and for our personal development.

Let’s consider several as an example: Suppose I decided that my spiritual goal for next year is to read through the entire Bible, my personal health goal is to lose 24 pounds, and my personal development goal is to learn Spanish.

Now suppose I put those goals into a drawer and pull them out next December 31st and say, “Oh yeah, how did I do on those?” What do you think of my chances for having reached those? Not so much.

On the other hand, I can break those goals down into daily or weekly chunks. Perhaps my Bible goal breaks down to four chapters per day. Not only is that not so scary, but I can also put it into my calendar and measure it each day.

My weight loss goal breaks down to two pounds per month, one pound every two weeks. Daily it means I must figure out how to burn 250 more calories than I consume. A little less junk food, perhaps, and a little more physical activity. Again, not so tough, and I can measure it at least once every two weeks.

My Spanish goal? Did you know that learning the first 1000 most frequently used words in the Spanish language will allow you to understand 76.0% of all non-fiction writing, 79.6% of all fiction writing, and an astounding 87.8% of all oral speech? So, if I learn three new Spanish words each day, by the end of the year I will have learned 1,095 words and be able to understand at least 88% of any conversation spoken in Spanish. Can I learn three words a day?

We can do that with the goals in each area of our life. We break down our goal into daily or weekly pieces and put those pieces into our to do list or our calendar so that we complete each piece as it becomes due, and measure often. If I complete each task on time, I have won the day, the week and, as I string together enough winning weeks, ultimately, I will look back on 2021 and be able to say I had a victorious year. The exciting thing is that if I faithfully do each small piece of my goal daily, at the end of a year I will be amazed at what has been accomplished. And all I have done is read 4 chapters of the Bible, learned 3 new Spanish words, burned 250 more calories than I consumed, today, and tomorrow, and the day after that.

And that is why we make goals.

Ron Heisey

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