New Year’s Day is full of hope. It’s a fresh start. A new year. In this case, a new decade. We haven’t made any resolutions yet, so we haven’t broken them either.
The temptation is to make a long list of everything you want to change about yourself. All of those things you’ve wanted to do better as a Bible teacher to children or teens, but haven’t had the time. So you begin by listing things you want to add to your schedule, like spending more time in Bible study and lesson planning.
Then you add other things to your list of your personal ministry goals. Perhaps you want to behave differently towards your students or work on being a better example. Then you remember, you need to spend more time with your students mentoring them.
Your list is now becoming quite long. Many of your goals are actually rather difficult and time consuming to achieve. No wonder most of us give up on our new goals within a week or two.
There are some things you can do this year to change the normal pattern. Doing these things could help you follow through and actually accomplish your goals.
- Make your normal list of goals. Make it as long as you would like. Put everything you would want to accomplish this year as if it is going to be a perfect year.
- Whenever possible, make your goals specific and measurable. “Study more for my Bible lessons” won’t work as well as “Spend ten minutes each day working on the next Bible class I will teach.” If you make the goal even more specific, it will be even easier to know when you have actually accomplished the goal.
- Prioritize your goals. If you could only accomplish one thing on the list this year, what is the most important goal? Continue deciding which goal is the next most important until you have them all ranked.
- Write you the goal that is your top priority on a different sheet of paper. Save the list of your other goals, because you will need to refer to it later.
- Break down the goal with a task analysis. What are the steps you will have to accomplish to successfully complete the goal? For example, if I want to wake up a few minutes earlier every day to spend time reading my Bible and praying, I would include steps like “set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier before going to bed”.
- Instead of the entire goal, you may need to focus on only one step at a time. I am naturally a morning person. Getting up early might not be a challenge for me. Perhaps I get stuck because I can’t decide what to read in my Bible. My husband would struggle with getting up earlier than usual. He may need to spend a couple of weeks just learning how to wake up earlier. I may need to spend a couple of days finding a Bible reading plan that is realistic and helpful to me. Trying to accomplish every step of a goal can seem overwhelming if each of those steps is normally difficult for you. Focusing on one step at a time allows you to slowly build on your success.
- Continue adding or completing tasks until you have accomplished the goal. This may take a day, a week or the entire year. That largely depends upon how complex or difficult the original goal was. As long as you are making forward progress towards your goal, you are succeeding.
- Give yourself time to adapt. Estimates vary, but I have found it can take up to a month or more to be consistent in a new habit. It may take longer if the habit is something with which you struggle. Don’t move on to the next task or step until you are confident the one on which you are currently working has become more natural to you.
- Give yourself grace. I am firmly convinced Satan knows when we are trying to become more godly and throws distractions in our path. We have all fallen into that trap. If it happens and you fall back into old habits for a day or even a week or a month, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t quit trying. As soon as you realize you have stopped working on your goal, start back where you left off or start from the beginning again if that is necessary.
- Don’t try too many new things at once. It’s too much to remember and honestly, a lot of stress. Focus on achieving that first goal well. When you believe you are accomplishing it or have completed the goal, then you can return to your original list of goals. Choose the next one on your list of prioritized goals. Repeat the process you just used to accomplish that first goal. Continue adding one new goal as soon as you are consistently accomplishing or have completed the previous one. Over the course of a year, you can often accomplish more by focusing on one goal at a time, than by trying to accomplish ten new things at the same time.
- Don’t be afraid to dream godly dreams when creating your goals. God can help you accomplish many things for His Kingdom using your gifts and talents…if you are open to where He sends you. Don’t be afraid to write down those goals on your heart that seem too farfetched. You won’t know if the Holy Spirit put them on your heart or they were your own wild idea until you start moving towards that goal.
- Don’t forget to tap into God’s wisdom, power and strength as you work towards your goals. God wants to help you be more godly and the best Christian parent you can be. We just forget sometimes that we need to ask for His help. Prayer, Bible study and other spiritual disciplines can keep us in touch with God and give us the strength and wisdom we need to accomplish our goals.
This method of accomplishing goals is a little more difficult than that most people use for New Year’s resolutions. Taking the time to do the extra steps though, can make achieving your goals more realistic. It really is worth your time and effort.