This year I won’t achieve my career, fitness or personal growth goals. And chances are, you won’t either. 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken, and 1/3 will be broken before January is over.
I serve as a Life Coach, so I’ve spent the last several months steeped in goal setting, strategic planning and vision casting. My toolbox is full of tools to help motivated people get from point A to Point B in the areas of their life where they most desire change. So why am I admitting defeat, and bursting your bubble, only 6 days into 2013?
I’m not admitting defeat, and I suggest that you don’t either. But it’s worthwhile to examine some of the reasons people don’t keep their resolutions, so you can set yourself up for success. We’ll take weight loss as a hypothetical example, since it’s the most common (and commonly broken) New Year’s resolution.
- Inaccurate goal setting Often people will set a weight loss goal when they are really looking to improve their quality of life. A number on the scale is not the best way to measure that improvement.
- Vague goal setting When someone sets a goal to “lose weight” it is too vague to be actionable. Also, you can’t fully control variables like metabolism, disease, or stress that can affect weight loss.
- Lack of motivation If you are dieting because you think you “should” lose weight, you are not likely to stick to it long term. People reach goals partly because they have identified a compelling reason to do so.
So in order sustain lifestyle changes (like weight loss) over the long term you need to:
- Be clear with yourself about what real success is, and write it down.
- Set specific, behavior oriented goals you can control. For example, goals like “I will exercise for 30 minutes 3x per week” or “I will eat no more than one dessert per week
” support weight loss and are easy to track.
- Understand how your unhealthy habits reward you. No matter how unhealthy a habit is, it became habit by benefiting you in some way. You have to want the rewards of change more than the rewards your unhealthy habits offer, or the change won’t stick.
But there is another, rarely mentioned factor in the arena of goal setting. I see it as something of an elephant in the room for those of us whose choices are informed or even governed by faith. If you believe in the sovereignty of God, what place does goal setting have within that world view?
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away…
If this makes you want to curl up into a ball and never set another goal, you’re not alone. And if you’re just a vapor, you can’t expect to make much of a mark. But you aren’t just a vapor. You are a vapor with a source. And a direction.
Instead you should say, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live—and do this or that.”
So when I said that I won’t achieve any of my goals, I wasn’t saying I won’t achieve any goals. This vapor of a life is too short to spend any time on goals that may or may not align with God’s desires. So my goal setting starts there, with desire. Sometimes it starts with me asking God “What do you want me to do today?” Sometimes it starts when I notice a desire in me, and I ask God, “Is this a desire you want me to pursue?” Armed with answers to those questions, I can move forward and taking action.
Does this approach sound too limiting to you? Too passive? I’d agree if I hadn’t read these words, spoken by the most influential individual who has ever lived.
…the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing…
What does success look like for you? What desires are motivating you? Will this be the year?