As the year draws to a close, it’s always a wonderful time to reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead. The new year always provides a sense of excitement and wonder at what new experiences we will have and what amazing things God will do in our lives. But if we don’t have priorities and goals in our life, should we really expect anything new or different or exciting to take place? If we were in a rut last year and didn’t seem to accomplish much, do we have plans to change that? If the answer is no, then we must expect more of the same.
I remember a time in my life where I seemed to drift through each day, just surviving. I loved the Lord and wanted to please Him, but my days seemed to be marked by goalless work, goalless activities, and goalless relationships. I wandered aimlessly through each day wondering why I felt discouraged and unfulfilled. Then I read a powerful book that changed the way I looked at each day. It’s now considered a classic among Christian women – Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund. It’s been years since I read that most helpful book, but I still use her principles of establishing priorities and setting goals.
I have continued to read books on time management, goal setting, and productivity. From them, I have discovered 4 ways to practice the fine art of goal setting and live with passion and purpose.
The most important first step to prioritizing and planning your life is to ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to do. Ask Him to show you His specific path to glorify and enjoy Him. In Psalm 90:12, Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Moses knew he had only been given a certain number of years on this earth, and he wanted to live them with wisdom unto the Lord. Paul admonishes us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16) We should ask the Lord for His wisdom to make the best use of the time we’ve been given (and we don’t know how long that is!).
After you’ve taken the time to pray and seek the Lord, list all of the priorities He has laid on your heart (these are the most important things in your life). For me, I have 5 priorities in this season of my life:
- My relationship with the Lord
- My health
- My husband and sons
- My ministry (to extended family, friends, church, neighbors, etc.)
- My Proverbs 31 (this includes anything having to do with home management, hobbies, and entrepreneurial endeavors)
Your priorities may look very different, but taking the time to list all the important things in your life will help you focus on what matters and eliminate what does not.
This is where I make specific goals under each priority – both long term and short term. I start with the end in mind. If the Lord let’s me live into old age, what kind of woman do I want to be? What will I want to have accomplished in my life? Then I try to work backwards. I ask, “What do I need to do today that will help me be that kind of woman when I am older?” There is a saying, “You are going to be what you are now becoming.” If I am not a loving, kind, gracious, hardworking woman now in my 30s, I will not be a loving, kind, gracious, hardworking woman in my 60s. I must pray, prioritize, and plan for these, so that I will be becoming that woman now.
Here are some helpful tricks to remember when making plans and setting goals for any priority:
- Make them specific – rather than “I want to lose weight”, make a specific plan of “I want to lose 10 pounds.”
- Make them measurable – give them a time limit – “I want to lose 10 pounds by March 1, 2015.” Having a time limit helps to give you the needed push to get it done.
- Make them realistic – don’t expect to lose 10 pounds your first week of starting a healthy eating plan. Give yourself time and be realistic about your expectations. 10 pounds in several months is much more realistic and attainable.
Priorities and goals are only helpful if we’re constantly reviewing them. Taking the time to ponder our plans in our hearts is what keeps them constantly before us. I’m an “out of sight out of mind” kind of person, so if I’m not constantly reviewing my priorities and goals, I know they will not get accomplished. But the more I review them, pray over them, and ponder them, the more they become ingrained in my thinking. When my thinking changes, then my attitudes and behaviors change. Taking the time to ponder is also a good way to figure out what is working and what is not working in your schedule. Having priorities and goals helps to eliminate the many distractions that we all face in life. It helps us to say “NO” without guilt.
By praying, prioritizing, planning, and pondering, my life has been transformed. Some priorities will change with time, while others are etched in stone for my lifetime, but I know that I have a plan I can refer to regularly to keep me living with passion and purpose.
How about you? What ways do you prepare for a new year or reflect on the past year? How do you stay motivated to accomplish your goals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Success Is Not an Accident: Change Your Choices; Change Your Life by Tommy Newberry – This is one of the most helpful books on goal setting I’ve ever read. I love this book!
Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming – This book is aimed at women 50 and older, but younger women can glean much from this book. Jean Fleming teaches the reader to live in light of eternity no matter what our age and live with intentionality unto the Lord until He calls us home.
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