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Guest: Jo Berry

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March 04, 2024

7 Great Ways to Set Goals and Stick to Them

Setting and achieving goals isn't easy. Most often, at the start of a new year, we think about losing weight, getting out of debt, growing closer to God, cultivating a new relationship, or something else.

Our intentions are good. We really want to change. But then January slides by, and soon February is over, too. And we still haven't budged on heading to the gym or opening the Bible more often.

I have a different idea.

What if we found better ways to set and achieve goals—and started in March?

March 4th, in fact.

We can choose to "march forth" on March 4th by taking a bold step toward living our true purposes and following our God-given dreams. (And if you're reading this any other day of the year, you can start today.)

Why set goals?

It's been said, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up someplace else." So goals give us a destination. Where are you headed? How will you get there?

Setting goals helps us to live out God's good purposes in our lives. They give us something to aspire to, and provide a roadmap to our destination. Plus, when we take a step toward achieving a goal, it gives us satisfaction and builds momentum. And soon, we're actually doing it.

We all have the same amount of time in a day: 24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. How will we redeem the time and use it wisely? With God's help and power at work in us, we can. Proverbs 16:3 is a good place to start. "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans."

Here are seven solid steps to help you set goals and stick to them:

1. Pray and plan
Before you set your goals, you first need to pray and plan. Take a few hours, maybe on a Saturday, to spend some time alone. Get your device and/or paper and pen. And, put on some music if that helps you to think.

Here are a few key questions to help you get started.

Look back. Reflect on the past year of your life. What's working? What's not working? Are you content with the way things are in different areas of your life?

Look ahead. Take time to imagine your future. What do you really want? What have you dreamed about doing or becoming? What does God want for you?

Pray. Go to God in prayer. Tell Him your heart's desires. And just sit in the silence. Sometimes God will prompt your heart with specifics and sometimes answers will come in time. Trust that God loves you, and He is working even now to help you get on track.

Here are some good Bible verses to consider as you pray and plan:

"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)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." (Psalm 32:8)

2. Write it down
Now that you've had a chance to ponder and pray, write down your goals. When you write them down—whether on a device or on paper—you're more apt to achieve your dreams and desires. There's something powerful about writing things down; they tend to get done.

3. Set goals
Here is a list of some key areas of life to set goals. You may have additional categories, but this is a good place to start:

Spiritual goals (e.g., attend church regularly, prayer, Bible reading, grow in your relationship with God, serve others, etc.)

Physical/health and wellness goals (e.g., lose weight, drink more water, make the doctor appointments you've been avoiding, get more rest, etc.)

Career/work/education goals (e.g., learn new skills, seek out a promotion, etc.)

Finances (e.g., pay down debt, save more, learn about investing, etc.)

Personal development goals (e.g., forgive someone who's hurt you, learn to deal with stress, take a cooking class, etc.)

Relationship goals (e.g., cultivate deeper friendships, break up with your boyfriend who's treating you poorly, call your parents more often, etc.)

Other goals.

4. Prioritize goals
A goal is a dream with a deadline. So be sure your goals are specific, not vague. And have a deadline—real or imposed—to get you motivated and moving.

For instance, instead of saying, "I want to lose weight this year," say, "I want to lose 30 pounds by December 31," which is time-oriented and specific.

You may need to assign a priority or rank to items on your list based on urgency or importance. A goal may be date-driven, such as getting your taxes done by April 15.

Ask God to give you wisdom as to which goals to work on now, in this season. Just as we have seasons in nature—spring, summer, autumn, and winter—we have seasons in our lives. It could be a time to launch a new project, or a time to wait. Ask God to guide you as to what He has for you at this time.

As far as priorities, Matthew 6:33 reminds us of the importance of putting God first: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

5. Create new habits
One of the main keys in the journey from setting a goal to achieving a goal is breaking down your desire into habits. Habits are routines, small action steps we take to get to the larger goal.

Using the example of wanting to shed 30 pounds by December 31, aim to set up good habits (e.g., I will go to the gym after work three days a week) and get rid of bad habits (e.g., I will stop eating doughnuts every day, and bring healthy snacks to work).

Ask yourself: What do I need to stop doing? What do I need to start doing? And form new habits to get you closer to your goals.

6. Overcome obstacles
In the process of achieving goals there will be obstacles. We procrastinate. We get tired. We give up too easily.

We need strength from the Lord to do what we can't accomplish on our own.

Ask God to give you the focus and fortitude you need. As you build momentum, ask God to help you persevere and have the time, energy, and resources to help you reach your goals.

Ask God for motivation and self-discipline—or whatever it is you need to stay on the path.

7. Other helpful ideas
Avoid negative self-talk. We are often our own worst critics. Start your day with the positive truths found in the Word of God. Set your mind on what God can do, not what you cannot.

Get support. Tell a close friend about one of your goals and ask him or her to pray for you in that area.

Know your "why." When you need motivation to press on toward your goal, remind yourself why you want this. Staying connected to your reason gives you strength to make better choices.

Connect with your goals. Post a short list of your goals where you can see them often—such as on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator door. Review them as you plan each week so habits get on the calendar—and get done.

Don't forget to celebrate your successes along the way—even your small victories. When you reward yourself, it gives you motivation to keep going.

Setting and achieving goals happen as you make a plan and trust God. As you take action, allow the Lord to lead you into His best for His good purposes.


"Many are the plans in a person's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
(Proverbs 19:21)