Setting & Achieving Goals
By Eric S. Love
How do we accomplish complex, improbable, virtually impossible goals – things we set in our lives because we believe it is important for us to grow, live up to our calling, walk in freedom?
By deliberately working to fulfill them, one step at a time.
The first step is always to act. To move. If you don’t start, you will never get there. A lot of this is dependant upon our perspective (and we’ll get to that – for example looking at the whole picture is overwhelming, whereas looking at the first step can be doable if not exciting).
So first things first: move. Step. Act. Do something.
Beyond that: here is a list of things I have learned are critical in achieving goals.
I. Meaningful Relationships
Relationships are the foundation of everything “GOD.” I harp on this everywhere I go; that’s because relationships have saved my life – and my sanity – and allowed me to become a man I always KNEW it was impossible for me to be. I cannot overestimate the importance of good relationships.
Again, I CANNOT overstate the importance of good relationships. They mean either LIFE or DEATH.
A. Open Communication
Communication within relationships has to be natural. And if it’s not natural, you have to work on making it natural (it will come with time). But it is important to remember that you can’t achieve anything by yourself. Your success is dependant upon the right kinds of relationships (just like the wrong kind will almost certainly mean your failure). And good relationships are made up of good, open communication.
Secrets within relationships are gaps in the wall of defense. They are weaknesses waiting to be exploited. You don’t communicate everything to everyone you are in relationship with. Some things you unload only on the closest of friends. Other things may need to be “brushed off” and not focused on. But if ever in doubt, communication is always the way to go.
This one closely effects our ability to communicate. Trust is one of the scariest things we will ever have to hold on to – kind of like hanging on to an angry grisly bear to keep from falling off a cliff. Trust is also one of the most liberating forces in your life. When you choose to trust someone with who you are, you free yourself from bearing the burden of keeping your “secret identity” a secret. The load is redistributed. It is much easier to carry. It is much easier to manage.
People often walk in two opposite extremes when dealing with trust: they trust everyone or no one. Use wisdom. Trust within relationships. We should trust to varying degrees throughout the Body, but we should entrust our deepest places to those who have earned the right to have access to them.
One more thing about trust: it MUST be face to face. Relationships do not happen in conferences or in a pod cast. They don’t happen like this over the phone, either. You MUST be in a Trust heavy relationship that is face-to-face. What you see everyday will determine a great deal of what you believe.
Honesty would seem to be a no brainer: and I will say this… if you know you are lying, then understand you are sabotaging everything. Trust. Relationship. Growth. Freedom. All of it. If you choose to lie, not only do you choose to ruin your own chances of achieving goals, but you also set everyone you are in relationship up to have trust shattered into razor sharp shards and used to dice up their hearts.
But few of us KNOW we are lying and choose to continue doing it. That’s why honesty can be a difficult and slippery horse to ride. When we believe a lie for long enough, we forget it’s not true: in our minds it becomes a reality. And it doesn’t matter what the truth actually is because you act and live based on a lie (or something that is only partially true).
Honesty grows most naturally within relationships where communication and trust rule. You have to allow honesty to purge the dark little secret corners and shadows – and the full-on beast hiding under the beds – of your mind and to turn the lights on. Being honest with your self is a big part of this as well (we’ll get to that later).
Consistency is the only way to master any new skill. Being in relationship takes practice – and practice is only successful if it is consistent. (One step forward: two steps back… you may be taking a step in the right direction, but if you take two in the wrong direction, you have actually backed up!)
Consistently talk. Consistently trust. Consistently be honest. Consistently start again when you don’t quite get it right. Do it over and over and over.
No risk, no reward, right? Absolutely. Being in relationship is risky business, but not nearly as risky as hiding yourself away from the people who really love you. Again, place your bets on a good chance and go for it: don’t be careless with your heart. But NEVER confuse being locked alone inside your own heart safe. Your fears in their will eat you alive – from the inside out.
II. Optimistic Expectations and Realistic Goals
A good healthy dose of optimism and realism will go a long way in this process. They seem to be possible opposites, but I assure you: in the Spirit, they are twins. Be positive. Always embrace the best parts of every situation: even a bad one. Thanksgiving is huge here. Faith is a positive force of optimism (believing what you can’t see).
Being realistic is understanding this process takes place within the boundaries of you human self – and yet is propelled forward by such supernatural power-houses as God’s love and grace. Still, your humanity is NEVER removed from this equation.
A. Focus On Success, Not Failure
Look: we will make mistakes. Always. No doubt about it. No question. So no worries! Move on! Don’t focus on the ways you DON’T get it. Focus on the ways you DO. Yes, if you see a pattern of mistakes (you always respond out of anger when someone pushes a particular button – then deal with the button… don’t ignore the problem), deal with it. But never dwell on what is wrong. That just breeds despair, resentment (and nothing hinders growth more than self resentment), insecurity and fear.
Focus on the successes: especially the small ones (because those are the most common). Over time, the small successes will add up to HUGE successes. Then you hang those over your mantel. But you will always need to collect these little successes – like bread crumbs in your own Hansel & Gretel forest – to find your way out of the dark. Relish them. They are the fabric your success will be made of.
B. Remember: Your Best Is Enough
Drop the super hero complex – unless you want to start wearing tights all the time.
You are a human being – made in God’s image with the mark of His name (and yours) burned into your spirit – but you are still human in a fallen world. Learn to fly! Yes, but also learn to walk if you need to.
Your best is ABSOLUTELY enough! Every time. Always. Without exception. It never fails: God loves your best effort. We compare ourselves to others and feel inadequate (that’s because we think they are superheroes as well… we somehow miss that they are EXACTLY like us). You do YOU! That’s enough.
C. Self Honesty
We come again to honesty. Honesty within a relationship will help set you free from years of bondage due to deception; however, if honesty doesn’t take root in your own personal thoughts and feelings, it is only a lie on the outside covering up your remaining inability to be honest.
Trust the eyes of those you trust the most to see about you what you can’t see yourself. You are too close. It is too personal. Let them hold up a mirror so you can truly see yourself. Accept that reality and move from there. If you are acting from a false sense of yourself, then you whatever progress you make is make-believe.
D. Consistent Effort
Once again, if you don’t do these things consistently (and when you fail, consistently get up and start again) you will never gain ground.
E. No Excuses
One of the most astounding super powers of the human condition is our ability to create convincing excuses. They can be totally ludicrous and absurdly silly to everyone else, but to us they seem absolutely legit. As we consistently walk in an honest appraisal of ourselves and where we are – fueled by an optimistic expectation of change – we have to abandon our excuses… our little anchors we throw over the side when the boat starts rocking a little harder than we like. These anchors tie us down to what? What we are trying to move away from.
Excuses are lies – even when they are true. Because they imply that our actions were either justified or couldn’t be helped. But if you are actions maintain your stagnant position, then they should be considered unacceptable (no matter how justified or unavoidable they may first appear).
Unforgiveness is a great excuse! It is totally justifiable and equally unavoidable… and it is your own death sentence. It’s the perfect antidote to growth and is simply a MUST HAVE for anyone longing to die in their misery.
Don’t make excuses. God doesn’t. He makes a way out. (And the sooner you take responsibility for yourself and your actions instead of allowing someone else to maintain control of that for you – typically someone you don’t even like, the sooner you will be able to make some real progress.)
F. Plenty Of Mercy
Just as important as ridding yourself of those nasty little excuses that make you filthy is bathing in mercy all the time. Cut yourself some slack. Remember your humanity (that irresistible thing about you that God adores) accept your best without excuse and then live in a state of constant mercy. Lavish it upon yourself and others. It is a healing balm – but just as importantly, it is rocket fuel to fire up your pony and get you on the fast track to seeing real change. Disappointment will hold you back like a boulder in your belly. Marcy cuts away the dead weight and gives you wings.
Time is always on your side, but it’s never in a hurry when you need it to be. Understand that all of this will take time. There are no short cuts. Know that this will take time. But time never stops and – before you know it – it has whisked right by you and you’ll be able to see how far you have come, much farther than was humanly possible in the amount of time you were given. Time is magical.
Trees grow naturally, but they take time. Give yourself room and time to grow and change. It doesn’t happen overnight, but as you deliberately work toward these things, they will naturally become a part of the life process.
III. Clear Understanding Of Purpose
It is hard to get anywhere if you don’t know where you are going. As far as you can, try to have a clear understanding of what your purpose is: but remember this… your understanding, at best, is limited. Think of understanding less as coordinates for your arrival and more like general directions in which to start moving.
Look at it this way: this is not so much figuring out where you are going as much as it is you figuring what what you are leaving. In most cases, when you take an honest inventory (there’s that word again) of where you are, the decision patterns you have made up to this point begin to become clear – their results become clear as well: they ended you up “here” (wherever that is). At the very least, you know some things that DON’T work. You know some directions that lead NOWHERE. Truthfully, that’s is often times all you need to get started.
Don’t step out randomly. Step out with purpose. Even if you don’t know exactly where you are going, you can know what you are leaving behind.
A. Ambiguity Breeds Wondering; Wondering Causes Wandering: Be Specific
You can’t take on the world. But maybe you can take on one part of your “yard” on your street in your neighborhood. Then work out from there.
If you are trapped in a room full of rabid dogs, start with a small one and work your way up. Take out a terrier and feed it to a pit-bull. Build up your confidence. Take care of the situation one rabid dog at a time.
Work on a specific, concentrated area. If you work on it for a while and make no progress, move to another one. You will find that these smaller, concentrated areas are most times connected beneath the surface. You may need to deal with one before the other; and when you take care of one, another may simply take care of itself.
B. Maintain A Family Perspective
No one is single. We are all part of a greater whole – and we HAVE to start thinking that way. Everything that affects us affects those we are in relationship with, those we are in the Body with. And we also have the advantage of being able to pool our collective strength for the greater good of al of us (a braided cord is stronger than a single strand).
Make relationship not only a part of life but also a mater of how you think and see yourself – and others. You have a responsibility to those you are in relationship with, and that responsibility is directly related to your purpose. Likewise, your purpose is unattainable without the strength and covering of relationship.
C. Know God Is Thrilled With Your Effort
Simple truth; God is love. God is NOT disappointment. He is NEVER disappointment.
Get that in your thick skull and NEVER forget it! Your best is nothing compared to God’s best, but when you give your best effort, it is like crack to a junkie in God’s heart. He finds it irresistible, and He responds by pouring out His best.
So that is the idea. Setting goals and reaching them is easier than you think. You just have to get started and give yourself the time to make it. And always make sure you bury yourself in relationships. At least if you fail, you never fall alone.
And one more thing: when we really focus on growing (and really, this requires never taking our eyes off of God’s heart) and we consistently work toward that end, occasionally we will suddenly look around and find that somehow we have stepped through a magic door and have been moved several spaces ahead – because God gets carried away with His love for us.
There are no short-cuts… EVER. But in God’s heart, there are impossible ways turned possible, and miracles are a normal part of life. Don’t wait for a miracle. The real gift here is the journey, the relationship. Ultimately, eternity is coming either way and heaven is a beautiful reward at the end of the trip, but right now: we get to live this thing together in the heart of God. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s heaven already.