It is that time of year again, the time in which many ambitious people seek to make changes to their lifestyle and habits. Unfortunately, most studies show that over 60% of people abandon their goals by the end of the first month. The numbers bump up to a fatal 80% as early as the second week of February.
I am a goal-oriented individual and I have had both success and failure in setting and reaching goals over my life. I know both the feeling of victory as well as the sting of defeat when it comes to setting and reaching goals. On a positive note, if it weren’t for setting goals in my life, I never would have received a master’s degree or written two books. Goal setting has played an integral part of my life and ministry.
I want to share one simple concept around the area of goal setting that can help you not only stay the course in reaching your goals, but also weed out some of the less important goals you may be setting, or that may be setting you up for failure.
Here’s the simple principle: Know Your Why.
What do I mean by “Know Your Why”? I mean to ask yourself this one gut-level question for every goal you set: Why do I want to accomplish this goal? In other words, identify the deeper purpose or value that is compelling you to make this change in behavior.
So for example, let’s say you set a goal to work out three times a week starting in this New Year and with that goal you hope to lose 10 pounds. If that were your goal, you would do yourself well to stop, pause and reflect upon this goal asking, “Why do I want to do this?” In asking this question, you want to determine the future goal or purpose you have in mind.
For one person who sets this goal, the reason may be that she has had health complications in the past year that were a result of not taking better care of her body. So the motive is to improve health in order to avoid such issues in the future. Yet another person with the same goal may have a different why in mind – like being able to play with his grandchildren without pain. A third person identifies their why is simply to look and feel better.
When it comes to spiritual goals, the same principle holds true. Many people, for example, set the goal of reading the Bible in a year. That’s an admirable goal and one that will be better supported if you identify your “why” up front. Do you want to read the Bible to just say you did it? Do you hope to gain greater knowledge through the process? Or is your “why” the desire to know God more intimately. Again, the same goal can have various “whys” attached to it.
Why the Why?
As always, my life principles and teachings come from the truth of the Bible and most importantly the words of Jesus Christ. Admittedly, the truths I am about to share with you were not necessarily written or spoken by Christ for the purpose of learning how to set and achieve goals. However, I do believe these eternal and holy words of Jesus provide a glimmer of hope and applicable truth for those who are seeking to make changes in this new year of life.
Here are two reasons the why question is so important:
Knowing Your Why Helps Overcome Critics
Anytime you set out to achieve a noble goal in life, you will have people who are not fully supportive of the endeavor. That is not to say they are adamantly against your goal, although some will be, it is to say that not everyone will qualify to be part of your cheering section.
Jesus was no stranger to the discouragement of others when seeking to achieve his ultimate goal of bearing the cross. Read this discourse between Jesus and Peter concerning the cross.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:31-33)
Jesus was clearly communicating with his disciples about his future suffering, agony and death. Peter, one of his closest friends, was not on-board with Jesus’ plan and actually rebuked Him for setting his eyes upon the cross. Yet Jesus, knew his “why” of pleasing the Father was so much greater than trying to please man. Knowing your why will help you overcome the external pressures of even the most well-meaning (or even evil) people in your life.
Any significant goal we set will have a certain amount of pain and suffering that accompanies it. Getting to the gym in the morning requires the pain of responding to the alarm clock when we would prefer to hit the snooze. Saving money requires the “pain” of saying no to our compulsive spending. Not everyone in your life will be thrilled about the idea of you going through the pain and suffering of achieving your goal, especially if your choice in some way impacts them. For this reason, it is vital to identify your “why” as you set your goal. So when someone questions your motives (or even your sanity), you can clearly present your deeper why with conviction and clarity and stay the course on achieving the goal set before you.
Knowing Your Why Helps You Overcome Your Flesh
Even if you gain mastery over the external pressures of people who want you to circumvent your goals, you still have an even greater enemy before you – your own flesh. If the external factors of people and their opinions seem ominous, it is nothing compared to the voice inside our heads that tells us to take a shortcut or completely give up the goal you have set.
Jesus was not immune to this type of internal pressure. His humanity made him just as vulnerable and sensitive to the internal pressures of caving into the pain of this life. As he approached the time of his death, Jesus spoke these words, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (John 12:27, italics added)
As Jesus approached the painful process of bearing the cross, his soul was troubled. The word soul in this passage comes from a Greek word, psuché, that may be defined as “the seat of affections and will.” So when Jesus says, “My soul is troubled”, he is telling us that an internal, emotional battle is taking place in his heart, mind and will. Isn’t it wonderful to know that we have a great high priest who can empathize with our weaknesses?! (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus was tempted to call upon God to ask him to deliver him from bearing the cross. We can just imagine the whispers that were taking place in his head, by Satan for sure, but also his human flesh. “Who do you think you are?” “You don’t deserve this punishment.” “Call it quits, let your Father rescue you now!” How did Jesus overcome this overwhelming, internal battle?
The answer is found in these words, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” Jesus knew that his “why” in life was to bear the cross. It was for this reason that he came to earth, to bear the sins, pain and agony of this world to provide salvation for us all. And knowing his ultimate “why” gave Jesus the ability to endure the painful and excruciating death of the cross on our behalf. Thank you, Jesus, for your enduring, everlasting, undying love!
What’s Your Why?
As you seek to make changes in your life this new year, pause and reflect on the goal before you and ask the simple, yet profound question, “Why do I want to do ___________?” Then, alongside the goal you set, write out your why clearly. “I want to (goal) because _________.” When times of testing come, and they will come, whether they are external or internal, refer back to your why and gain strength from the example of Jesus who, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Happy New Year! Need help in achieving your goals? Learn more about my coaching services.