Do your new year’s goals ever feel repetitious? Do you find yourself making the same goals year after year with little progress?
It may be that the weakness isn’t so much with your resolve as it is with your plan.
Determine Daily Routines
There is a significant reason many people fail to make progress on their goals: they don’t have daily routines that support their efforts.
Life is a gift from God, and it comes to us, not in years but in days. It is the days that count.
Moses, contemplating the brevity of life, prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
One author said, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to success is found in daily routines.”
I believe those daily routines should start each morning with the one main thing—spending time with God in Bible reading and prayer. Do you have daily routines that support this practice?
Do you have daily routines that support the other goals you are working to accomplish?
Taking some time to thoughtfully set daily routines for your morning and evening can be one of the best first steps toward reaching your annual goals.
Set SMART Goals
Not all goals are created equal. Some goals are so vague or unattainable as to be defeating before you even begin.
A common acronym for writing out good goals uses the word SMART:
These five words should all be present in any type of goal you set—personal, family, ministry, or anything else. Here are some brief thoughts on each of them:
Specific—Goals shouldn’t be vague, or you will never know when you have reached them. For instance, “Pray more” isn’t nearly as helpful a goal as “Create a written prayer list, and pray for fifteen minutes daily.”
Also, I encourage you to write out your goals. Some studies show that written goals increase the probability of success by as much as 42 percent. Don’t just think generally about what you hope to do, but write down a specific habit you are forming or goal you are planning to accomplish.
This step is also a good place to consider why you are pursuing this particular goal. The momentum you feel at the beginning of January isn’t enough to carry you through the entire year. You need to keep your goal connected to your purpose.
- How does this goal fit your God-given life roles?
- In what ways will God be glorified by you fulfilling this goal? In what ways will you or your family be strengthened or encouraged?
- How will fulfilling this goal increase your effectiveness or fruitfulness for Christ?
There is a reason you are considering the goal you are setting. What is that reason? Why do you want to reach it? If you can’t answer these questions now, you’ll struggle to push through the obstacles that arise during the year.
We lose our way when we lose our why. And one of the best ways to find the way forward to reaching a goal is going back and remembering the why.
Measurable—How will you know when you have reached your goal? How will you know if you are making progress?
By setting measurable goals, you have something in writing that you can use to review and to record progress. It also gives you something to revise as needed throughout the year. This is true not only for individuals, but also for teams and churches. Some leaders, including pastors, love setting goals and strategic plans, but they don’t make their goals measurable, so they don’t have anything against which to determine progress. A personal or church strategic plan must have regular checkpoints to be reviewed and revised.
Achievable—Your goals should be realistic, yet challenging. Consider your season in life. If you’re newly married, a goal to pay off your mortgage this year, is probably not achievable. A goal to set a budget and stretch your faith by increasing your giving probably is.
Annual goals should not be a list of dreams. They shouldn’t be happy talk. They should spell out what you prayerfully believe would honor God for you to complete by His grace in the coming year.
Relevant—Is this a goal that is motivating to you? Does it relate to your roles in life and your God-given desires?
Low goals create no enthusiasm. If you set a goal for something you are already doing or that is irrelevant to your growth, it will undermine your motivation.
Time-based—What time of day or week are you planning to work toward this goal? Or what is the time frame within which you want to complete it?
A goal without a plan is just a wish. So before you consider the writing of a goal complete, ask yourself a one-word question: When?
- If your goal is to complete a course of study, when will you work on it?
- If your goal is to get out of debt, when will you pay toward the principal on each debt?
- If your goal is to get in shape, when will you exercise?
- If your goal is to share the gospel with more people, when will you do it?
Setting goals can be a great time to also time block your daily and weekly schedule to make sure that you have made sufficient time to complete these goals. If the time isn’t there, either something else needs to go, or it may not be the right season of life for you to work on that goal.
By using the SMART framework for goals, you’ll plan your goals in a way that sets you up for accomplishing them.