Every year you make all these amazing new goals… but, how often do we accomplish them?
What is the problem?
Is it that we aren’t committed enough? Do external obstacles really play that big of a part? Or, maybe, just maybe, we don’t know how to set the right goals?
“Goals are critical to success.”
“As long as your goals are ‘SMART’, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
“You can’t achieve personal, professional, spiritual, or emotional growth without goals.”
“Goals are indispensable for motivation, direction, purpose, and peace in life.”
“This is going to be the year that I actually KEEP my New Year’s Resolutions and I am going to change my life.”
These are the mantras we have been learning for our whole lives and are the basis of modern american society (and most others).
What if everyone is wrong!?!
What if goals aren’t the be-all-end-all of Human existence? Could failing at your goals actually be a good thing?
Did you ever doubt if your goals were actually achievable? Did you ever set goals thinking it should make you motivated and happy, but instead, they left you feeling enslaved and less peaceful than ever?
If so, maybe God is trying to teach you something!
Goals can steal our peace
Chasing a goal is a little bit like chasing a rabbit. It is always going to be a bit frantic, even if it is methodical.
Rabbits are agile, fast, and have no interest in getting caught. Even when we do catch them, it is not without some shortness of breath, and some scars along the way to show for it. Even when we become “expert rabbit catchers”, it still requires large amounts of effort, planning, agility, and focus.
Naturally, that effort steals energy, time, and focus from everything else in my life. It steals from all the good things like marriage, kids, ministry, and God (unless those are the rabbits we are chasing).
Plus, we can frantically chase even one rabbit and end up exhausted, potentially hurt, and maybe never even catch the rabbit. Plus, nothing else gets done either!
Please, explain to me how that is a good plan?
Remind me again why people accept this as a necessary and unavoidable evil?
Every year we set New Year’s resolutions. Our goals are lofty, noble, and ultimately good, but, they can have a tendency to make us more anxious than ever. Sometimes they can even be discouraging or depressing. Often we give up on our goals by mid January because of this – realizing that chasing rabbits is futile and exhausting.
Then it dawned on me
How do people traditionally catch rabbits?
They don’t chase them at all!!!
It is much smarter to use bait and a trap. The goal is still the rabbit, but the difference is peace.
There is a second difference as well:
You may not know which rabbit you will catch, or when you will catch it. Maybe you will catch nothing, maybe you will catch two. Maybe it will be something else entirely. Only God knows – but your only job is to bait the trap.
The steps are very clear – 1) get supplies, 2) research where to put rabbit traps, 3) set trap, 4) do something else while you wait.
I don’t know about you, but this takes a huge weight off my shoulders. Now I’m only responsible for doing my best, not for succeeding.
Setting My Own Goals – What I think I need
- lose 50 lb
- run a half marathon
- earn $X dollars /per month/by the end of the year
- improve my marriage (in “blank” specific way)
- get X # of followers/clients/etc.
These are all good things. They are all “SMART” goals. They are reasonable and healthy. What could possibly be wrong with them?
They are an attempt to control our lives. They are like saying: “I know what’s best for me and I’m going to make it happen. I know what is going to make me happy.”
But, is that really true? Do you truly always know what you need? Are your decisions always perfect?
When was the last time you achieved a goal and were disappointed with the results? Usually this happens to us and we think that the problem was that we didn’t set the right goal. Maybe the bar was too low. Maybe we should have tried for more money, more weight loss, longer distances, more knowledge, further travel, or an even bigger house.
BUT – Maybe the problem was the fact that you had a goal.
Are goals bad?
What? I’m confused. My whole life I’ve been told to set goals and achieve them. That’s the only way to be productive, the only way to succeed.
Abraham Lincoln said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”
This is true. But it doesn’t tell you how you will feel about that future when you arrive. It doesn’t tell you how exhausted you will be when you get there or how many compromises you have to make along the way.
I love me some Abraham Lincoln and even agree with his quote, but it is not the secret to happiness.
It’s too easy to let “good goals” become idols
We seek to achieve them at any cost, and yet we are left empty because our goals are coming between us and the SOURCE of our Fulfillment.
Adam and Eve
The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3:6
Adam and Eve saw that the tree was good for food. They recognized that their desires were not evil – but in taking the fruit and eating it they took upon themselves a burden that mankind was not designed to bear – becoming “like God”. Deciding what was and what was not best for themselves.
Look at the result of their decision.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. – Genesis 3:7
When they chose to take instead of trust, they tasted the burdens of autonomy. They took on the responsibility of having to be responsible for their own safety and happiness, and open the door to experiencing shame for the first time. Making for themselves a new task of sewing loincloths and feeling the need to hide from God.
Every time we choose to dictate our own future, no matter how “pleasing to the eye and the mind” it may seem, we are recommitting the sin of Adam. We are experiencing the Fall all over again, taking upon our own shoulders the burden of autonomy and opening the door to experience shame, imperfection, and failure.
The Fall of Man in the Garden was a choice, a choice between trusting God and trusting self.
In order to return to Paradise, I have to make the uncommon choice, the choice to trust.
Evaluating my Goals
The world tells us we need goals to be successful and happy – and that may be true according to their standards.
But, what are my standards?
Are my goals bringing me peace?
The Lord says,
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” – John 14:27
When we do the Lord’s work, we are at peace.
Do my goals bring me closer to Him?
Yes, goals give us a sense of purpose and tangible direction in our lives. But, which direction are they leading us?
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be given you besides. – Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:31
He reminds us that we are worth more than sparrows (Matthew 6:26) and tells us not to worry about tomorrow “for tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34).
Has my goal become an Idol?
Goals become Idols when we choose them and seek them for their own sake, or because we think they will make us happier rather than because God wills them for us.
Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the LORD your God. – Leviticus 19:4
We have plenty to do in life as it is without making more work for ourselves.
Any goal where you have in mind what the final outcome should be is most likely at idol status.
Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. – Jonah 2:8
- If losing 50 lbs isn’t going to make me a more peaceful person or more who I am meant to be, then why am I seeking it? (Maybe you even know that subconsciously, which is why it is so difficult to do.)
- If following all the experts and growing my business the way the world says I have to is going to make me feel like I’ve joined the rat race or I’m chasing rabbits, is it really what is best for me?
- If furthering my education is going to make me feel trapped in a career that I am only interested in for the money – maybe I should question my priorities?
- If starting (or finishing) house projects, craft projects, or any other kind of project is going to take time out from God or any of the callings He is putting on my heart at this time, then I need to accept the fact that maybe those goals are for later.
Any goal you are chasing for it’s own sake (no matter how good it sounds to you) is actually pulling you further away from God, further away from the person you were meant to be, and further from the peace that you seek (even if it sounds counter intuitive).
Making Good Goals
Surely goals aren’t all bad though, right?
The ultimate goal of reaching heaven, of course, isn’t bad. 🙂
Be perfect, even as your heavenly father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48
*Disclaimer: It is possible to try too hard to EARN heaven – thinking that somehow we can get there on our own if we work hard enough. Salvation can never be earned – it is freely given to those who want it. Without a deep, intimate, and abiding relationship with God we can’t even desire what heaven really is. Heaven isn’t just comfort and ease, good food and golden houses. Heaven is fundamentally praise and worship, returning to Paradise where our Relationship with God and each other is untainted.
Other goals are also good (because they are little ones along the path):
- Being more grateful, humble, patient, or kind
- Being more attune to what God might be asking of me in every moment
- Loving God more, ever deepening my Relationship with Him
- Practically implementing a more consistent, intentional, and fruitful prayer life (formal and informal prayer, communal prayer, and individual prayer)
- Reading the Scriptures
- Loving myself as He loves me
- Loving others as He loves them
Any goals that interrupt or take precedence over the above goals, however, are not truly helping us.
Transforming Enslaving Goals into Freeing ones
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. – Galatians 4:8
Health and Weight loss goals
If you know you need to loose weight and it is affecting your ability to be the best spouse, parent, servant, son or daughter of God that you can be, then your goal needs to change from “I will loose 10 lbs by next Thursday” to “I will build more healthy habits into my lifestyle” – Examples:
- I will find a reasonable workout program that fits my schedule and my body and I will stick to it.
- I will create healthier eating habits.
- I will throw out all the processed carbs and sugars in my kitchen.
- I will learn to cook.
- I will learn to shop.
- I will learn more about nutrition.
- I will consider more opportunities for spiritual fasting… etc”
This is a fundamental mentality shift towards goals. Because the true goal isn’t the number on the scale or what WE think we need to be perfectly suited to our calling, but rather accepting in gratitude what He gives us as a result of living in harmony with our bodies and the food He gives us to nourish them.
On the other hand, if you have an obsession with exercise, or any eating disorders that are affecting your life, this also needs to be taken into consideration. It might be ok for you to gain 5 lbs in order to have more time to spend with the people you are called to love. Remember, Fitting into size 0 jeans is not more important than having a vibrant prayer life!
It is hard to tell someone, “you shouldn’t make self-care one of your goals”. These goals are difficult because we all know how important it is to take care of our body and how much we desperately need rest. When we recognize that no one else is going to fill us we start thinking we have to fill ourselves in order to have more to give (“you can’t pour from an empty cup”).
But this is the fact:
We cannot make ourselves happy. We cannot fulfill ourselves.
So many times we think, “oh if I just had more time to work out, I’d be a better spouse/parent/person.” or “I NEED this glass of wine / chocolate / ice cream / coffee / cigarette to cope” Or “I just need a vacation” or “space” or “quiet” or “a spa day”.
But, how many times do we come back from that “rest” to reality, more overwhelmed than before? When we get back we just notice how much DIDN’T get done our absence, and that reality is still the same?
Escapes from reality, hoping reality will change while we are gone, only leave us more empty than before – thinking we must just need more escapes.
“Me-time” is delicious and comforting like a giant nutritionless bowl of Mac’n’cheese that we devour ravenously and wonder why we are still hungry.
But there is a solution!
Did you know that there is such a thing as NUTRITIOUS comfort food – that leaves you feeling both full AND satiated?
Come to me all who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest! – Matthew 11:28
Your time of self care should not be filled with things that just waste your life. Netflix binges are never going to fix your problems.
But, there is someone who does. You just have to give Him a chance.
Healthier goals in this category might look like:
- I will take 10 minutes every morning for some quiet time with the Lord while I drink my coffee (instead of scrolling Social Media).
- I will read my bible while I soak in the tub (instead of a novel).
- I will make a point to talk to God on my walk (instead of listening to music).
- Instead of going to the spa, I will go somewhere special just to talk to God or journal.
- I will read more books on building a relationship with God (as opposed to whatever I normally read).
- Instead of a vacation, I will look for a retreat.
- I will turn off the radio/television/phone more often so that I can experience more quiet time with God
- I will stop telling myself what I think I need and be more intentionally grateful for what I have.
- Is My Self Care Selfish? – !0 Question Quiz
- True “Me-Time” – How to Fill up when Life sucks the Life out of you,
- When life is Just Too Hard…,
- Trusting God to help me when I need Him
All these goals are tricky to talk about because they are so deeply personal to each of us. Most of us are looking for financial “freedom”, that feeling we think we will have when we don’t have to worry about where/how we spend our money or how much something costs. But, everyone who has ever reached this goal will tell you that it does not buy their peace or their happiness. They are never satisfied. This is because again, they are chasing their goals for the sake of their goals, not for any higher purpose. What is the purpose of money? To enable us to provide food, clothing, and shelter for ourselves and then in turn to provide food, clothing, and shelter for those who sold us ours.
Really we need nothing else.
If we decreased our list of “needs”, we would see that our desire for money would also decrease significantly.
But, what if money is an actually NEED at this point in my life because I don’t have enough for food, clothing, and shelter?
Remember the Lilies of the field… (Matthew 6:25-34)
Maybe we don’t always need what we think we need. Maybe we need to learn first about what real needs are. Maybe before the Lord can bless the work of our hands, He needs to be sure that we will use it according to His plan.
Prosper the work of our hands for us, Oh Lord, prosper the work of our hands. – Psalm 90:17
Modifying my financial goals:
My goals in this category need to change from “I will earn $X this month” or “I will save up $X for X thing by X date” to goals such as:
- I will be a reliable employee
- I will maintain (or seek out) healthy and meaningful employment (NOT extravagant employment)
- I will ‘own’ what I do.
- I will do my best.
- I will be honest and a genuine team player (not a pushover or a “yes-man”)
- I will earn what I am paid
- I will look at this as supporting my family (not as a sign of my worth)
- I will be more grateful for what I already have
- Even if I am scared of the implications, I will use the first fruits of my labors – ideally 10% (symbolic of 100%) – to support the Lord’s work (tithing).
What if I have a different problem and already spend TOO much time at work? Question yourself: What are your priorities? Is this truly supporting your family? Or would your family benefit from more of your presence in the home? Your time is more valuable than money, because it cannot be multiplied. How are you spending it?
Giving up on our Goals and embracing God’s goals for us
Our desire to accomplish our own goals comes from a desire to control our own lives. It feeds our “autonomy” and the sense of not “needing help”. But feeding our sense of “I can do this my myself” is only setting us up for failure, because we cannot do ANYTHING by ourselves. Honestly, we can’t even do what HE is calling us to do by ourselves. This is why building a relationship with Him is so critical – because we don’t realize how much we need Him (until we realize we cannot live without Him.)
Trusting that God’s goals will make us happy
The most common reason we don’t want to trust God’s plan for our lives is because we think that it will not make us happy. We are afraid it will not be “what we want“. And, YES, He does ask us to eat our “veggies” and take the “high road”. He sometimes asks us to do what we think we don’t want to do in the moment, but there is always a higher purpose and a greater goal in mind.
Sometimes it is important for us to be poor so that we can learn to control our expenses, experience solidarity with others who are poor, recognize that we really don’t need as much as we think we do, etc…
Sometimes it might be important for us to be sick so that we can appreciate our health more and learn to take better care of ourselves, or offer that illness for someone else who is sick and experience the power of the cross in our lives.
Sometimes our battle with our weight or our self-esteem can help us see other beauties we never knew were there or to recognize that we don’t have to be lovable to be loved.
[tweetshare tweet=”We don’t have to be lovable to be LOVED!” username=”CarolynMPereira”]
There is always a reason, and we may not always understand it. Often we can only see God’s work in hindsight – but that is not a good reason not to trust Him.
- Why, God? Exploring the Reasons behind what God asks of Us
- Control, Anger, Peace and Paradox – How to Let Go of Being Angry with God
- Will God’s Will Make Me Happy?
A prayer to Give God Control of our Goals
Lord, it is so scary to let go of control. I never know what is going to happen when I let go of my plans. All I know is that you promise it will be great.
Help me to trust you. Help me to be sincere in my gift of self to you. If I have desires for my life that aren’t what You want for me, help me to let go of them.
Help me abandon myself to your arms and trust in your care.
Comment Below: Do your New Year’s Resolutions need to be modified this year? How might giving your goals to God benefit you in this new decade?
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