This post is by Jen Stanbro.
I’ve always enjoyed goal setting. I think I get a shot of dopamine when I check boxes off the old list. It feels good. But my goals today look pretty different from my goals past.
I used to create destination style goals, like, “by this time, I will have accomplished this thing.” To be honest, I rarely got there. And if I didn’t, then all the work I’d done along the way was worthless because that destination was all that mattered. I believe my biggest problem was that I practically set myself up for failure by neglecting habits as the key factor. I would commit to doing big things, but I never accounted for how to put an end to poor habits and build great ones to get there. I would force it and muscle it with will power for a time, and then tank. I never officially gave up, so over time, I did make small strides forward, but as Robert Irvine would say, I needed to “work smarter, not harder.”
I started availing myself to any and all information I could find on habit change and habit building. My focus began to shift from the destination to the journey and it made all the difference. I think this worked especially well for my ‘all-or-nothing’ personality because my sense of accomplishment was based entirely on my effort, rather than the outcomes. The irony is that more often than not, the outcomes ended up reflecting my heart’s desires.
For example, instead of a goal like, “record five songs by the end of the year,” I might set a goal like, “spend 30 minutes a day working on my songs - prep the kids, lock the door, set the timer, create!”
The habit is the goal.
Deep down, I know that good things will come from accomplishing this goal. It may be five songs, but it could also be ten. It may be only one, or it may be a folder full of ideas to build upon. Whatever comes from that will come, but I won’t be tied to the outcome, I’ll be tied gloriously to the habit.
Instead of a goal of losing twenty pounds, or losing two inches from my waistline, or fitting into some pair of jeans, where my feelings of joy and worth could easily get tangled up in numbers that don’t actually reflect my health, I would set the habitual goal of reducing an unhealthy food or increasing a healthy one, or making small, sustainable changes in my activity level. But I won’t pigeon-hole myself into celebrating ‘if and only if…” There’s plenty to celebrate along the way.
Instead of a goal like reading the entire Bible in a year, my goals center on habits like, “write out one verse of Scripture every day and journal why that Scripture struck me,” or “before I read every day, invite the Holy Spirit to soften my heart and mind so that I can receive what He has for me in His Word.” If I’m accomplishing these, then it doesn’t really matter how long it takes me to read through the entire Bible. I’m developing habits that will maximize the effect the Word has in my life. Instead of just getting through the Bible, my goals allow for the Bible to get through me.
These days, I embrace a sense of accomplishment just for having (mostly) maintained awesome habits. This mentality has trickled into every aspect of my life. My goals are rarely destination style anymore. They're about creating a great journey.
What do your goals look like? Where do you place the most value and how does that play out on your journey toward growth? Invite the Lord to inform your thoughts as you reflect.
Jen Stanbro is the singer/songwriter behind the Hello Mornings podcast theme song, “God Day.” She lives in North Carolina with her husband and crew of cuckoo kids. Her heart aches for the oppressed and marginalized, and she seeks to reignite God’s holy fire in the hearts of His people to love courageously like Jesus.
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