If you want to accomplish something meaningful, especially if it’s complicated, it takes time, planning, dedication, and a whole lot of effort. Having personal development goals can help you to set a direction for your life; they allow you to know how to apply your energy and talents.
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – C.S. Lewis
If you don’t set any goals, that doesn’t mean that things won’t happen in your life. But it does mean you might be more subject to the whims of circumstance as well as the plans other people might have for you. Without goals, you may not be able to maximize your full potential or use your gifts in ways that matter to you.
The challenge when it comes to goals is that we don’t know how to set goals properly and our efforts go to waste. We may also set goals but don’t have a plan in place, and we lack the energy to execute the plan to achieve those goals.
Setting personal development goals is an important skill that takes time to hone. It requires us to be aware of the dynamics at play when it comes to setting and meeting our goals. So, how do we go about setting these goals and creating a workable plan that can allow us to achieve those goals so we can become who we want to be? Below are a few pointers to help you.
Know your identity and your purpose
When you go about setting your goals it’s important for you to recognize who you are, your skill set, your circumstances, and how you perceive your purpose. It’s important to remember for whom you’re setting goals, because that makes all the difference in your motivation. Your goals should matter to you, since they matter to God’s purpose for your life.
If something doesn’t matter to you, you’re unlikely to invest the time and energy necessary to accomplish that goal. After all, to achieve a goal, you often have to make sacrifices. Why would you sacrifice things you like to achieve something in which you don’t have an interest?
That doesn’t make sense. However, often people will create goals that are considered impressive by other people but don’t spark joy or excitement in them. Make sure you set goals that are based on your identity in Christ, not what others think of you.
Your goal itself should matter. Each person will define that in different ways using various metrics. Ask yourself, does the goal you’re pursuing enrich your life or the lives of people around you? Does this goal allow you to use your God-given gifts to become the person the Lord created you to be? These are good questions to consider no matter what kind of goals you have.
Set your personal development goals
Goal setting is a skill with which many of us have struggled. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies because we don’t know how to set goals and go about achieving them. The acronym SMART can help us set meaningful goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. When we spoke about setting a goal to become a football player when you have no interest in the sport, that is a good example of a goal not being relevant for you.
The purpose behind setting SMART goals is to help you with the best chances of succeeding at your goals. When you know precisely what you what to accomplish, by what time, and by what means, you can set up your workflow and accountability checks to ensure you get where you’re planning to go in the most efficient manner.
When you set those goals, be flexible. Recognize that your goals can and will likely change over time. Circumstances can also change drastically, like the global pandemic. When things change, you’ll need to adapt to the new circumstances, either by revising your goal or changing any timelines you’ve set for yourself.
Create and accept accountability
The problem with rugged individuality is that if you stand alone, you also fall alone. Accountability is important for several reasons, not least being that sometimes a little external motivation and encouragement go a long way.
If you start to feel discouraged by slow progress, for example, a friend can help you maintain perspective and a good attitude. There are bound to be some setbacks with a goal like losing a few pounds or getting fit enough to run a marathon. Having a coach or being part of a group where people check in on one another is an important step towards meeting your goals.
Listen to this way of putting the matter:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, ESV
In another piece of ancient wisdom, we are reminded that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). Our ideas and goals often need refinement through the wisdom and experience of others, and we need people around us who will help us stay on track.
If there’s someone that has walked the same path before you, why not lean on them for guidance for your journey? Your friends or mentors will have an insight into your capacities, gifts, dreams, and hang-ups. Invite others into your space and collaborate with them concerning your goals so that what you come up with is the best it can be.
Submit your personal development goals into God’s hands
When we make our plans, we can do so without giving thought to the Lord, and without recognizing that Proverbs 16:9, ESV is the truth that defines our days “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We may plan our futures, but it’s only God who knows what the future holds for us, and God is the one from whom our life comes.
Yet we must make personal development goals. It is foolish to go about life without goals and without plans, expecting things to happen by themselves. Our preparations are made with these two truths in mind – the Lord has made us responsible beings that can make real choices with real consequences, and the Lord is ultimately in control.
This is how the letter from James strikes this delicate balance – “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. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, NIV).
When we make our plans and set our goals, we can do so with a sense of expectation even as we hold lightly onto them. The past few years with the Covid-19 pandemic ought to have demonstrated to us that our best-laid plans can be brought to naught.
Just do it
The journey of a thousand miles begins with that first hard step. Eugene Peterson once wrote of discipleship being “a long obedience in the same direction.” When it comes to goals, particularly the ones that require us to put in a lot of work over the long haul, we must just get on with it.
Start small, and persevere, doing what you can each day to build upon the work you did yesterday. Challenges and obstacles will come, but as Hannah More said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” Keep your eyes on your goal, work around or push through the obstacles that present themselves, and keep pressing on.
Need more help in setting personal development goals? A Christian counselor can advise you on the specific track of success for your calling, gifts, and skills. Contact me to learn more about how we can work together to plan fruitful personal development goals for your life.
“Dream”, Courtesy of Ave Calvar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Goals”, Courtesy of Markus Winkler, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rope”, Courtesy of Rtisanyb, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “On Top of the World”, Courtesy of Danka & Peter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License