Do you have a hard time mustering up motivation for another year of goals that may or may not get accomplished?
You may be wary because you wonder how to set goals that are really in tune with God’s will for you.
Or you may feel a tinge of failure over the growing list of unmet goals.
The goal-setting dilemma is that everyone tells us to write goals, but we’re left hanging when it comes to figuring out how to actually get them done.
How could there be so much talk about having goals, and so little attention on the skills you need to accomplish them?
The truth is that your goal crushing success is less about making a list of smart goals than it is about knowing how to achieve them. To succeed with your goals, you need goal skills. Including the right goals mindset.
I recommend Heidi Grant Halvorson’s excellent book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. It’s backed by research. It’s practical. I want to tell you about it, because frankly, it blew my mind.
How to Accomplish Your Goals
Here are six skills for church leaders who go beyond writing their goals to actually accomplishing them. Read the explanation, think about the questions and pick up the free download at the end so you can keep the list of skills nearby to remind you to practice them.
1. Choose Your Goal Setting Mindset: Why or What Goals
Have you ever considered being intentional about how you think about your goals?
The first goal skill is to switch up how you think about the goal depending on why you’re not making progress on it.
When you’re stymied because you lack motivation to pursue your goal, think about why you have that goal. Thinking about the why is good for long-term, abstract goals. To clarify your motivation, ask yourself questions like:
- What are the reasons I chose this goal?
- How will I benefit?
- What is the purpose of this goal?
On the other side, thinking about the what is good for complicated goals. When the goal looms and you don’t know how to move forward, think about the specific actions to take. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
Try It: What or Why
Take a minute to think about a goal that you aren’t motivated to pursue.
Ask yourself why you want to reach that goal. If you want to get to the gym four times a week, write down the benefits and the purpose. The next time you’re tempted to stay on the couch, remind yourself why you want to work out. The more you rehearse the whys behind your goal, the more motivated you will be to work on it, and the more it will become a habit.
Now think about a goal that you haven’t accomplished because it feels overwhelming.
You don’t know exactly where to start or you privately wonder if you can achieve it. Perhaps you want to launch a new ministry in your church in the coming year. You can remind yourself why you want that goal, but that may not be enough inspiration to get going. It’s time to pull out the what perspective.
Ask yourself what needs to happen to launch a new ministry. Write down the first thing that you see needs to be done. Put it on your action list and do it. Now what’s the next thing? Do that.
If you are stuck on a complicated, difficult goal, just do the next thing.
When you are able to switch between thinking about the why or the what behind your goal, you can jump-start your motivation by reminding yourself the reason behind your goal, or by clarifying what your next step should be.
2. Choose Your Focus: Being Good or Getting Better
Being Good is about self-validation—about proving yourself. It’s about an excellent performance. It’s doing your best when you stand up to teach. You want to bring all your ability and godly confidence to the pulpit.
Getting Better is a self-growth mindset—it’s about improving yourself. Getting better takes difficulty in stride because it’s all part of the learning process.
Being good may cause you give up more quickly if it’s not easy to succeed, while a getting better mindset helps you keep trying, enjoying the journey and overcoming any failure-related discouragement. For the person with the getting better mindset, you haven’t failed; you just haven’t succeeded yet.
Try It: Getting Better
- Do you tend to approach life with a being good or a getting better mindset?
- How about specific goals? Think through your goals looking for being good mindsets that should be getting better mindsets.
- How will adopting a getting better mindset help you?
“Effort, planning, persistence and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed.” —Heidi Grant Halvorson
3. If Your Motivation Wanes, Blame Your Effort, Not Your Ability
Carol Dweck of Stanford University adds another facet to this conversation. She tells us that people with a fixed mindset don’t believe they can grow or improve. So they don’t try.
People with a growth mindset do believe they can learn and grow, and so they often persist and go further in achieving their goals.
If you blame your effort, not your ability, then you can keep going when you face a setback or failure. You are able. You just need to keep trying.
Try It: Growth Mindset
Ask yourself this question: Do you believe you can grow and improve in the goal you are trying to accomplish?
If yes, then good! Figure out your next step to get better. If no, you have two choices: get rid of the goal, or decide that you can grow. Hint: Thinking that you can’t grow is the wrong answer.
4. Optimist or Pessimist? Be an Optimistic Realist
It’s not news that our goals should be specific, but here’s a thought: Goals should be difficult.
Not so difficult that you fail or quit, but difficult enough to be challenging. Set a goal that you believe you can achieve, but don’t make it easy, because where’s the joy in that? Your goal should be realistically difficult.
And you should be realistically optimistic about it. Optimism helps you stay motivated. Realism helps you anticipate and overcome the challenges.
Try It: Mental Contrasting
Pick a goal like losing 10 pounds or taking a tour to the Holy Lands. Write down one aspect of what it will look like to achieve that goal. Like having more energy or learning more about Jesus.
Now write down one obstacle that is in the way of reaching your goal. Like money to travel or time to exercise.
Now write another positive aspect. Then another obstacle. Then another positive aspect. Another obstacle.
By comparing the benefits and the difficulties, you will be able to evaluate your chances of success. You will be developing the skills of an optimistic realist. Rewrite or abandon goals that you can’t achieve.
5. Build Your Self-Control Muscle
Galatians 5:22 tells us that self-control is a fruit of the spirit. It’s part of the work of sanctification that the Holy Spirit is doing in us. Like every area of sanctification, we can cooperate or hinder.
Think about self-control like your willpower muscle. You have a limited amount of self-control, but you can get more. The more you practice self-control, the better you get at it. If you don’t practice self-control, you’ll get worse at it, just like your muscles get weaker when you don’t exercise.
Try It: Willpower Workout
Develop your willpower muscle by practicing something that you would rather not do. Like getting out of your warm bed on cold, dark mornings for time alone with God, or saying no to that plate of Christmas cookies.
When you want to slack off, don’t. It’s not just about the progress you’re making in that area of your life. On a deeper level, it’s about how you are developing your self-control muscle. The more you practice self-control, the easier it is to practice it in every area of your life.
One note: After you practice self-control, your willpower muscle is weaker, just like after you exercise, so protect yourself from having to exercise too much self-control in a short period of time. Let your willpower rest and rebuild before you expect yourself to be strong again.
6. Seize the Moments
Be ready to take advantage of the gaps in your day to accomplish your goals. If you have a reading goal or a scripture memory goal, have the book you’re reading on your phone or in your car. Use a scripture memory app so you can review your verses while you’re standing in line.
If you know what your habit goal is, or the next step in your big goal, you’ll be ready to take advantage of moments that would otherwise slip away.
Missing these opportunities to take action is a huge reason why we don’t accomplish our goals. Having a plan more than doubles our chance of success. Numerous research projects prove that when people make a concrete plan, they are more than twice as likely to reach their goals.
Seizing the moments is such a simple key to reaching your goals.
Try It: If-Then Planning
Prepare yourself to take advantage of those moments by doing a little if-then planning.
Plan what you will do if you are in the situation: if (cue the situation), then (do this action).
The social science miracle is that your brain owns the cue. When you’re standing in line at a store, your brain will remind you to pull out your phone to review your memory verses. If-then plans work to create instant habits.
You have if-then habits in your life already, but they may not be geared toward reaching your goals. “If I sit on the couch watching a movie, then I will eat popcorn.” And they also work for suppressing unwanted behavior. “If someone brings a treat to the staff meeting, then I will pass it to the next person without taking any.”
If-then plans don’t use up your self-control muscle because they tend to happen unconsciously and automatically.
How to set up your if-then plans:
- Choose the goal.
- Decide what you will do. Be precise.
- Decide when and where you will do it.
- Write it as an if-then statement.
- List obstacles. Write an if-then statement for each.
You can change how you feel about setting goals by using these six skills to get better at reaching your goals.
Get the free download and use the worksheet to learn and practice these six goal-accomplishing skills.