Set Long-Term Goals
Goal setting has been a favorite teaching topic of mine since I first began to counsel believers in the early 1970s on their financial choices. Over time, I’ve distilled some points that I believe will provide a very important framework for you.
There are four key reasons to set goals. First of all, they provide direction and purpose. Secondly, goals help us to crystallize our thinking. Thirdly, goals provide personal motivation. (The example I often use for this point is that when I went to college in 1960, my goal was to have a good time. I succeeded in spades, and my grades suffered the consequences. After I met my future wife, my goal became building for a career. Following the change in goals, my grades dramatically shifted, and I became an honors student. The point? We are all motivated, but it’s important to motivate in a healthy direction!) Finally, goals are a statement of God’s will for me. As a believer, setting a goal implies that I believe that God is willing me to achieve something in the future. Otherwise, my goal is just a presumption.
The second list I often share is my list of four barriers to goal setting. A main reason people don’t set goals is out of a fear of failure. A second barrier is that people falsely assume that goal setting takes too much time. A third barrier is that we often don’t know what goals to set. This is especially true in the financial area, as we can feel that we receive confusing advice from the talking heads out there. Finally, we fail to set goals because we don’t know how—we don’t have a process for setting our goals.
So, that all being said, what are the dos and don’ts of goal setting?
When we set goals, we need to avoid a few things. First of all, we shouldn’t focus on the past. By focusing there, we can become limited in our thinking and mired in our emotions regarding our past. Isaiah 43:18 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” A second thing to avoid is focusing on our present resources (see the story of Zechariah in Luke 1). By focusing on present resources, we are limiting God to what we can see. Scripture says that He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20). Finally, we need to avoid setting goals without the counsel and agreement of our spouse, if we are married. We can certainly set individual goals, but our individual goals need to edify our spouse and promote harmony in our marriage relationship.
Finally, how do we set faith goals? I define a faith goal as “an objective toward which I believe God wants me to move.” It’s asking, “God, what are your plans? I am available to be used by you.” The first step in setting a faith goal is to spend time with the Lord. If we are not setting our goals out of our time with the Lord, our goal is merely striving after our own imagination and dreams. The second step is to record the impressions you get of what God seems to be saying to you. As you do this, assurance and conviction will result. Then, make your goal measurable. For example, “to be a better father” is an intention, not a goal. However, “to spend fifteen minutes a day with each child” is a goal, because it is measurable. After you have set your goals, you must act on them. Faith is an action word—it is acting on what you believe God would have you to do.
My prayer for you is that this will be a year that is richly blessed by God’s input into your life through your time with Him, and that, out of that input, you are able to pursue His goals for your life and your finances.
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