Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Take a Different Look at Your Goals

stairs-man-person-walking

Did you know that the success rate for New Year’s resolutions is a mere eight per cent? I don’t mean to burst your bubble this soon into the New Year. Really, I want to help.

I know we’re only a week and a half into 2017, but how are you doing on your goals? Perhaps you don’t officially make New Year’s resolutions, but do you have a goal you’re working toward?

I am a hard core goal setter. I regularly evaluate my life and identify an area for change. It’s exhilarating to envision a better future when motivation is at its highest. However, within a short period of time motivation wanes and the goal I was so stoked to accomplish is nothing but an uphill battle. Evidently this feeling is universal. Thankfully it doesn’t have to control us.

Here are some tips to use when you face inner obstacles that threaten your progress.

  1. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t wish for a quick fix. Remember that lasting positive change takes time. Commit to work toward your goal over the long haul. You are learning a new life style or skill. You are developing an important plan. You may need to adjust your pace for a marathon instead of a 100 yard dash.
  2. Take it one day at a time. One moment at a time if necessary. Even though you set your mind for a marathon, you also must live fully in the present and not get overwhelmed by the future. You can conquer temptation in the now, but the load will seem too heavy when you add potential temptations down the road. You can deal with the stress you face today, but you will get into trouble if you add the stress of tomorrow.
  3. Set smaller goals. Don’t give up on your big goals, but set smaller bite-size goals to focus on and celebrate. If you need to lose 50 pounds, stop and celebrate (sanely) when you lose 10 pounds. Then continue toward the next 10 pounds. If you take 2,000 steps, one step at a time, you will walk a mile.
  4. Change your mindset. Don’t allow a negative perspective trip you up. You are not being “deprived” when you “give something up.” You are not “sacrificing” when everyone else “gets to have fun.” Frame your decisions as positive instead. You are choosing a better path for your well being. You are investing in your future. Declare it out loud until you believe it.
  5. Ask for help. There is power in support and accountability. Find someone you trust and respect to walk with you. Above all, invite the Lord to walk with you. He is already with you, and has the strength you need for success. Knowing you are not alone will encourage you toward the next step.

Take a different look at your goals and experience success. I believe you can do it, and it will be worth it.

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:4).

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your mercies are new every morning, and that You give me opportunity for change. Help me to honor You with my goals. Empower me to be successful. I trust You to accomplish Your good purposes through me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith

What Are You Ready For?

torch

This summer we put our house on the market. We have sold some houses over the years, but for some reason I had forgotten how stressful the process can be. In our desire to sell our house quickly, we decided to say “yes” every time our realtor asked about a showing, even if it was only in a few hours. That meant we had to keep our house picked up and clean at all times.

It’s not that we are slobs. I like having a place for everything and everything in its place. But, honestly, cleaning and yard work aren’t at the top of our priorities. Sometimes after spending a long day at work, we would rather just kick back and relax. Sometimes we choose to go to bed before the dishes are done. Sometimes we go to work and leave the house in less than tip top shape.

Of course it was during one of those times that we would get a phone call. A potential buyer wanted to look at the house before there was a chance to clean. It didn’t take long before I decided that before I went to work, the house needed to be in show condition. I am not a morning person, so cleaning in the morning can challenge both my body and attitude.

On one such morning, I was helping my daughter make her bed. As I smoothed out the comforter, I heard myself grumbling. Right on its heels, a thought burst forth from my mind. “It’s important to be ready. Remember the parable of the ten virgins.” Suddenly I realized there was something more at play than just being ready to show my house. I immediately apologized to the Lord for my negative attitude and began to ponder the story.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13, NIV).

This parable is so rich with meaning, with many ways we can apply it to our lives. For me personally, it is a reminder to always be ready to follow Jesus, to keep the fire burning for Him. In the midst of life’s demands, I can only thrive by making sure I am like a wise virgin with plenty of oil for my lamp. I must ask myself every day, “What am I ready for? Am I ready for Jesus?”

I must thrive over the long haul by being ready spiritually. What does that look like to me?

Being hungry for the Word of God and living by its truth. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). May I yearn to hear God’s Word spoken to my heart and mind. As the guide for faith and conduct, may I follow His Word with obedience, devotion, and joy.

Seeking to know Christ more. May I never become satisfied with my relationship with Jesus, thinking I am fine the way I am. May I quickly get rid of bitter, unforgiveness, envy, and the like, and allow the love of Christ to control me. May my desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be transformed into Christ’s likeness direct my steps every day.

Focusing on God’s kingdom and Christ’s return. Where is my attention? On my own life and comfort or on reaching others with His love? May my actions show that there is more to this life than the here and now. May I willingly sacrifice to see God’s will accomplished.

What are you ready for? Are you prepared to thrive over the long haul in what God has called you to do? What does being ready spiritually look like to you?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the parable of the ten virgins. May my life reflect the five wise virgins who were ready to follow You and do Your will. Help me to thrive in life and in what You have called me to do. Empower me to follow You passionately and to focus on Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

No Matter What, Focus on Jesus

focus-on-jesus

At the beginning of this year, I chose one word to direct my course for the following twelve months. I selected the word after a lot of prayer, contemplation, and, to be honest, with great resistance. My word is “dare.” I would prefer “rest” or even “grow.” “Trust” has a lovely, comforting ring to it, too. “Dare” has a quality of boldness and courage that seems to go beyond “trust.” But “dare” it is, so “dare” has directed me since January.

As a leader, I have dared to extend a hand of forgiveness in order to restore broken community relationships. I have dared to address a huge misunderstanding with an influential church organization to build unity. Most recently my Board of Directors and I decided to add a new spring fundraiser to our calendar—a 5K fun run/walk.

Personally, I have dared to allow painful, hidden areas of my childhood to be uncovered and to invite healing.

In each instance, it required stepping beyond my own personal comfort into unknown and scary territory. There were obstacles that threatened to dismantle what I clearly felt the Lord had asked me to pursue. It reminds me of the account of Jesus in Luke 8, when He calmed the storm.

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:22-24a).

Jesus issued a directive to his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. There was no doubt in the disciples minds’ what Jesus wanted them to do. Yet, when a severe storm quickly overcame them, they were overwhelmed by the serious circumstances. Their attention on journeying to the other side was diverted to the crisis at hand.

What has the Lord directed you to do?

What things has He placed in your heart to accomplish on the job or in your personal life?

What storms are you facing? Are they taking your attention?

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples (Luke 8:24b-25a).

The disciples knew enough to wake Jesus with cries for help. But their faith had been misplaced on what they saw and experienced in that moment. They woke Him up because they needed another set of hands to bail water and keep the boat afloat. Despite all the miracles they had seen Jesus perform, they assumed they would drown. The circumstances were bigger than Jesus.

Are you settling for less, because of the obstacles you see?

What circumstances in your life seem bigger than Jesus?

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25b).

That day the disciples’ view of Jesus dramatically expanded. He went from being Teacher, Healer, Friend of Sinners, and Miracle Worker, to the Lord of the wind and water.

Who is Jesus Christ to you?

What do the Holy Scriptures say about Him that you have not yet realized or believed?

My quest to be bold and courageous requires me to focus on Jesus. I can’t do what He has asked of me without Him opening opportunities and without the power of His Spirit. When my attention gets diverted by circumstances, I fear that I will drown.

We can fulfill God’s plans for our lives. We can thrive in life and as leaders. No matter what happens, we must focus on Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to always rely on You and to serve with Your strength. Remind me to keep my eyes on Jesus, to focus on Him no matter what. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

The Tyranny of Should

There is something I really enjoy about getting older. I have a much clearer sense of who God has created me to be, and I feel less pressure to be someone I am not. Even with this greater understanding of freedom, there are times I still live under the heavy weight of man-made expectations. I call this the Tyranny of Should.

Our society paints a picture of a successful woman. She has a full time career. Her children are well-behaved, and thrive at school and in the extra-curricular she actively supports. Her marriage is fulfilling with lots of romance and spice. She is a good cook and keeps an organized and spotless home. She exercises regularly to maintain her attractive figure. In the church, the successful woman looks a little different. She may not work full time, but she is actively involved in church ministry and is supportive of her husband. She spends hours in prayer and Bible study, and opens her home in hospitality.

There are equally demanding expectations on men. It’s overwhelming! What’s a person to do?

It’s important to periodically take stock of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I ask the following questions.

What has God called me to do?
God’s calling will change throughout the seasons of our lives. I devoted years investing in my kids and being the primary support person for my pastor-husband. I loved it (for the most part) and knew that God had called me to do it. As my kids grew and needed me less, a new direction became more defined. I have been called to minister in the marketplace, and I have a pastor’s heart.

God’s calling guides my activities. The things I do must relate to His calling. I need to let the distractions go (as good as they may be).

What are my priorities?
We all have 24 hours in a day. I cannot do everything. My time must be spent on what is important to me. In order to see my priorities clearly, I write a list and rank them in order. The top five items are where I spend the majority of my time. Even though I may like other things, I must keep focus.

Because my time is limited, I also adjust my expectations for how much time I spend on my priorities. My top priority has always been cultivating my relationship with Jesus. When I had five young children at home, my devotional time looked much different than it does today. I longed for long hours of silence to listen and pray, but that wasn’t realistic. Now my house is quiet and I don’t long for silence anymore. On the other hand, with my current schedule, I only have 20 minutes a day to exercise. I know it’s not optimal, but it’s what I can do.

Resist the Tyranny of Should. Pursue what God has called you to do, and do what you can do with confidence.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Six Questions to Ask About Your Goals

Welcome to March! The third month of 2014 has officially begun. Remember those goals you set at the beginning of the year? How is it going? With two months behind you, this is a great time to pause and reflect on your progress. Gain more clarity and momentum for achieving your goals by answering some important questions.

Are my goals written?
If your answer is “no,” write them down. Whenever I go to the grocery store, even for a couple items, I need a shopping list. I admit, sometimes I lose it before I get there. Whenever this happens, I get distracted by all the bargains. I wander down the aisles, trying to remember what I came for. I end up wasting money, because I buy things I don’t need (after all, it was all on sale), or I waste time because I have to go back for the things I forgot. In a similar way, without written goals it is easy to get distracted. It may even cost you time and money before you get back on track.

Writing down your goals does a number of things.

  • It helps you remember them.
  • It reinforces your commitment to them.
  • It makes you accountable.
  • It gives you focus.

How often should I revisit my goals?
Having a written plan is important, but the power lies in keeping the plan continually before you. Some people begin each day by reviewing their goals. Others review their goals once a week. Decide the frequency that works best for you.

Only a small percentage of businesses that invest in the strategic planning process actually accomplish them. By far, the biggest reason is that, once created, the plan simply sits on the shelf. They continue doing business as usual without referring to their well designed plan.

Next, take a look at each of your goals and re-evaluate them with these questions.

Is this a goal I believe God wants me to pursue?
This really is the bottom line. Does the goal honor the Lord? Does the goal align with the teachings in God’s Word? Would this goal be approved by trusted, mature believers? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you have a goal that is not worth pursuing. If the Lord has indeed put the goal in your heart, He will help you accomplish it.

Is this a goal I am committed to?
It’s important to be honest with yourself. Goals are successfully accomplished through commitment. If you aren’t willing to persevere during challenges, your commitment level is low. In this case, it is better to change your goal to a good idea and focus on something else to which you will commit.

What obstacles am I facing in achieving my goal?
You’re committed to the goal, but you’re still having difficulty. Step back and objectively look at the situation. Identify the obstacles and problems. You may need to enlist support from a coach to ask questions to prompt discovery and learning.

What adjustments do I need to make?
In light of the obstacles, you may need to tweak your plan. You may need to change your time line. You may need to change your approach or take a detour. Ask God for His wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, they walk.
If you can’t walk, them crawl.
But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Every choice you make is either bringing you closer to or farther away from achieving your goals. Choose wisely, and keep moving forward.