Effective and Productive
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” (C.S. Lewis)
Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, about half of Americans make them. Unfortunately, according to Psychology Today, most people fail to stick to their resolutions.
- 22% fail after one week
- 40% fail after one month
- 50% fail after three months
- 60% fail after six months
- 81% fail after twenty-four months
Reasons for this failure involve:
- Unclear and vague goals
- Failure to gauge one’s progress
- Weak self-control and self-regulation
Honestly, not at all surprised by these numbers or by the reasons for them. They’ve certainly proven true in my life over the years.
What I have found to be effective instead is having life themes that integrate into every facet of my life. They have to be biblically-based, though, or even this approach fails to be effective over the long term.
These themes developed gradually and were born out of adversity and failure. I’m grateful for this process because they now help direct me to being effective and productive in ways goal setting never did.
Focus and Motivation
You’ll may look at the themes I’m about to share and think they are simply positive-thinking mantras. To some extent you’d be right, but they’re more than that. They also remind me of where I’ve been and what I’ve come through, and they motivate me to continue into where I’m being led.
Two passages in Isaiah not only encapsulate these ideas but also help weave these themes together.
“Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:27-31)
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
These and other verses remind me of the themes of my life. I need the reminders, too. Without them, I just get overwhelmed by life. This is one reason I need to consistently study the Bible. Doing so helps these themes continually come to the surface not just in what I’m studying but in every facet of my life from teaching to talking to a friend or my kids to when I’m alone and working.
My Life Themes
Let me simply share these themes with you now. Part 2 goes into some detail on each of them.
- Focus determines reality. (Isaiah 26:3; Galatians 5:16-18; Luke 12:34)
- Never give up. (Isaiah 50:7; Hebrews 10:35)
- Take small steps. (Hebrews 12:12)
- Keep it simple. (Colossians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3)
- Wait on God. (Isaiah 30:18; Psalm 27:14)
If you were to spend much time with me or even to just read through a handful of posts on this blog, you’d run into each of these themes over and over again. In fact, there are quite a few people you could talk to who could name a few if not all of these since they’ve heard my say them so often. That’s a deliberate goal on my part.
Which brings us back to the idea of goal setting. The Holy Spirit directs me to goals all the time. When he does, he also lays out the plan for achieving them. Sometimes the plan comes all at once, but often it comes in just one or a few steps at a time. Always perfectly. And always, these themes saturate the plan.
This approach serves to eliminate unclear and vague goals because I’m following the Holy Spirit, not pushing for progress in my own efforts. As for self-control and self-regulation, that comes through a combination of Bible study and accountability, which both serve to remind me of the life themes planted in my spirit.
I have not eliminated all of what keeps most people from achieving goals. However, I do realize my inability to set and achieve goals in my own effort, so I try to continually turn that work over to the Holy Spirit. I need to remind myself of the Holy Spirit’s continual activity in my life.