Goal setting has existed in a variety of shapes and sizes for me over the years. I’ve attempted what others have recommended, and some of it worked… sort of… for a little while anyway. In that, I’ve personally experienced great success as well as epic failures with goal setting.
Traditional goal setting— taught via books, classes and websites — has never worked well for me. Bits and pieces, have, but not any approach as a whole. Yet, I cannot give up trying. Something inside of me propels me toward backward and present assessment for the purpose of forward planning.
Scripture about being prepared like the ant (Proverbs 6:6-11), counting the cost (Luke 14:28) and preparing your field (Proverbs 24:27) dominate my thoughts when I think of goal setting. Scripture also touts the importance of diligence…
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)
But there are also Scripture indicating a futility in goal setting.
“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.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14)
Setting goals without a good dose of humility results in setting ourselves up not just for falling short of our goals but for not enjoying – not truly living in – the present process and moment.
The next verse in James 4 helps bring a balanced perspective to planning and goal setting.
“Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15)
Proverbs 16:9 further emphasizes this balance.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
This scripturally balanced perspective of goal setting gives me peace as I reflect backward and look forward because I can better see both the importance of setting goals and for leaving room for God to change my plans. Ultimately, this means His goals take precedence over mine.
To reach this balance, I find asking a couple questions to be quite helpful.
- Do my goals make room for the unexpected?
- Do I love God’s will more than my own?
The most effective mindset for goal setting involves having our own ideas and making our own plans but knowing God will ultimately accomplish His sovereign will.
DISCUSSION: Do you struggle with the idea of goal setting too? Does this more balanced way of thinking help in that struggle?