“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller
At the start of every calendar year – Gregorian or Hebraic/biblical – comes a desire for many of us to change or improve not only ourselves, but our circumstances as well. As a result, we put down a long list of desired goals to complete in the coming year… ranging from weight loss, to learning an instrument, changing a bad habit to a good one, finding a better job, or even reaching a long desired dream. The list can stretch on and on.
Further, due to a tendency at the end of the year to look back at the past, finding every flaw and negative, the desire to add to our list of goals can now grow- from a small handful to dozens. Yet, unless we are selective, we are more likely setting ourselves up for failure, or becoming so overwhelmed that we perhaps never even start.
However, failure does not have to be the end result of our goals. There are things we can do in both the planning and implementation stages that can help us create a cycle of success, and not failure.
Creating a Plan for Success:
“Don't judge each day by the harvest your reap, but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
It is easy to want to reap the harvest of our goals, yet, if we do not first sow seed…there is nothing to reap. That is why a plan and careful curating for EACH of our goals is essential, and why we need to create goals that give us a good chance of completion to begin with.
NOTE: YOU and GOD know yourself and your schedule best. Therefore, it is up to you to know how many goals and what techniques for planning and completion you should use. The suggestions given here are not “one size fits all,” so judge your circumstances, ask the Lord, and prayerfully consider which ones are best for you.
THINGS WE CAN DO TO PLANT SEEDS OF SUCCESS…
- Create a list of possible goals
When a new year is approaching or has just begun, it is easy to feel as if everything has to happen NOW. Yet, with a firm strategy in hand- even if it delays your start – you are more likely to accomplish more over the course of the year than if you had merely jumped in with both feet.
By creating a list of possible goals, you create a base for your ultimate goals. You can see fully how many things you may WANT to complete within the year and discover which goals may need to be altered or removed from THIS YEAR'S list.
- Choose ATTAINABLE goals
From your list, you will NEED to pick and choose which goals you want to focus on THIS YEAR. Some goals may be too large to complete in a single year, so try to make them into smaller, easily achieved multi-year goals. Other goals may not be as high of a priority, but the main thing to keep in mind is that you NEED to choose those you know will bring a GOOD chance of completion over the year.
Ideally these goals will be measurable, as well as attainable, with perhaps 2 to 3 major goals and a handful of smaller goals.
- LIMIT the number of goals
Too many goals can cause you to become overwhelmed and keep you from placing a high level of effort into each one. Limiting the number of goals will better allow you to give of your all toward the success of each.
Determine the EFFORT the goals will take – individually and collectively
Let's say you have decided that five of your goals are attainable over the course of the year. If ALL five will take a great amount of effort, it could be that your attainable goals are less attainable when done as a group…If this is the case, think about replacing some with smaller goals, or simply omit whatever number is keeping the COLLECTIVE goals from being attainable.
Think about what will bring you the greatest success for the year. For example, if the list has three major effort goals and two minor effort goals that you believe are attainable as a collective, then move on to focus on the next step…
- Create a plan with SMALL steps toward EACH goal
When you look at your goals as giants to conquer, then failure is much more likely – be it failure to complete the goals or failure to even begin them.
To combat this AND give yourself a guide, it is important to dissect and look intently at EACH goal.
Certain goals may benefit from daily sub-goals which could increase over time. For instance, if one of your goals is to drink more water – say, three times more than your current average intake – you could begin by maintaining your current daily intake EACH DAY for one month, then increase the amount you drink daily EACH MONTH until you ultimately reach your goal of 3X more intake.
Other goals may benefit from weekly sub-goals. For instance, if one of your goals is to go to the gym more – and you currently go once a week at most – then, begin by going to the gym once a week, and after a month, aim to go twice a week…until you eventually reach your ultimate goal.
Still, there may be other goals which benefit from a more monthly sub-goal approach – or even a quarterly approach. For instance, if your goal is to have a smaller credit card bill each month, then while actively attempting to decrease your expenditure on a daily basis, examine your finances at the end of each month and create daily or weekly adjustments.
For each goal it is up to you to prayerfully determine if it is something that must have a daily focus – such as increasing water intake – or if it should have a smaller sub-goal monthly or weekly steps. Further, it is best to revisit your step-by-step plans on a regular basis, so you know to make the necessary adjustments while walking out your goals. Actively doing is much better than hypothetical planning.
Additionally, it is important to realize that life happens. Not only may you need to alter your step-by-step plans, but perhaps even your ultimate goals. This should not be an excuse to be overly flexible on your goals simply because it was not as agreeable as imagined, but instead, as a reminder to not berate yourself over things beyond your control.
- Choose a TIME of completion for EACH goal
It is important to create specific goals with times of completion, but it is also important to realize that all goals are NOT created equal. Some goals, such as selling a car, will hopefully not take as long as a goal to learn a new language. So, if you set a three month goal for both, you may indeed sell the car, but chances are – unless languages come naturally to you AND you have a great deal of time – you are setting yourself up to fail at learning the chosen language within that time frame.
When you create separate, desired – and attainable – times of completion for each goal, you are much more likely to succeed… and greater levels of success brings a greater desire to create, and likelihood to complete, new goals in the future.
Further, create desired – and attainable – times of completion for each goal's step-by-step plan. Say – in the case of learning a new language – in three months, plan to be able to recognize and copy all the letters of the alphabet, know certain key phrases, be able to count to ten, know your colors, etc. Then, in six months for that same goal, plan sub-goals of holding simple conversations, have three hundred words memorized, begin to have a better understanding of the languages grammar, syntax, etc. By the end of the year, you reach your ultimate goal of having a working knowledge of the language.*
*This time frame is hypothetical Additionally, everyone learns at a different speed, and what works well for one may not work the same for another. Set your goal to be attainable for you.
- REMEMBER, IT TAKES TIME to create a new habit/pattern
Patience is key. Even when implementing small, frequent goals toward your ultimate goal, it takes time for habits/patterns to become instinctive. On average it takes 2 months or more – 18 to 254 days being the typical range – before habits/patterns are instinctive.* So, if you feel your step-by-step plan is difficult to achieve at first, that is normal. Check your plan, ask the Lord for His wisdom and insight in the discipline of it, then stay with it…the longer you do something, the easier and more automatic it becomes.
*Research conducted by, Phillippa Lally
“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.” – John Wanamaker