Why does it feel like such a long time since the beginning of this year? Is it just me, or does the return to our regular routines make life feel like we’ve suddenly snapped back into reality? Going back to a full work week and the demands of whatever we have on our plates has a way of doing that. It seems as if the New Year’s hype fizzes out like the fireworks we saw just a little more than a week ago. So I have to ask:
How do we keep our goals and resolutions when nobody is around to cheer us on?
How do we stay strong when we become distracted by life and realize that this is soooo much harder than we thought…
…or when we are several months into this year and it isn’t so new anymore?
Continuing on from Part one of this series, “Setting Goals and Reaching them in 2014”, let’s look at three reasons why (besides Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter LOL) we tend to fall short of our goals:
1) We fail to make a plan – We think that a spontaneous intention will carry us through, but it won’t. We have a vague idea of how we want to change and grow, but we don’t know how to get there. One thing that helps me is to take a big goal for the year and do something each month to get me closer to achieving it. You can break them down further on a weekly or even daily basis.
For instance, instead of saying “I’d like to save more money”, create a list of what you have to do to meet this goal very specifically, and how it meets you life’s purpose, as we mentioned in the last post:
Goal: I want to save $ _____ to _____ (go on a mission trip, support new church building, etc.).
Expenses I will need to cut out this month:______
Instead of “get more rest”, write a daily log, such as:
Goal: I would like to get 8 hours of sleep every night
In order to be in bed on time today, (DATE), I will need to accomplish ________ before bedtime.
2) We forget. Seriously, when the boss demands the presentation tomorrow, or the kids get sick, or the car won’t start, we simply forget our long-term goals for the year. We didn’t write them down somewhere we could see them every day. Instead, tack a copy in front of your mirror, or put them up on sticky notes in front of your computer.
3) We lack self-discipline. Ahhh. You knew it! You knew the dreaded D-word was coming, didn’t you?
So you may ask,
“How do I gain self-discipline?”
“I mean, how do I build a character of self-discipline that becomes a natural part of my lifestyle?”
“How do I internalize obedience and self-control as a consistent, daily habit?”
To help myself find some practical answers, I came across some tips from John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California that I hope will help.* Here are his tips:
1) Start small – For example, clean just one room in the house. Learn to put something up when it is out of place. Then move on to another room, then the rest of the house.
2) Be on time – (I almost didn’t include this one, because it is a doozy for me at times, but I must) Cultivate the ability to reign your activities and the things that pull at you so that you can be where you need to be on time. Now, this may not be relevant to your goals, but doing little things like cleaning a mess and being on time will begin to cultivate an attitude of self-discipline.
3) Take the hardest job and do it first – This will help to minimize procrastination. By doing the hardest job first, your sense of accomplishment will gain momentum. It will also nurture a sense consistency to step up to the plate when faced with other daunting tasks of life.
4) Be grateful for correction – Accepting criticism will help you be open to what you need to avoid. Tell others what your goals are this year and allow those who care about you to be a part of your growth.
5) Practice self-denial in simple ways – Learn how to say no to your feelings. Want a hot-fudge sundae? Even if you are thin and it won’t hurt anything, MacArthur states it isn’t about weight, necessarily. It is about cultivating self-restraint; getting into the habit of being self-disciplined.
6) Welcome responsibility – When you have an opportunity to do something that needs to be done, volunteer for it. It forces you to organize yourself.
Well, there you have it. Three reasons why we fall short of our goals, but twice the tips to achieve them! As Christians, we cannot presume to think that any of it is our doing. It is actually a quality of the Holy Spirit within us:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23.
It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the perseverance we need to exercise this self-control, and that’s great news. It tells us that we’ve already won the battle if we focus our hearts and minds on His strength in us to overcome our weaknesses.