Leaders Reclaiming Biblical Stewardship

Goal Setting 101

5 Characteristics of a Real Goal

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by Dave Ramsey | Ministry Life | Comments

Today’s kids have it made when it comes to long road trips. They have portable DVD players, phones filled with all kinds of music, and a million other gadgets to pass the time.

That’s not how it worked when I was a kid. My parents decided what we listened to on road trips, and, more often than not, they chose motivational tapes. They were both in sales, so they were plugged in to all the great business speakers of the day. And, since Mom and Dad were plugged in, so were we.

On more than one trip, I got the “opportunity” to listen to Earl Nightingale’s classic audio presentation, The Strangest Secret. The definition he gives of success has stuck with me for most of my life: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”

In other words, your success depends on your ability to set and achieve goals.

That may sound like something a business guy would say, but as a pastor, you need to be setting goals too. As the year begins, you need to be thinking and praying about areas where you’d like to grow as a person, things you’d like to see your staff accomplish, and where you want your congregation to be this time next year.

You need to be dreaming really big. But you can’t stop there. Dreams are great, but dreams that are ready to go to work are called goals. Goals put on their work clothes and start doing the heavy lifting. They convert vision into energy, and they turn dreams into reality.

If you’re new to the whole goal-setting thing, that’s okay. For starters, here are five tips for successful goals:

1. Be Specific

Vague goals aren’t goals. They’re just wishes—and they accomplish nothing. For example, don’t say, “I want to spend more time with my family this year.” That’s too vague. Instead, you might say, “I’m going to be home by 5 p.m. at least five nights a week this year” or “I’m going to take my wife on a date night at least once a month this year.” Those are specific, and being specific adds a laser focus to your plan.

2. Make Them Measurable

This really goes hand-in-hand with being specific because it defines exactly how you can judge your success when all is said and done. You’ve made being home by 5 p.m. or the monthly date nights your final target. If you accomplish those, you will have met your goal. More importantly, making steady progress toward those goals will pump you up and motivate you to keep moving!

3. Set a Time Limit

In addition to saying what you want to do, set a deadline for when you’ll be done. In the examples above, the ultimate deadline is the end of the year, but you’ve actually given yourself some short-range limits that will help define success. Each week you have to make a fresh commitment to be home by 5 p.m.—even if that means skipping some meetings or delegating some responsibilities. Each month, you have to set aside intentional time to take your wife on a date—even when things get hectic.

You have some freedom to decide what days to be home or which evening will be date night, but the time limits let you divide your goals into bite-sized micro goals. Meet the small goals, and you’ll meet the bigger goals.

4. Make Them Your Own

Goals are driven by passion, so they must belong to you. If someone else is pushing you to be home or to take your wife out, you won’t be nearly as excited about those goals than if you were doing it on your own. You simply won’t have the motivation required to carve time out of your busy ministry to make them happen. But when you care deeply about the goal, you’ll own it—and you’ll do whatever it takes to reach the finish line.

5. Put Them in Writing

This might seem like overkill, but this is the place where so many people drop the ball. The bottom line is that people who don’t write their goals down almost never reach them. That’s because writing your goals down makes them more real and adds accountability. Verbal goals evaporate too easily; written goals posted on your fridge or office wall are hard to ignore.

Here’s a couple of other things to consider as you move forward. Some of your goals for this year should be personal—like working out more and eating less. Others need to be professional—like taking more time for prayer or finding new leaders to mentor. I encourage you to set both kinds of goals because you need to grow in every area of your life. 

You also need to remember that goals don’t magically happen. They take hard work and commitment. Most gyms are full in January and empty by Valentine’s Day. That’s because a lot of goals were set early on, but the commitment to seeing them through to the end fizzled fast.

The goals you set are up to you. The important thing is that you think and pray about what you need to accomplish this year—then hang in there and make them happen.

Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. More than 4.5 million people have attended Financial Peace University in more than 40,000 churches nationwide. His nationally syndicated radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show, is heard by more than 12 million listeners each week on more than 575 radio stations and a variety of digital outlets throughout the United States. He has authored seven National Best Sellers and three #1 National Best Sellers.

By age 26, Dave had established a $4 million real estate portfolio, only to lose it all by age 30. Following his bankruptcy, Dave set out to learn God’s ways of handling money. Using the wisdom he gained, he rebuilt his financial life. Dave now devotes himself to teaching others how to be responsible with their money so they can retire with dignity and give generously to others.

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