The Secret to Setting Goals (So You Can Actually Reach Them)

Setting Goals

It’s that time of year.  That time right after Christmas, when we have eaten too much and spent too much and we make a resolution to stop eating so much and spending so much.

A new year symbolizes new beginnings, new dreams, new hopes, and second chances.  It’s a fresh slate and we determine to make the most of it.  So, we set up goals- New Years Resolutions.  There are the ‘tangible’ ones: losing weight, running a marathon, getting $5000 in your savings account.  Then, there are the intangible ones: being a nicer person, spending more time with family, developing a better routine, breaking free from porn/alcohol/drugs, etc.

Whatever your resolution is for the new year, you have more than likely been down this road before.  In fact, you might be sitting here reading this thinking of all the resolutions you didn’t successfully accomplish this year.  It can be frustrating, discouraging, maddening even.

As you look ahead you might be filled with a sense of defeat.  You don’t want to dash your hopes and give up on your dreams, but if last year is any indication, you’ll never make it.  So why even bother, right?

Perhaps it is time to change your goals, but not in the way you may think.

All around us we are encouraged to challenge ourselves.  We set goals with big intentions.  Yes we can do this seemingly impossible thing! We can make over our lives! Challenge Accepted.  We can do this!  And we sign up for programs, install apps, and buy memberships all to help us conquer the challenge and achieve our dreams.

We might even crack out the Bible and commit Philippians 4:13 to memory.  Buy the mug, the inspirational calendar, share our goals in small group, or in the church prayer chain.

Often, though, we neglect the one key element that underlies every goal and ambition we could ever have.  Whether it be weight loss, breaking chains of addiction, or spending more time with God, every single goal, every dream, every desire we have requires one thing:


Let’s imagine (because it would definitely be imagining) that I decided I wanted to run a marathon this year.  I assure you, that if I were to try to do that tomorrow, I would not succeed.  I am not a runner.  In fact, I got a Fitbit a couple months ago and discovered that, with my desk job, I barely break a pitiful 5,000 steps each day.  That means I don’t even walk a marathon in a week.  Standing on a marathon starting line anytime in the near future would be the beginning of a comical disaster.

But let’s say I made that my goal, and that’s it.  I just want to run a marathon.  Do you know what’s going to happen?  I’m going to spend the whole year saying, “I want to run a marathon this year” and then, come November, I’m going to realize my body just isn’t in marathon shape and it won’t happen.

[Tweet “”This year” turns to “someday” and my “New Years Resolution” moves to the “Bucket List.””]


Because I forgot about the growth.

There is a process to achieving goals.  They don’t happen overnight.  There is a reason you haven’t accomplished them yet.  You aren’t there yet; that’s why they are in front of you, not behind you.  To accomplish a goal, you have to get to the goal.  You have to grow to it.

We forget about the growth.  We just see the end product- the fruit- and it’s shiny, beautiful and delicious.  We forget there is an entire system and seasons that go into producing that fruit- roots, dirt, sun, rain, storms.

[Tweet “You don’t wake up one morning, say, “I want my own apples!” and simply will them into existence.”]

And if all you do is add “apples” to your list of things to get done this year, it’s never going to happen.  You will never have them because you did not grow them.  There is a process here.  There is a process for your goals too, regardless of what they are.

This year, make growth part of your goal.  Use the word “more” when thinking about your resolutions for this year.  Identify the area of growth that will help you achieve your goal.  What can you do more of that will help you achieve the end result you are working toward?

If you want to break free from pornography, how are you going to do that?  What are some steps of growth on the path to that goal?  (Here are some tips) At the end of this coming year, you may not have been porn free for a year, but wouldn’t it be great to say you were closer?

Isn’t closer a better perspective than failure?

That’s what we miss, so often.

You wanted to lose 10 pounds, but you only lost 5. You failed, right?  Well, no.  Did you develop healthier life habits?  Did you give up junk food?  Did you learn to cook new recipes?  Did you start being more active?  Did something change?  Did you grow?

You wanted to break free from porn, and you did pretty good, even went a couple months without watching, but you just watched it again yesterday.  Failure?  No.  (Note: this is not a theology discussion).

Have you taken steps to break free this year?  Maybe limited your internet use or installed software to keep you accountable.  Did you confide in someone to seek help and accountability?  Did something change? Did you grow?  Then don’t write it off as failure. Those are victories!

Don’t shoot for an item to be checked off a list; shoot for character and change that will outlast the list.

Aim for growth.