How to find make and achieve goals in life, from Karol Ladd the bestselling author of The Power of a Positive Woman
Most likely you’ve been there: sitting in the passenger seat of the car while the driver, a male, searches for your destination for what seems like hours. Whether the guy at the wheel is your dad, your brother, your boyfriend, or your husband, the scenario is still the same. He will never admit that he is lost. Pulling over for directions is totally out of the question, and don’t even try to suggest a map! “I know it’s around here somewhere. I’m sure we’re going in the right direction,” he says. I guess it’s a male ego thing, but what is so difficult about asking for help after you have been driving aimlessly for forty minutes? Let’s face it, we all could use a little help with direction sometimes!
As positive women we want to be purposeful about the direction we are going and the means we use to get there. Aimlessly wandering through life will get us nowhere quickly. But how do we find our direction, our purpose, and our goals in life?
A story is told of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who, while traveling on a train, misplaced his ticket. Seeing that Holmes was fumbling through his pockets and belongings with mounting frustration, the conductor tried to put his mind at ease.
“Don’t worry about it, Mr. Holmes,” he said. “I’m sure you have your ticket somewhere. If you don’t find it during the trip, just mail it in to the railroad when you reach your destination.”
Holmes appreciated the kind words but was still dismayed about his predicament. He looked the conductor in the eyes and said, “Young man, my problem is not finding my ticket. It’s to find out where in the world I’m going.”
Certainly we, too, need to have an idea of where we are going in life. Let’s consider how we can find direction as we journey down life’s pathways.
The Power of a Strategic Plan
Setting goals was part of my life growing up. Every New Year’s Day, my dad would encourage my sister and me to take time to consider and prepare a list of our annual goals. Yearly planning was a healthy exercise for me, especially in my high school and college years. I set goals in every area of my life, from grades to body weight to spiritual growth.
My Sunday school teacher Jim Kennedy used to say, “If your target is nothing, you’ll end up hitting it every time.” The truth is, we need goals — and a plan of action for reaching them. They give us a vision for moving forward in our lives. Paul had this type of focus, as evidenced by what he wrote to the Philippians: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Ultimately our goal, like Paul’s, is to fulfill God’s calling in our lives. As you press toward that goal, consider taking time every January 1 to write out a personal strategic plan for the next year. Your plan should be balanced in four areas: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. Be prayerful as you prepare your plan and listen for God’s leading. In each area, set a specific and realistic goal that will move you toward your ultimate goal. Make each goal believable and achievable so you can really commit to it. Make it measurable, too, so you can be sure you’re staying on target. Along with each goal, write specific resolutions or steps you will take to meet it.
Let’s take a brief look at these four strategic areas.
Mental. Mental goals involve ways to stimulate your brain and stretch your thinking — for example, reading more books or learning a new language or working toward a degree. Whatever goal you choose, it should be measurable. If you decide to read more books, determine how many. Will you commit to reading three books a year, one book a month, a book every two weeks? Write down what is feasible for you and your current lifestyle. Push yourself, but don’t discourage yourself by setting an impossible goal.
Physical. In the physical arena, you may want to consider reaching a particular weight range or dress size or cholesterol level. Write down the strategy you intend to use to achieve that goal — say, working out every other day or walking six miles per week. Other physical goals might address sleeping or eating habits. This is a good time to decide when you will make your annual doctor and dentist visits.
Spiritual. When you decide on spiritual goals, you may want to start off broad, then write down specific strategies. Let’s say you want to draw closer to God and deepen your prayer life. Your strategy may be to decide on a time you will set aside to pray and meditate on God’s Word each day. You may want to add other details, like where you will do this and how long each session will be. How much Scripture will you read each day? Other spiritual strategies could include joining a Bible study, volunteering at church, or meeting with a friend so you can pray together.
Social. In our fast-paced world, if we are not deliberate about getting together with friends, it may never happen. Social goals give us a plan for building relationships. Your goal may be something like “to deepen relationships with the people in my life” or “to develop more good friendships from the acquaintances I know.” A specific strategy may be to invite another couple over for dinner or dessert once a month. It may be to meet a friend once a week or go away on a girls’ weekend once a year. Other strategies may include hosting two parties a year or writing one note a week to a friend. Personally, I like to identify the relationships that are important to me and set a goal of seeing that person at least once a month for lunch.
Career. If you work outside the home, this additional area is for you. Perhaps you already set annual career goals at work with your staff or management; if not, spend some time praying and thinking through what you want to accomplish in the coming year. It’s important that you make the goals dependent on you and not on other people. For instance, you don’t want your goal to be “to get a promotion” if that’s another person’s decision to make. However, you can make it your goal to do everything your job requires plus more in order to put yourself in line for a promotion. Set measurable, short-term goals that will stretch you and encourage you to meet your long-term goals. Beside each goal write down three or four specific strategies you will use to help you obtain it.
As you set goals in these four or five areas, keep in mind that you can’t predict the future. Some elements of the coming year are out of your immediate control. Many times, because of people or circumstances, goals have to be rearranged. Stay flexible! I think of a woman I know who had her life in order and her goals set. With both kids in school, she was ready to finish her college degree and begin a career in teaching. Until…unexpected baby number three came along and postponed her perfect plan. Of course, she was thrilled and thankful for her precious little girl! Her story reminds us that we can go ahead and make our plans; but if God has other plans, we must be flexible enough to joyfully go with God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karol Ladd, the bestselling author of The Power of a Positive Woman (The Power of a Positive Woman © 2002 by Karol, Grace, and Joy Ladd), offers lasting hope and biblical truth to women around the world through her positive book series. A gifted communicator and dynamic leader, Karol is founder and president of Positive Life Principles, Inc, a resource company offering strategies for success in both home and work. Her vivacious personality makes her a popular speaker to women’s organizations, church groups, and corporate events. She is co-founder of a character-building club for young girls called USA Sonshine Girls and serves on several educational boards. Karol is a frequent guest on radio and television programs. Her most valued role is that of wife to Curt and mother to daughters Grace and Joy.
MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
- 7 Qualities of a Good Friend
- Dealing With Difficult People
- How to Keep the Spark in Your Marriage
- Life as a Three-Ring Circus: Learning How to Achieve Balance
- The Secret of Spiritual Contentment