To Goal or Not to Goal

In this issue:

Are goals really important? What if I prefer to wing it? If you're a perfectionist, you may or may not love to set goals, or maybe the process seems too overwhelming for you. This issue will help you look at goals in a different way, inspire you with practical ways to make your intentions memorable and visual, and two books that can give you lots of helpful insight as you get started. Here's wishing you a fantastic new year!





Inspired Life: To Goal or Not to Goal

I'm writing this at the time of year when people talk about New Year’s resolutions and goals. But if you're reading or listening mid-year, no worries! You can set goals at any time. Some people spend a whole day working on their goals for the year, and even come up with a word for the year.

I want to be very up front with you. I don’t love setting goals. Or at least I didn’t use to. Now, I don’t LOVE it, but I have learned to see the value in it and have learned how to set some goals that are more realistic and work for me.

I know now that one of the main reasons I didn’t like setting goals in the past is that I am a perfectionist. And the idea of setting a goal and not perfectly achieving it is frustrating. Here are some things I tried:

  • Creating an elaborate plan complete with deadlines and measurable outcomes. But I put all of the effort into the plan and none into action.
  • Then I tried setting my goals so low that I could easily achieve them. There was no stretch. No challenge.
  • Then I tried not setting any goals at all and sort of flying by the seat of my pants for the year. When I had time, I would tackle something and get it done.

I’m not content to not accomplish anything. My number one strength on the CliftonStrenghts by Gallop is Achiever. I can’t not achieve.

So there you have my dilemma. I have a need to achieve, but as a perfectionist, it was too risky to declare what I wanted to achieve.

What if I didn’t do it?

What if I messed it all up?

What if I decide to go in a different direction?

What if I don’t leave enough room for a change of mind?

Silly, but it's my reality.

I had a wakeup call one day when I realized that having goals is important for living a fulfilled and satisfied life. Why? Because I need to look ahead and picture something in the future. And if I have no goals, I will waste the talents and opportunities that God has given me.

Goals direct us toward our best. They help us evaluate and change and grow.

The wakeup call came a couple of years ago when I was working a job I enjoyed, but where I was struggling to figure out if I belonged there. I was using my strengths and abilities and was making a difference for clients. Hopefully I was making a difference for the others on my team too. But at the end of every day, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I once had was gone. I felt deflated at the end of a work day rather than pumped up. I think I let stress get to me, but I also lost sight of my long-range goals.

My Wake-Up Moment

Then when we had a team activity where I needed to write down a 5-year, long-term goal related to where I could see myself in terms of the company, my role, and career growth. I struggled to get through the team meeting without crying because in that moment, I could not see myself there anymore. I had to write something down, because we were going to share our goals and dreams aloud in a few minutes.

So, with my heart not really in it, I wrote something that fit my skills and abilities. It was heavy. It was like standing in the middle of a forest of tall trees and thinking I should go one direction, but the footprints of others before me led in a different direction. Like setting out on the path where the other footprints led, while wrestling with my inner compass that said this was not the right direction.

Change for the Better

That ultimately led me to take a turn in my career and to leave a job I once thought I would never leave. Just like that. A switch flipped and I understood the point of knowing where I wanted to go. It sounds fickle to be that sure of needing change, but I knew it to my core.

And now I look at goals differently. I don’t write them out in the traditional way with the SMART acronym with measurable outcomes and monthly time deadlines. Instead, I write out “I Will” statements.

I state my intentions for the year. They are all areas where I control the outcome with intentional decisions. For example, I wouldn’t say, “I will have a weekly date night with my husband.” Why? Because that also depends on him. What if he isn’t available? What if he doesn’t want to go out with me? Ha ha! [He does, by the way.]

My statement will look more like this: “I will invest in my marriage by flexing my schedule to make time to connect with my husband in some way weekly.”

You see how subtle the difference is? I can control whether or not I flex my time. Together we can decide if time together means going out on a date or simply having a conversation without the TV on.

Last year, after writing out eight I WILL statements for the year, I realized that without indenting to, there was a theme and I had a word for the year: reduce.

The Year of Reducing

I had decided to reduce sugar and unhealthy carbs. Reduce the number on the scale. Reduce Debt. Reduce possessions. Reduce unnecessary expenses. Reduce time wasted on TV and Facebook. Reduce “me” focus and increase focus on others and God. Reduce procrastination.

Guess what? I did reduce this year! We did reduce the debt and cut spending, such as cable TV. That also helped to reduce the time wasted there. I did reduce sugar and the number on the scale. I reduced possessions and donated a bunch of stuff to charity.

As I look ahead to 2019, I will be doing another goal day with some I WILL statements. If you have never enjoyed goals because they are like New Year’s resolutions that you never complete, would you consider writing 5-10 I WLL statements for your year?

These are my eight from this past year:

  • I will put God first.
  • I will develop personally.
  • I will make my health a priority.
  • I will write.
  • I will grow my business.
  • I will develop professionally.
  • I will invest in others.
  • I will be organized and frugal.

Each of those has some specific actions under them that helped me achieve the goal. If  you're setting some goals for the year, I'd love to hear them! Send me an email with your list of intentions. 

Life, Repurposed: Making Your Goals Visual 

Last year, I typed up all of my I WILL statements and put them in a frame in my office. This year, I am thinking of repurposing one of the chalkboards from our son's wedding. I painted a whole bunch of vintage windows to use as chalkboards. (See image below)

  1. To make these, I use chalkboard paint right over the glass of an old window.
  2. After it is done, I lightly sand it with fine grit auto body sandpaper to get any brush marks out.
  3. Then I rub chalk over the whole thing and then wipe off with a dry rag to condition it.
  4. Now it's ready! It's important to know that regular chalk will wipe off, but to get chalkboard markers off, you might have to lightly repaint the board.

I plan to repaint this in 2020 if needed, so I will  use the more permanent version of markers. They just l look better than regular chalk, and I know I will bump it in my office in the next 365 days. 🙂  You really can make a chalkboard out of nearly any smooth surface! Have some fun with it!

Recommended Resources 

I have two resources from Michael Hyatt to recommend. I also recommend checking out his Lead to Win podcast!

Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want 
2016 Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy

This one is really about how to create a life plan and it's a great first step before working on your goals. You'll need more time to work on it, but it will be worth it!

This book talks about spending a day to think about your goals in life. Whether it’s for personal goals or work, this planning and reflecting is important. I especially like the part about getting off your but. No, that isn’t a typo. Whenever we think about achieving, we often insert a but. But, I’m too busy. But, I’m not like other people. But, I don’t have the support system I need.

Yes, the book mentions the very SMART goals that sometimes trip me up, but it is a very helpful first step if you have no sense of direction yet.

The next one was on my wish list when I recorded the podcast, and I ordered it right after that. 

Your Best Year Ever:  A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals [affiliate link] 
2018 by Michael Hyatt

From the book description:

We all want to live a life that matters. We all want to reach our full potential. But too often we find ourselves overwhelmed by the day-to-day. Our big goals get pushed to the back burner--and then, more often than not, they get forgotten. New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt wants readers to know that it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, he thinks that this is the year readers can finally close the gap between reality and their dreams.

In Your Best Year Ever, Hyatt shares a powerful, proven, research-driven system for setting and achieving goals. Readers learn how to design their best year ever in just five hours

- three simple ways to triple the likelihood of achieving their goals

- how to quit-proof their goals

- what to do when they feel stuck

- and much more

Anyone who is tired of not seeing progress in their personal, intellectual, business, relationship, or financial goals will treasure the field-tested wisdom found in these pages.

So far, I'm enjoying chapter 1  and can't wait to finish the book!

I’d love to hear about your method for setting goals! Send me an email or a social media message to tell me about what works for you!


(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. )

Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure,  as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here.

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