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Do you set goals or do you set challenging goals? These may seem very similar but in a lot of important ways, they are not.
Sometimes I find myself setting “goals” that are simply not worth my time. They are too easy. They don’t force me to grow as a person or in my faith. They don’t challenge my thinking or habits or assumptions. Basically, I set “goals” that more or less maintain the status quo in my life. And really, why bother?
That’s why I ask myself the same question I started with: am I setting goals or challenging goals? If I am willing to do the work that challenging goals require, the growth and change can be amazing. But those “status quo” goals – sometimes they just need to be renamed as “my to-do list.”
Of course, that isn’t to say that all my goals need to be the “change the world” type of goals. Neither do yours. But having one or two challenging, stretching, big goals is good for both you and me.
Challenging Goals Require Growing and Stretching
Our church is going through a sermon series right now on stretching. Which just happens to dovetail nicely with this article. Focusing on the growth of the church in Acts, the sermons emphasize how stretching – which was sometimes painful and unwelcome – is what grew the early church.
Stretching is still the route to growth. You’ve probably heard this common proverb:
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
That’s the mindset behind setting challenging goals. It’s the mindset that Caleb had when, at age 80, he said, “Give me that mountain: (Joshua 14:12).
Choosing Challenging Goals
You may have some challenging goals in the back of your mind that you’ve put on the back burner for a while. You may know exactly which challenging goals you’ve talked yourself out of pursuing for years. Or maybe you just know you long for something more, something deep, something life-changing.
Wherever you are on the “choosing challenging goals” spectrum, you’re in the perfect place to start. Because, of course, you cannot start anywhere except from where you are.
- If you know exactly what big, scary, challenging goals you want to chase after, start making those goals and plans now. This article may help.
- If you have some vague ideas but need some help in putting some substance to those ideas, this article about life goals may help.
- If you’re clueless, read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Yes, it’s a book on prayer and it’s been in print for a while. But he talks about life goals – big, scary, amazing life goals – in a way that lights a fire under me every time I reread it.
No one can make your big goals for you. No one can get inside your head and determine what matters most. But if you read over the suggestions from the Life Goals article and The Circle Maker, perhaps your creativity will start flowing and you’ll begin dreaming bigger dreams.
However, if you’d still like some more encouragement, I’m sharing a few of my challenging goals here. Caleb wanted to conquer a mountain when he was 80. I’m not 80, but my 20s are far in my rearview mirror. Still, I continue to set challenging goals because landing among the stars wouldn’t be half bad.
Challenging Goals for My Empty Nest
- Write & publish at least 7 more books (I’ve published 3 so far).
- Take a 3-4 week trip through Italy (dream vacation).
- Pay off our mortgage before I turn 65 (a real stretch!).
- Mentor/disciple at least one woman a year (M. was last year’s – she’s so sweet and such a blessing!).
- Have a BIG bash for our 50th anniversary (only 9 years away).
- Pay cash for all of our new vehicles from now on (bought a new truck last year with cash -felt really good).
I hope this encourages you to think big, dream big, and set challenging goals.
When Should You Make Big, Challenging Goals?
This question – when to make challenging goals – usually centers around two concerns:
- Is it too late to pursue those big goals I’ve put off for so long?
- I’m knee-deep in kids and school and work and life, who has time?
These are both honest concerns that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But that doesn’t mean now is not the right time for challenging goals. Let’s look at each separately.
Is It Too Late?
Maybe, like me, you’re on the downhill side of life. Maybe, like me, you sometimes wonder if it’s just too late to dream big dreams and chase after big scary goals. I don’t know your situation, your health, finances, or family. But I do know one thing: if you’re still drawing breath on this planet, then God still has plans for you.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, “What plans?” I’ve learned over more than a few years walking with the Lord that, if I just start moving, He’ll redirect me when I’m going the wrong way. What I mean is this: if you have a dream, start working towards it. If it’s the wrong dream for you or the wrong time, God is perfectly capable of changing your direction. Worry less about heading the wrong way and more about staying in one place doing nothing.
Of course, all of that assumes you’ve prayed over the dreams and goals you have, you’ve sought counsel and advice, and that you’re in the Word regularly. If all that’s true, just start. Trust the Lord to intervene if you’re taking a wrong turn.
Your answer to this question could be
- No, I’m going for it.
- No, but some modifications are needed.
- For that big dream yes, but not for this one.
- Yes, for some, but I’m not letting any more big dreams go without trying.
My encouragement to you is just this: pray, then get started.
Who Has Time?
Although my kids now have kids of their own, I remember those days when I felt I barely had time to breathe – let alone pursue my own goals. The truth is, there are seasons of life when your goals will take a backseat to your family’s needs. That’s OK. In fact, that’s more than OK – it’s most likely part of God’s goals for your life. After all, Jesus Himself came to serve, not to be served.
So for you, maybe the answer right now is, “Not me.”
But before you settle for not chasing those goals, consider a few other possibilities.
- Maybe you could let some other responsibilities go so you can pursue your goals. Things like making homemade goodies for your family every week. Or working in the church nursery every Sunday (why not every other Sunday?). Or being team mother to all three of your kids’ sports teams?
- Maybe you could spend less time on Netflix, Instagram, and TikTok. Reclaim that wasted time for the exercise plan you’ve put off, getting your teaching certificate, starting your own business, or simply starting a garden.
- Maybe you could delegate more home tasks. Your kids can be taught to do chores. Done “good enough” by one of them is better than taking your time to do it “perfectly.” Let go of the need to do everything yourself so it’s “done right” and let your husband fold the laundry or load the dishwasher. Ask me how I know about those!
One more idea to consider: don’t set goals in January.
Yes, I know the new year is when everyone is supposed to set their goals. But, let’s be honest. If you have school-aged kids at home – even if you homeschool – your life revolves around the school calendar, not the actual calendar.
That means setting goals in January is, at best, difficult. At worst, it ends in ugly crying and defeatism. Because by January, your school year routines are already set in place. You don’t want to mess it all up with your “crazy” dreams and goals. BTW – that “crazy” is what you think other people are thinking – I think your big, scary goals and dreams are just what you need.
Because your life revolves around the school calendar, the best time for you to pray through your dreams and make big goals isn’t January – it’s July.
July is the perfect time to consider dreams, goals, and changes in your life, During the summer, you probably have time to think through your dreams, desires, wants, needs, obstacles, and abilities in more detail. You probably have more time for praying and planning. By setting aside some time in the summer, you’ll be ready to get the new school year started with the right routines that will support your goal-achieving, instead of just your goal-setting.
So, while you’re life is busy in this season, don’t quit before you start on your big dreams unless you’ve taken the time to pray nd think and seek advice first. Then, if necessary, set those dreams aside for a season – just not forever.
Dream It, Then Do It
So, you’re sold – at least on the theory of setting challenging goals. Now what?
Dream Big Dreams, Set Challenging Goals
Put on your ‘if I could, I would…’ thinking cap and dream big.
Set aside some quiet time for ‘dream time.’ A perfect time to do this is on a hot afternoon after you and the kids have spent the morning outside playing in the sprinklers. Put on a video and let them chill out while you dream. Make sure it’s a video you’ve seen a dozen times or more, so you aren’t drawn into it!
Then, get your dreaming mode on. Start listing everything you wish for your life to be.
- Think about how you’d like to interact with your spouse, your kids, and your extended family.
- Think about your career, your education, and your long-term business dreams.
- Consider yourself, what you like to do or would like to do given enough time and money.
- Consider the areas of health, finances, friends, church, spiritual growth, home environment, and having fun.
Brainstorm normal and outrageous dreams. Don’t filter or edit. Allow anything and everything to be placed on your list. This might be as far as you get while the video is playing. Follow the rest of the steps as you make time for them (a video a day until you’re done?)
For more details on taking this list of amazing, challenging, scary, big dreams and turning them into goals, check out this article. Because making goals doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a plan for achieving those goals.
Do It, Then Celebrate
I hope you’re sold on the idea of setting big goals for yourself. And then working hard to make them a reality. If you do that – and do it regularly – you will be able to look back at the end of your life and say, “I finished the task the Lord gave me.” Others will look at your life and see a life of bold faith – because bold faith is the only way to make those big goals a reality. You will leave a legacy of faith, courage, and hope.
But don’t wait until the end of your life to realize what God is enabling you to do. Don’t wait to celebrate what He is accomplishing through you. Don’t put off enjoying the sense of accomplishment that comes from reaching that almost-impossible goal that so many thought you’d never achieve.
Celebrate your goal-reaching as intentionally as you work on your goal-setting. When you celebrate reaching those big goals, you’re really celebrating the big God you serve.
So do it. Then celebrate it -by pointing all eyes to Jesus.