So we’ve been talking about New Year’s Resolutions – and goals – that really work. In my first post, we talked about believing God can help you change and confessing our failures. Then, we covered the process of goal-setting itself. Today, I’m going to share about the critical importance of identifying – and remembering – your ‘why’ when you’d rather give up.
Three or four years ago, I was out of shape. I wasn’t overweight, I just wasn’t doing much to stay healthy. Other than some occasional push-ups and avoiding Big Mac multi-packs, I was taking my health for granted.
Since that time, I’ve been able to run 2-3 times per week, do some (very) modest strength training, and make better overall dietary choices. I haven’t been entirely consistent or easy, and, there’s still a ton of room for improvement.
The key has been tapping into my motivation, my ‘why’. At some point in my late thirties, it dawned on me that life isn’t going to last forever. And, that the quality of what we have left will be greatly influenced by our health. I didn’t want to be limited in what I could do for God and others, and, I didn’t want to burden my wife in our later years. (OK, there might have been some vanity in there, too).
Let’s talk about you and your goals. (Don’t worry if you haven’t started!) What’s one goal you’re hoping to accomplish in the coming year? Keep this in mind for later.
When things get tough, remembering your why is critical to staying the course. I like to think about what’s at stake on three levels. The key is getting as specific as you can on all of them.
The Big Two: Love God, Love Others
The good news is that, as Christians, our highest motivations – our deepest ‘whys’ – have already been defined for us. By Jesus: love God with all of who we are, and, love the people around us as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
When we think about why our goals or resolutions matter, these two reasons have to be at the core. This is one place where I find others’ suggestions for goal-setting often come up short. If we fail to put loving God and others as our highest calling, we remain at the center of our universe and, frankly, pretty selfish and unhappy.
But simply saying our highest motivations for a given goal are ‘love God and love others’ won’t be very motivating. Or helpful. It will just be the right answer, the Sunday school one. We have to think specifically about what’s at stake if we do/don’t love God and others through our goals.
Let’s say you want to ‘spend 15 minutes in prayer each day’. If you take the time to talk to God for 15 minutes each day, he’ll be honored. And delighted that you want to connect with him. Others will be blessed by your prayers for them as God listens and acts on your requests. If you don’t pray – or don’t pray much – you’ll be acting as if God is an afterthought. He’ll be sad that you don’t value the relationship enough to make the time for him. And although God doesn’t need our prayers, others may miss out on help and blessing if we fail to pray for them.
In addition to love for God and others, there’s a third one: love for ourselves.
Does this surprise you? Feel selfish or wrong?
It shouldn’t. When Jesus tells us to ‘love others as we love ourselves’, he’s assuming that we do love ourselves. And that it isn’t wrong. The key is the order of our loves. When we give God first priority and others second, we can safely care about our own needs and desires.
To return to our example of prayer, what’s at stake for us personally if we do? A lot, actually. If we do pray each day, we’ll become closer to God. We’ll be more content. We’ll see important things – things we’re longing for – happen in our lives, and, in the lives of people we care about. As we confess our sins, we’ll be relieved from the weight of unresolved guilt and shame. To name just a few. If we don’t pray, it’s not hard to imagine the results.
Your Turn: A Simple Exercise
Do you remember that one goal you identified earlier? If you can identify what’s at stake for God, others and yourself, you’re much likelier to accomplish your goal, especially when the sledding gets tough.
So here’s a simple exercise that will help you figure out your ‘why’:
My goal is… (fill in here):
What’s at stake if I do accomplish my goal? If I don’t?
- For God – this can include not only how he’ll feel about it, but also how our choices will make him seem to others.
- For others – who will be affected by my choices and how.
- For me – the affect my choices will have on me, including my relationship with God and others.
I suggest writing your goal(s) down and listing your ‘whys’ below each so that they’re easy to remember.
How would your ‘why’ help you stay faithful to your goal? As always, I’d love to hear from you personally in the comments section.