Cross it Off, Smile, Repeat: The Art of Goal Setting
The Art of Goal Setting: Almost everyone enjoys the satisfaction of setting and meeting a goal. Whether it is getting to the gym three times a week, making sure your children meet the required P.E. hours, or knocking out the “to do” list, every time you scratch a task off of your list, you have to admit it just feels good! Experiencing that good feeling is not at all surprising to those who study psychology. According to Psychology Today, when goals are made and met, there is a release of dopamine, which does two things. First, it gives the feeling of pleasure, and secondly, it gives a desire to want to meet another challenge. Perhaps you have felt this after you have sorted through your schoolroom and gotten rid of old materials, or cleaned out the kids’ closets. Those who set goals have a higher level of productivity and commitment. There is so much more to setting goals than simply getting tasks done. Achieving goals can teach us valuable lessons about ourselves, as well as keep us on track.
Developing the art of goal setting is a significant life habit. Not only does it help you achieve a sense of organization, it fuels self-esteem. Goals help to give you a sense of purpose, vision, and motivation. Writing down goals allows you to measure your output and aids in the planning of future projects. When done well, goals help simplify life, giving you more time to spend with the Lord, and drawing closer to him. It is no wonder that there is so much chatter about goal setting.
The Art of Goal Setting in the Bible
The art of goal setting is a Biblical concept, and there is no shortage of scripture to support this valuable practice. Luke 14:28 spells it out quite nicely, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (New International Version).
- First, pray about the goal and make sure you are on the same page as God. Ask yourself if this goal is solely for your own benefit, or is it ultimately to glorify God and further His kingdom? For example you could ask, “am I wanting to lose ten pounds so I will look better in my jeans, or do I want to be healthy so I can work for the Lord with the advantage of feeling my best for Him”? You may need to take time for some deep soul searching and think about David as he implored the Lord to “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23).
- Then ask Him for guidance, and wisdom, and remember what James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
- Now that you have an idea of your goal, think through Psalm 127:1. It describes the need for the Lord to go before our own plans. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain”.
Once we have prayed about the goal, and asked the Lord to lay down the path for us, we must commit it to Him. Proverbs 16:3 commands us to “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans”.
Now that we have done the preliminary steps, and know that our goal is a good one, let’s talk about how to go about making it become a reality. Once you know the goal, there are more questions that you must ask yourself before you begin.
- Be specific when trying to determine what the desired end result should be. For example, let us say you want your children to learn life skills. Narrow it down to one skill, “I want my child to be responsible for doing their own laundry by age 12.”
- What small steps need to be taken to achieve that final goal?
- What tools need to be in place so there can be success?
- Is this goal attainable, or are my expectations too high?
- Am I willing to be flexible and adjust the goal along the way?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you are ready to dedicate this goal to the Lord and begin.
Mastering the Art of Goal Setting: Getting Specific
Writing the goal down is a positive motivator. It helps to cement the concept and aids in commitment. Actively writing them down helps you to be more specific and less vague. Be sure that you use language that will allow you to measure your progress. For example, “weed the flowerbed” is vague, while “I will pull all the weeds in the front flowerbed before my mother comes to visit in May” is more specific. Even more measurable is, “I will spend 30 minutes every Wednesday pulling weeds.” While you are at it, write down the benefits of the goal. “I feel better when my garden has no weeds.” This helps to encourage you to stay the course.
Sometimes you may need to acquire information in order to achieve your goal. If you wanted to plant a vegetable garden, you may need to do some research to determine what vegetables grow best in your climate, or which plants are more compatible and will grow best together, or how to keep predators off of your tomatoes. If you need to enlist help, do so. Perhaps your spouse or friend can prepare the soil for your garden, or prime the walls for a fresh coat of paint. Once you have prepared for the goal, be sure the tools and resources you need are available. Nothing extinguishes motivation like frustration, and having everything you need available to you can make all the difference.
Homeschooling and the Art of Goal Setting
As a home educator, setting and achieving goals are one of the best strategies a mother can have. With goals in place, it will be easy to recognize a distraction from a goal, which can help to simplify your day. Sticking to goals relieves the stress of worrying about unexpected activities or events crowding out your day. If during your school hours at home a friend invites you to lunch, you can ask yourself if this event will detract from your goal. If it does, then save it and do it at some other time. You may find that one of your goals might change to, “no more than two, small, spur-of-the-moment activities during school hours per week” to keep your plans on track.
Our children need to see the benefits of goal setting, and what better role model than mom? When students can see the value of goal setting and make it a habit, there is no limit to what they can achieve. Isn’t that why we home educate our children? Don’t we want them to be the best ambassador for Christ that they can be? If you don’t already practice goal setting, give it a whirl and see how it goes, and when you are ready to throw in the towel, remember how the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (4:13).