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When we enter a new year, be it in the biblical Hebraic calendar or in the Gregorian calendar, a shift takes place. Sometimes it is as subtle as a slight change in the weather… or it can be the slightest change in our behavior or mood. While at other times, everything in our lives—from family, to time, tasks, and activities—alters drastically as we see a new spiritual season emerge.
Some changes we consider good, others bad. But with any change we know is coming, there are certain things we can do to prepare ourselves and improve ourselves in the process.
“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step.”
The start of a new year often prompts people to create plans for change. In the weeks leading up to it and on into the first weeks, there is an increased drive to get houses in order—literally and figuratively. Like a bird preparing its nest for the increase to come, we suddenly look back on what has been, and with eager eyes, seek out a better future—a greater increase—through efforts of preparation and change.
Goals are quickly made, but often swiftly broken. When that happens, we are left with a sense of inadequacy at our mountain of goals never climbed. In fact, as the years go by and more unfinished goals are left unachieved, fewer goals are even made. We may even make them, but have no intention of keeping them.
This may appear to be an insurmountable cycle or that change and victory never will come… but God has created us to be overcomers! And there are ways we can lessen these failures and promote success.
We CAN create goals and follow through!
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Five Keys to Creating AND Following Through with Goals
While there are many other keys that can help, these five are important because, not only are they effective, they can also help EVERYONE achieve better results…
- Create ATTAINABLE goals, habits, and patterns
If our goals are not within the realm of attainability for US personally—we are all different—then how are we going to succeed? We need to know what we want to achieve, figure out what steps are needed to get there, and then determine if we need to make them smaller or larger for where we are now. Remember, goals and the steps to reach them can always be altered later if we did not dream big enough or misjudged our ability to follow through—that said, finding the closest level of attainability at the start is best.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
—Vincent Van Gogh
- Create a plan that includes SMALL steps toward the larger goal
When we create a goal without a step-by-step plan, the goal, no matter how large or small, can appear daunting; potentially causing doubt, fear, confusion, delay, or a desire to quit before or soon after beginning. Creating small steps that can be implemented on a daily, weekly, or AT MOST, monthly level, allows us to see our goals in a more accurate light, while also providing regular victories and the sense of possibility that completion brings.
Having small steps to larger goals can demonstrate what we need to do better or continue doing during the next steps, making them, and the larger goal, go smoother. Remember, achieving goals is easier when we start to see goals not as giant leaps, but as small steps.
“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”
- Choose a TIME OF COMPLETION for each goal
Some goals may be smaller or easier to achieve in a shorter amount of time, while others may be far more long-term in nature. We need to understand that not all goals are “created equal” and that expecting all of our goals to be completed at the same time is not fair to us and can set us up for disappointment. By having realistic timeframes for each goal, and seeing each small step toward those goals, success is much more likely. Yet, we have to remember that life happens, good and bad, and this may alter our timeframe. Yet, we should not see this as an excuse to procrastinate, but instead a reminder not to berate ourselves over things we cannot control.
“Small steps, over time, move mountains.”
- REMEMBER that IT TAKES TIME to create a new habit or pattern
Patience is key. Even with the implementation of small, frequent goals toward our ultimate goal, it takes time for habits and patterns to become instinctive. On average it takes two months or more—18 to 254 days being the general range—before habits or patterns become instinctive.*
So, if we feel as if our step-by-step plan is difficult to achieve at first—or easy the first few days then hard—that is normal. If we can get past the first two to three months in our goal, it WILL become easier and more automatic. Just like riding a bicycle without training wheels, it can be challenging at first and take time and patience until the new balance clicks in. Once we set our small steps toward a final goal and stick with it, we can establish and become comfortable with the new routine.
“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so that when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance.”
- Limit the NUMBER of goals you set for yourself
At the start of a new year it is tempting to look back at the past and see EVERYTHING we want to change… and then decide to change it ALL. However, if we have too many goals to complete, things can quickly become muddled. We begin to bounce between goals, forgetting some and obsessing over others… then remembering the forgotten ones, dropping the old obsession for the new one as we try to play catch-up.
When we create a few SOLID goals—with steps, timeframes, etc.—we can give them the attention they deserve and actually make progress toward the desired outcome.
One to three intentional major goals and POSSIBLY a few minor goals, will create a much higher success rate. Further, when we regularly succeed in our goals, we tend to have greater levels of contentment and confidence and are therefore more likely to begin and complete other goals.
“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.”
Your Goals CAN Be Finished
While there are other keys that can help you create and follow through with your goals—accountability partners, etc.—these simple five steps will create a good foundation on which you can add.
YOU CAN MAKE AND COMPLETE YOUR GOALS! God has given you the strength to do it, and it does not even matter when you start new goals—at the first of a year or not—you are more than a conqueror through Christ who lives in you and gives you strength! YOU can do this!
Small steps lead to great victories!
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
* Habit Study Research performed by Phillippa Lally