I used to love the idea of New Year’s resolutions. (We’re talking about so much more than New Year’s resolutions here, so stay with me.) The possibilities were endless! A new year, a blank slate! I can do whatever I want—I just need to resolve to do it! Inevitably, though, one of three things would happen:
- I would get overwhelmed by the sheer number of possible resolutions: Should I learn to play guitar? Be better organized? Make all my bread from scratch? Learn to sew? Be a better mom? Be a better wife? Be a better friend? Exercise more? Read more? Write more? Play the piano more? This would lead to my never really selecting anything out of fear of selecting the wrong thing(s) and my being discouraged before the year even got started.
- I would chose “broad stroke” goals that sounded good (see all of the “Be a better…” statements above) but never really come up with meaningful ways to accomplish those things, then feel guilty any time that I felt like I failed at them. (Dang, I just yelled at my kids over something dumb. I really suck at this “be a better mom” thing.)
- I would pick something that sounded like fun (I’m going to learn to play guitar!), jump in with both feet, then be shocked to learn that my days didn’t magically get longer to accommodate my goals and the additional time it took from my schedule. Saying “yes” to my new thing meant saying “no” to things that were already in my life—and possibly things that were more important.
Maybe one (or more) of these sounds familiar. As we sit here, closing in on the end of January, maybe your resolutions are losing their shine, and you are ready to walk away and try again next year. I’ve been there, friend, I know.
But I don’t think we have to give up on setting goals. Maybe we just need to change our focus.We don't have to give up on setting goals. We just need to change our focus. Click To Tweet
A new focus
A few weeks ago, inspired by two dear friends, I changed my approach goal-setting (at any time of the year). First, Kelly shared her personal manifesto, a document designed to guide her decisions and focus her heart. What a great idea! Then Melinda had an opportunity to share for (in)courage, and as she does so well, she wrote a post full of hope and encouragement to live this year fully alive. The resolutions she suggests are gentle reminders to embrace the life God has given us and give Him the glory. That is the year I want to have—more than that, it’s the life I want to live.
That’s when I realized I had been approaching my goals all wrong. Instead of focusing on what, I should be focusing on who. Who am I? What do I want people to see in my life? How do I want them to finish this sentence: “Do you know Katy? She’s the one who _________”? I needed to review my priorities, get a clear picture of who I am—and who I want to be—and then I could set goals to help me better be… me.
So often we approach January with the idea of “New year, new me!” But instead of reinventing ourselves, maybe we should just refocus on who we really (already) are.The best goals are born out of truly knowing who we are.Click To Tweet
Who are you? What drives you? What stands out to others about you? Whom do they see when they look at you?
One quiet morning, I sat down with pen in hand and got to work. I prayed. I wrote. I scratched out. I wrote some more. At the end, I came up with a list of 5 things that are true of me—or that I hope are true of me. These five things direct my decisions about my time, money, and energy. They help me decide my yeses and nos. They are the foundation for any goals I set. And if they haven’t been in the past, they are starting now. This is my manifesto, my personal mission statement. I will live my life out of these statements.
In the coming weeks, we will look at these five characteristics—how we can apply them to our lives and use them to set goals. I also encourage you to come up with your own list. Who are you, and who do you hope to be? Sure, you’re welcome to use mine, but they might not be the right ones for you.
How do you find your starting point, your manifesto, as you may call it? Here are a few tips I found helpful.
- Choose things that are already true, at least to some degree. These five characteristics are, I hope, the core of who I am, so they shouldn’t be pipe dreams. Sure, I could write, “I am graceful and coordinated, like a prima ballerina,” but at some point I’m just setting myself up for failure… you know, like five minutes later when I spill hot tea on my keyboard.
- Choose areas where you have room to improve. Some of the details I included in my document (which we will delve into more next week) are already true, but this shouldn’t be made up entirely of things you have already mastered. You want these statements to guide decisions and growth. Simply stating things that you have already attained leads to stagnancy.
- Keep the list reasonable in length. Five is a great number for me. You might be able to handle more, but remember that you will be using these statements to set goals. Don’t drown yourself.
- If you find your list getting too long, look for characteristics or ideas you can combine under one more general statement. For example, I wrote down that I will support and encourage my husband, then that I will build up and encourage my children, and later that I will seek build myself up and not tear myself down inside my own head. I took all of those (and one or two more statements) and combined them under the umbrella statement: “I am an encourager.” Under that more general sentence, I listed the specific people and ways I encourage.
So grab a pencil and paper, find a quiet spot, and get to work. Create your “who am I” list and get ready to start seeing change take place.
Set specific goals
Do you have your list? Do you feel more confident already, now that you have declared yourself to be this person of character? Boldly claiming these truths for ourselves builds us up and gives us courage to start doing the hard work of living it out.
But… how? What does it actually look like to live this out? This is where we get into actual goal setting. Here we take a somewhat abstract idea and create measurable, practical steps—or at least, more concrete concepts. But we don’t want to overload ourselves with goals, or we are just setting ourselves up for failure.
There are two approaches to using your manifesto/mission statement to set goals:
- Set one goal per statement. Take, for instance, my first declaration: “I am a child of God and a woman of the Word.” A goal for this might be “I am going to spend 15 minutes every day reading my Bible and praying.” (For more information on this, check out Mrs. Disciple’s tips on giving God your first 15 minutes.)
- Brainstorm goals, then link them to your mission statement. This seems more logical to me, probably because I am a woman and do not compartmentalize as well as most men do. I find that most things I want to accomplish affect more than one of my “big 5 statements”—or rather, that these 5 characteristics tend to infiltrate multiple areas of my life. After I created my entire mission statement, I made a separate list of goals—specific, measurable actions I wish to implement. I scrutinized each goal, seeing if it stood up to the test: Does it help me to become the person I want to be? Does it emphasize the things I believe are most important? I chose the top 5 goals, denoting how they fit into my mission statement. For example, by the end of 2017, my goal is to contribute regularly to five web sites, as well as submit one-time pieces to three additional media sources. In order to do this, I must be intentional with my time, evaluating which opportunities are the right fit so that I do not overload myself; I must prayerfully seek God’s will as a child of God, remembering that my relationship with Him influences every area of my life; and I must encourage myself as I get the inevitable rejections that I am capable and that I have a story to tell. (Not all of my goals fit all five categories, but wasn’t that a perfect example?)
Again, I stress the importance of being specific in any goals you set. Initially, I had written down my desire to “seek more writing opportunities.” Unfortunately, that is just vague enough to let me off the hook of any real work. I could theoretically reach out to one site, magazine, or even a contact who might be able to put me in touch with a media source and then call it quits. Setting specific, measurable goals allows us to set deadlines, assess our progress, and push ourselves toward success.
Next week we will start digging into my five character statements one-by-one. Yours might be different from mine, but taking a closer look may give you more insight into your own priorities and goals. Join us next time as we talk about becoming a woman of the Word.