January arrived with passion and fury. We set our goals like a boss and proclaimed our commitment that 2019 would be different than all the years that came before it.
And then, real life set in. And 92% of us are now facing February with a looming sense of failure.
If you’re part of the rare 8%, this encouragement isn’t for you right now. But bookmark this article, because at some point this year, you’ll need it. I promise. Goals are rarely things we can simply name and claim. Our personal and professional lives aren’t linear. Disruptions and detours are waiting around the bend on each of our journeys. And disruptions aren’t always difficulties. Opportunities arise, great conversations lead to new ideas and new dreams.
It’s February, and I’m here to encourage you if you’re in the 92% club. You’ve not failed. If Paul the apostle can admit in the book of Philippians: “I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect,” then it’s OK for you to take a breath and take a moment to reset the clock on those goals of yours. I’ve gathered up 12 of the best questions to ask and things to do when you need a restart.
Ask yourself these six questions:
1) Why are these goals important to me? What do I really want to accomplish?
That’s right. Start with your heart. Whether your goal is to write the book, get the promotion, lose the weight, or change the world, it’s essential to ask yourself: “Why does this matter in the first place?” We might discover that the goals we’ve set aren’t really the goals we want. Or we might see that the goals are good, but we’ve not elevated them in priority.
If your goals need to be adjusted, do it.
2) What are the emotions driving my need to succeed, or which emotions are telling me I will most certainly fail?
Sometimes it’s not the goals themselves that trip us up. Rather, it’s how we perceive our worth in light of them. We can become entrapped by our own fear, jealousy, or pride. Rather than yielding our dreams and goals to God, we focus instead on what is happening around us. We begin comparing our journey to others, and that comparison often fuels our own sense of failure. We stall out. We give up.
Author and pastor Steven Furtick says, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” And singer Kari Jobe shares, “Comparison will be the number one thing that will keep you from doing what God’s calling you to do. He’s put a gift and a call and a desire in your heart that is different than anyone else’s. And you’re wired that way for a reason.”
Embrace your goals as your own, understanding that your approach to achieving them may look different – because it looks like YOU.
3) How do I intend to actually meet these goals?
A study conducted at Dominican University revealed the importance of doing more than simply coming up with goals. With plans ranging from professional growth to personal development, students were divided into groups. Some merely stated their goals, while others wrote down their goals and the incremental steps they were going to take in order to achieve them. Still others shared their plans with friends, and one group even organized regular update meetings.
When all was said and done, only 43% of the group that had stated their goals were on their way to completing them, while 76% of the group who had step-by-step plans and accountability partners were nearing fulfillment of their goals.
We do not develop anything with one giant step. No matter who you are, or what you do, each one of us had had to take a lot of individual steps to accomplish a task, a job, a career, or even a hobby. — Catherine Pulsifer
Break your big goals into small goals that can be achieved within a few weeks or months. Identify actions that could become good habits over time, and design disciplines that will help you build those habits. Identify the distractions that can sabotage your progress. Find a trusted person or group ready to help you stay focused.
4) How realistic is my “when?”
So far, you’ve taken an honest look at your goals, your focus, and your plan. Now, it’s time to take a realistic look at expectations. Are you giving yourself enough time so that those goals become part of your life without compromising faith, family, and friendships?
Refine your plan if needed to build in space for rest, reflection, and community.
5) Who will help me achieve my goals?
Inc. Magazine shares ten reasons why mentors are essential in our lives.
- Mentors provide information and knowledge.
- Mentors can see where we need to improve where we often cannot.
- Mentors help stimulate our personal and professional growth.
- Mentors offer encouragement and help keep us going.
- Mentors help create necessary boundaries that we cannot set for ourselves.
- Mentors are sounding boards.
- Mentors are trusted advisers.
- Mentors can be connectors.
- Mentors have the experience we still need.
- Mentors are free.
Seek out trusted mentors to walk the journey with you.
6) How will I define success?
When we set goals, it’s very easy to define success as achieving them. But there are other measures of success that shouldn’t be ignored. Success can include learning a new skill, developing a new habit, overcoming a fear, or discovering a new talent. Whatever you do as you define success, let your weights and measures be driven by reality.
New York Times best-selling author and speaker, Jon Acuff, warns against perfectionism in his book Finish. “Perfectionism is a desperate attempt to live up to impossible standards. Perfectionism will do anything to protect those impossible standards. It can’t let you find out how impossible they are, especially with the cold eye of data, so it terrifies you into thinking that you’ll be crushed by disappointment if you peer behind that curtain. Data would tell you that your bank account is low, but you’re spending a lot more on coffee than you think. If you started making it at home, you could easily start saving for a vacation. You might even stop comparing yourself to the impossible financial standards of your friends online. You might make some reasonable goals and completely change the way you view money. You might even have fun.”
And, do these six things:
Taking time to reflect and rework your goals is not failure. Remember that. In fact, many leadership experts now recommend that SMART goals (strategic, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) become SMARTER goals by including regular “evaluation” and “readjusting.”
As you take time to reset those goals, invite God into the process. He is as interested in your goals as you are, and it is His joy to provide insight and discernment as you make plans. James 1:5 reads, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get His help and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.”
9) Write a mission statement.
One of the best ways to make sure your goals align with who you are and what you believe is to craft a personal mission statement. It doesn’t have to be complicated or long; in fact, New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews provides this 5-question guide for crafting a mission statement of your own.
10) Rally support.
In addition to finding good mentors, gather a circle of trusted friends who have permission to both encourage and challenge you. Let them know your personal mission statement, give them your prayer requests, and hold space for them. We humans are created for community
11) Celebrate along the way.
Remember what I said above about celebrating successes? Don’t forget to celebrate small wins along with big wins. And be sure to celebrate other things too. Celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays. Make a gratitude list and celebrate something that brings you joy each day.
“My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose – somehow we always win out.”
– Ronald Reagan
12) Give yourself permission.
Yes, give yourself permission—permission to try, permission to succeed, permission to take a personal day, permission to fail, permission to take a moment again down the road to evaluate and readjust. Give yourself permission to investigate new opportunities. Give yourself permission to change. Give yourself permission to enjoy life as you pursue your goals.
Leadership expert Brian Tracy shares, “Be prepared to ride the cycles and trends of life; success is never permanent, and failure is never final.”