Usually, I am all over setting goals for the new year. Seriously, one of my favorite things to do is open my planner on January 1st and write lists of personal goals, professional events, family schedules, and things I want to mark off my bucket list. There is something satisfying about seeing all of the ideas in my head written in pencil on clean, crisp pages making my soul shout, "Dream Big!" and "You've Got This!" Planning encourages me to believe in the impossible and step into the new year with confidence.
But this New Year's Eve, as the calendar rolls into another year, I haven't had it in me to set more goals.
I was tired.
Why was I not able to get excited about all that is to come this year?
Last year was an incredible year for me. I accomplished dreams that I'd been praying about for years and love the work that I do professionally. Our family is in a great place emotionally and we've had lots to celebrate. As I thought back on the past year, I realized that while life was full of many good things, I desperately needed some time off to rest in God instead of make more lists. While 2017 was a year of focus, it also taught me that there never truly is an end to my to-do list. Even when I scratched off tasks and completed my goals, there was always more. This constant cycle of plan, work, complete, repeat, left me timid to set more goals because I barely had enough energy to stay afloat.
This year, I don't want to just be focused. I want to flourish.
Providence Christian School Headmaster Emory Latta says, ""To flourish' implies that one will have balance in relationships, and equilibrium as it relates to successes, wealth, career, and family and is a state where one thrives while humbly acquiring increased influence. Human flourishing involves the execution of the spiritual and vocational gifts to their fullest. It's what Parker Palmer means when he states, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." To flourish is being a steward of every gift, relationship, and possession while not claiming ownership rights."
Are you like me and need more time with Jesus instead of checking off another list this year? Do you want to flourish this year instead of feel like a failure?
If so, I've got three ideas for you (and me!) on how to move into this new year with big dreams without feeling drained. You can also download the Undivided Prayer free goal-setting worksheet here to help you come up with some good goals for the new year.
1. Start by asking yourself: "What is my definition of victory?"
Being a millennial, I'm part of a generation that thrives on achievement but feels very insecure when we don't feel like we are making an impact in the world. I've set goals for myself that are big but when I don't instantly get success, I get down. Blogging, for example, is a source of lots of frustration. Writing is a way for me to share encouragement with my community but the best way to get the writing out into the world is through social media and e-mail lists. BUT, the problem with sharing online is I get way too focused on how many people the words reached (or didn't reach) and then I begin to compare myself to others, which leads me into feeling like I didn't achieve my goal.
This year, instead of setting numbers goals, I'm redefining my thoughts on achievement and victory. Sarah Young writes in Jesus Calling that we achieve the victorious life by living in deep dependence on Christ. She says, "People usually associate victory with success: not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me." Instead of seeing victory through my personal lens - social media followers, people who buy my book, the number that attended my event - I'm going to start viewing victory by how I responded to the obstacles that I face. Will I give my failures to Christ or will I allow them to wreck my self-confidence?
How we respond to life's obstacles will determine how victorious we will be this year.
If you have fifteen minutes, check out this awesome video about why millennials struggle in the workplace. It's interesting for people of all ages and helps us to redefine success with our work and relationships.
2. Prevent burnout by doing a few things well.
My goodness, this is so terribly hard for me to do. I like to be busy and I'm in a season where I'm trying lots of new things creatively. I'm a wife, mom, full-time employee, writer, ministry leader, and artist. The thing that I struggle with is that all of these "titles" are meaningful to me and I truly feel called to serve in all of these areas, which makes it ridiculously hard to give something up. Yet, I know that if I go, go, go, I will burnout, get sick, and not be happy. So, how, exactly, do I chose what things to do well?
If you struggle with busyness too, one exercise that is helpful is to time block your day. See how much time you are investing into your different activities and ask yourself if any activities are not currently giving you joy. This might mean letting go of past dreams to step into your current season of life. Or, it could be to stop watching so much television so you have more time to give to your relationships or art.
Time blocking has helped me realize that I really can't do it all at the same time. I have to pick and choose projects that work within my "free" time blocks (like early mornings, nights, and weekends). My goal is always to keep my family and friends as top priority but it is a struggle to turn off my creative work to be fully present with my people. I'm slowly learning how to divide my time so I can be fulfilled creatively but also have time to play.
My friend Melinda is an amazing coach for leaders and writers. She says, "We lead best when we follow Jesus." If we are not spending intentional time resting in God, practicing silence and stillness, our bodies will will give way to burnout and exhaustion.
If you want to practically find more time for rest, use your bedtime setting that comes with the iPhone alarm clock. Schedule a time that you wish to wake up and the bedtime setting will send you an alarm on when to go to bed.
3. Set goals that give God glory, not yourself.
We live in a narcissistic society. In her book, Listen, Love, Repeat, Karen Ehman says that we have forgotten the joy that comes from putting others first. The best goals to set are not the self-focused ones, they are the goals that encourage you and I to extend ourselves to give time, love, and attention to our close circle and our community.
Over the past year, I've felt the need to confess my own idolatry to God. Self-centeredness has caused me to take my eyes off of God and His Great Plan. Instead, I've focused on MY PLANS. The goals I have set in the past have been with the intent of purposeful living but I've become distracted by the work. My greatest fear is to unintentionally become like the loiters at the temple gates and have Jesus come and angrily throw my table in the air. I don't want to be so focused on my plans that I lose sight of giving God's glory.
To set goals that give God glory, we have to first take time to see God in our everyday circumstances. Giving God glory is not always about doing something big, loud, and for a whole lot of people. Perhaps our goals should be more realistic. We can make goals to practice kindness, tithe 10% to the church, or invite a friend over for lunch.
Often planners have a space for you to write down your top three priorities for the month, day, or week. Consider making at least one priority others centered instead of self-centered.
Goal setting is motivation to achieve great things this year, but it is important to set goals that help us receive true victory, give us margin for rest, and focus on others, not just ourselves. When we focus on these three things, we will truly flourish this year.
I don't want weariness to keep you and I from setting goals this year. That's why I've created the 21 Day Prayer Challenge which helps us to focus on the matters of our hearts. Psalm 86:11 says, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."
To truly live a life of following God, we need to have an undivided heart. If we resolve to pray for this upcoming year, we will discover that the key to having an undivided heart starts with focusing on what God has in store for our lives. This can be the year that we focus less on ourselves and more on God. Prayer helps us discover the life we were born to live.
As you set goals for this year, here is a free goal worksheet that goes along with our Undivided Prayer challenge. On this worksheet, simply write your goals/New Year's resolution on the lines provided and then pray. I'd love for you to join me in participating in the Undivided Prayer challenge starting Monday, January 15th. You can sign up here to receive posts right in your inbox!
Which of these ideas have helped you the most? Comment below or head to my Facebook page to share your response. I'd love to hear what your goals are for the new year!
Happy New Year friends!