Posts Tagged ‘Goals’

Dont-Suck-the-Life-Out-of-LifeFor the last couple of years I’ve been very public with my annual personal goals, including progress reports along the way as to how successful (or not) I am in achieving them. I’m not going to run down item by item the goal list from last year. Suffice it to say that I met or exceeded some and didn’t achieve others. If you’re curious about what they were, you’ll find posts about them here, here, here, and here. Instead, I want to write today about the overall lesson learned from 2014 that relates significantly to the goal effort. Here it is:

Don’t be so goal oriented that you suck the life out of life.

My first time for setting a long list of personal goals related to body, mind and spirit was in 2013. It went really well, so it’s no surprise I did it again in 2014. But we weren’t many months into the year before I felt overwhelmed. All of the goals were in addition to my work and volunteer efforts, and it was simply exhausting to try to stay up with all of them. I needed more rest, more sleep, more down time not focused on a never-ending to-do list.

While I made a mid-year correction and lowered the bar on some goals, that still wasn’t enough to put me at ease. I still wasn’t getting enough sleep. I ended the last few months of the year choosing a couple of the goals most meaningful and worked on them while letting the others go. My body, mind and spirit needed the break. It was the right thing to do. I had put so much emphasis on a long, ambitious list of what I wanted to get done that I had succeeded in sucking the life out of life. Surely that wasn’t good for me or anyone else around me.

So I’m determined in 2015 to take a different approach to goals for the year. There will be no long list of goals for body, mind and spirit. I’ll still continue the personal behaviors that have by now become important regular habits (getting in 10,000 steps per day 3 days per week, reading through the Bible in a version or study edition different than one I’ve read before, and spending time weekly on 100 Bible memory verses). But the only other goals will be very simple – getting more sleep daily than I averaged in 2014 (trying for 7.5 instead of 6.5 hours nightly), finishing the books I intended to read last year but didn’t complete, and being more intentional about serving my church and others rather than setting self-focused goals.

I recall a sermon by my former Associate Pastor Kris Billiter from January 2014 when he suggested we set other-oriented goals rather than self-focused ones. That message stuck with me throughout 2014, so I’m taking it to heart. I want to be a better person – not just someone who does a lot of stuff. Drastically reducing self-focused goals and saying “yes” to opportunities to serve others while still reserving enough time for adequate rest will be my basic plan.

I’ve always been a task-oriented person. Plans and goals and checklists fit me well. That isn’t the case with all people. But there is a point where too many to-do items just suck the life out of life. I reached that point in 2014 and have no intention of doing so this year. In fact, I’ve already scheduled one day per week for vacation every week from January through March, plus a full week off in February for the heck of it. I’m writing this post on the first of those restful, stay-at-home days where I slept late, read, played with the dog, spent a couple hours at church helping with our youth program, and now am finishing a blog post.

2015 is off to a good start. You’re welcome to hold me accountable if you like. I hope your year is both productive and meaningful at a deeper, personal, more satisfying level than mere checklists can guarantee.

Don’t suck the life out of life. It’s too precious.

keep-calm-and-finish-strongI’ve been very goal oriented the past two years in publishing on this blog very specific goals in the categories of body, mind and spirit. The goals for 2013 were many and I was glad to accomplish nearly all of them. I started down a similar path at the beginning of 2014, but soon felt burdened by so many time-consuming goals outside of work and volunteer endeavors. By my March update I had reduced the goals a little bit, and by May I had decided to take a few months off from a couple of them entirely. My brain and my spirit needed a rest from the physical activity goals more than my body did. I still continued work on most of the goals, but filed a couple under “not gonna happen” and went on with life.

Now that we’re in the final third of the year and the end is in sight, I’m back in gear and ready to finish out the year completing those goals that are most important and putting aside officially those that aren’t. I’m already looking forward to a very different approach in 2015 which will not  have me listing all kinds of goals for body, mind and spirit. I’ll talk more about what it will include when the time comes.

With that background, here is where I stand with the original goals for 2014 and what my plan is to close out the year with each:

BODY

  • Average at least 10,000 steps per day every week. After taking the second quarter off from this, I’m back on track. My company has a 100 Day Dash going on right now until late November where we’re on teams recording and tracking steps daily. My goal for these 100 days is to never get less than 11,000 steps per day and so far I’ve done that. I’ll end the year strong and will keep at this pace until I reach our company’s top rewards program level which should happen around the end of the year.
  • Do a stretching routine daily. I started the year doing this faithfully but took a break after hurting my back. I never got back into the routine and don’t intend to for now. I’ll stretch before and after running, but not otherwise.
  • Run 365 miles for the year. I haven’t run 10 miles this year. I walk 5-6 miles a day between work and walking the dog, but I just haven’t gotten back into running. This goal will not be met. Walking will have to be good enough.
  • Average 7.5 hours of sleep a night. My average is more like 6.5 hours per night year to date. That isn’t enough. My body is calling for more and I have to find a way to make it happen. Of course, the 6.5 is more than years past, but I need more than years past.
  • Average no more than 45 hours per week for work. For the first year in the 11+ I’ve had with my company where I’ve tracked hours, I’m actually staying within the 45 per week limit. I’ve learned to adjust some things and manage my days differently to get to this point.

MIND

  • Author or co-author a book related to enterprise social networks. Now that we just completed the first year of the weekly Twitter chat I lead on enterprise social networks – #ESNchat – I’m planning on putting together a free e-book PDF that contains the first year’s chat archives plus a little background info on the experience. It’s the one and only book I’ll be responsible for this year, but I’m pretty proud of what it should be.
  • Write 100 blog posts. Earlier in the year I changed this goal to average one post per week instead of 100 for the year. Making that goal should not be a problem.
  • Set up Pinterest boards and pins to coincide with my blog categories and posts. In the interest of time, I abandoned this goal earlier in the year.
  • Reserve at least one hour per day for unstructured, unplanned time not related to any tasks or goals. I don’t track this and I know I don’t always accomplish it either, but I’m certain I’ve been better about allowing myself guilt-free free time this year. There is still room for improvement here, though.

SPIRIT

  • Finish reading The Apologetics Study Bible. I should be able to do this just fine. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve read Genesis – Isaiah so far, taking this one in order cover to cover.
  • Read these three major theology books: (1) Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem, (2) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg Allison, and (3) Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George. To date I’ve completed the third book and am about 2/3 through the first one. I should be able to complete this goal as planned. I have to say that Grudem’s book is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. I’ve love to take part in or lead a one-year study of the contents of this book with a group of people.
  • Have a daily Bible reading and devotional time. I’ve missed days from time to time which is disappointing. Nothing should crowd this from my schedule. There is really no excuse for that. I must do better.

So there you have my goal update for mid-September 2014 – on track with some things, abandoned a few and modified others. At least I’m in that mode now of seeing the finish line for the year ahead of me and I’m working hard at a number of the goals to finish strong those that are most important.

What about you? How are you coming on what you set out to accomplish this year?

 

detourAny regular reader of this blog will know how goal-focused I am. I’ve written a lot about them throughout 2013 and early in 2014. I honestly thought that I was lightening my load a little for 2014 with my goals, but it turns out I was waaaaaaaaay off in that estimate! By the time of my March 1 goals update, I was already backing off a little. Now that it’s May 1, I’ve made even more reductions in the original plan for the year.

Why? Because being so goal-oriented above and beyond what is happening at work was simply making life too hectic and unsatisfying. I have yet to get the number of hours of sleep I want to average this year. I’ve failed far too many days reserving a single hour to relax and do as I please. I’ve felt an unnecessary weight on my shoulders and self-induced guilt for not being as up-to-date on my personal to-do list as I wish.

Frankly, I’m tired of all that. As the months have progressed in 2014, a few priorities have risen to the top that take precedence, while others will be reduced or eliminated if need be in order to preserve such simple things as sleep and a little unstructured time.

So here is what has changed recently and what stands out to me related to my goals going forward:

  • I have put aside the daily step goal of 10,000 steps at least through June. I averaged 18,000 steps a day for several months last year and hadn’t had any day with less than 10,000 steps since sometime last September until I recently decided to not care about my steps daily for a few months. That has been liberating. When my employer’s annual incentive program for steps kicks in again in July, I’ll make sure I do what it takes to maintain my current top rewards level, but I won’t commit to more than that going forward.
  • Previously I announced that I would reduce my blogging from the original goal of 100 posts for the year to one per week on average. I’m behind that adjusted goal since I only posted once in April, but I have a series of them planned that will easily catch me up to the one per week average. That’s still doable, but it was nice to take a break for a month.
  • I’m proud of myself for keeping my work hours to an average of under 45 per week this year. That saves me 8-10 per week compared to the past many years, so I’ll keep doing that.
  • The dream of writing or co-authoring a book on enterprise social networking is coming to fruition. May will be an important month for finalizing some plans with other co-authors who have agreed to participate. I’m very excited about that, but it’s going to be time consuming until it’s done. I’d like to wrap it up by late summer or early fall.
  • I’m behind somewhat on my reading goal, but not so much that some planned vacation times in May – July won’t catch me up.
  • I’m spending a lot more time managing my church’s Facebook and Twitter accounts than I ever dreamed I would – things not really taken into account in the year’s goals on January 1. This is incredibly important to me, however, so it is a high priority. It’s actually going very, very well which is encouraging. This is something I’m doing for others and not myself which is another reason it’s near the top of my priorities.
  • I love the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat that I founded in September, 2013, but it is more time-consuming than I thought it would be. I’ll keep doing it, but it consumes on average an hour per day to pull off that one-hour-per-week chat. I’ll re-evaluate around the one year anniversary mark this fall following publication of the book mentioned above and another e-book publishing the first year’s chat archives.

This is the first of two planned vacation weeks in May (although only about half will really be vacation due to preparing for and speaking at a work-related conference next week in Philadelphia.) Two more weeks of time off are scheduled for June – one of which will be my periodic getaway to a monastery for a quiet time of reading and relaxation. It is apparent that I need to schedule two-week blocks off in order to actually take enough time off for other things. I’ll keep doing so until I’ve used up a majority of my bank of days off available.

While having a number of goals in the areas of body, mind and spirit was a nice approach in 2013, the goals for this year should have been fewer and more balanced between those that benefit me versus goals that benefit others. That’s the biggest takeaway so far for me as I ponder what changes to make in this mid-course correction. Deciding on the top few priorities for me (down time, sleep) while making sure that major goals also benefit others (my church, my profession) is the focus of this correction. And if this correction doesn’t balance things out, then more course corrections will happen in the months ahead.

Life shouldn’t be all fun and games, but neither should it all be work. This year – unlike last year – I’m not hell-bent on pursuing the original goals no matter what. I have adjusted and will continue to adjust as needed to find the sweet spot of how I spend my time. That’s hard for a goal-oriented person to do, but it seems best and most sensible.

I’m tired of chasing so many goals that I end up feeling daily like I’m missing out on life.

Progress ReportOn January 1 I listed a number of goals for 2014 categorized into the areas of body, mind and spirit. This is the same categorization I used for 2013 and it seemed to work well, so I thought I’d stay with it again this year. After two months of 2014, I want to give a progress report and share some thoughts on the plan, along with some modifications.

When setting the goals, I wrote: “I have a little apprehension about the above goals – a slight fear that cumulatively I’m not cutting back enough from 2013’s sense of overload. I will reserve the right to adjust the above goals if I find that they’re too ambitious.” Having lived the past two months with these goals in mind, I’ve concluded that a shift is needed if I am to do a couple of major things well. So my review of the original goals below will, where applicable, note changes in the plan going forward.

Part of the plan change has to do with the idea that the original goals were solely focused on me. A few days into the year my pastor preached on the subject of our goals for serving others. It dawned on me that I needed to be more specific about goals for service for others and that to do so may require reducing some of the other original goals. Also, apart from adding items about serving others, I think the first two months have proven the original list to be too ambitious, so rather than charge ahead stubbornly and wear myself out or get too frustrated, I’ll make some changes two months in to try to balance out my time.

There are some major daily things that I do that aren’t recorded in these goals because they are a part of my routine. That doesn’t lessen the time required to complete them, however, so I’m mindful of the amount of time those daily disciplines take in addition to the other goals listed.

With that intro, then, here is a progress report on my goals for the year:

BODY

  • Average at least 10,000 steps per day every week. I’m glad to say I haven’t had a single day of less than 10,000 steps since last September sometime.
  • Do a stretching routine daily. I did this daily for over a month and then have taken a break for a bit due to some back pain that I probably inflicted on myself from bad form in stretching. I’ll resume again this week and see what happens.
  • Run 365 miles for the year. Most of this running will happen in nicer weather which is not what we’ve had in Louisville, Kentucky so far this year. I’m keeping a record and will have time to achieve this once spring weather arrives.
  • Average 7.5 hours of sleep a night. I’m disappointed in my record here. I’m only averaging 6.5 hours per night – a little better than last year but not enough. That’s another sign I have too much on my plate and need to adjust because this is too important to ignore.
  • Average no more than 45 hours per week for work. Believe it or not, I’m so far successful in doing this in 2014. I can’t remember the last year I worked less than in the mid-50s per week for work. I’ve kept a daily record, though, and have kept the average so far at 43 per week. That’s good.

MIND

  • Author or co-author a book related to enterprise social networks. I made the first move in February to collaborate with a number of professionals in my line of work to write a handbook on our profession. The idea was well received and I’ll be following up later this week with others interested in being involved. I’m excited about the potential for this. It will be very time consuming, but worthwhile.
  • Write 100 blog posts. Even though the 100 figure is a lot less than either of the last two years, I’m going to reduce it effective immediately to one blog post per week instead. I’ve only written 11 posts this year, but it’s felt good to be at a less frequent schedule and to start writing for some other websites in addition to my own blog. Changing the goal to one per week with a couple of those a month being for other websites seems reasonable, especially in light of writing and/or editing one or two books this year.
  • Set up Pinterest boards and pins to coincide with my blog categories and posts. Given a lot of time, this would be fun to do, but I’m going to remove it from the list in light of being behind on more important goals. Maybe next year, Pinterest.
  • Reserve at least one hour per day for unstructured, unplanned time not related to any tasks or goals. I haven’t done this every day, but I’m also sure I’ve done it more days in each of the first two months of this year than was typical last year. That’s improvement, right?

SPIRIT

  • Finish reading The Apologetics Study Bible. This is going very well. I’m ahead of schedule on this and may cut back a bit in the number of chapters I’m reading daily for the month of March.
  • Read these three major theology books: (1) Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem, (2) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg Allison, and (3) Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George. The first of these I’m reading is the third one listed. It’s the shortest of them all and I’m nowhere close to finished. It will probably take a vacation week of reading to help catch me up.
  • Have a daily Bible reading and devotional time. This has been a goal I would not allow to slip, so I’m glad to say this is on track. Except for one night in a power outage with no electricity, I’ve done this daily.

As mentioned above, it occurred to me early in the year that I should be more explicit in having goals in service to others. So a goal added in January beyond the list above was to spend at least two hours per week assisting with communication needs at my church – primarily social media via the church’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m pleased to say that I’m working with these daily and thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in my line of work for the good of my church. It’s going very well and is where I find myself drifting in moments of free time because it seems like such a good fit for me. I know I’m giving more than two hours a week to it, but that’s OK.

So there you have it – my first goal update for 2014. Overall, I’m mostly pleased, although I’m behind on a couple and will permanently change or remove a couple more to make sure I have time for sleep, rest and serving others. The addition of doing social media daily for my church is a major addition not originally planned but of enormous importance to me, so I’ll adjust other things as needed to do that well.

What about you? How are you coming on your plans for 2014?

New Beginnings[Note: I was asked to speak at a church gathering earlier today on the topic of “New Beginnings.” What follows is a slightly modified version of that talk.]

It’s a new year – a natural time for us to think about new beginnings, a time to say goodbye to some things and to initiate positive change.

We hear a lot this time of year about resolutions. Some people make them – some don’t. Some set goals – some don’t. The kinds of resolutions or goals we most often hear people make each New Years includes exercising more, losing weight, eating healthier, quitting smoking, etc. Some of you may have made those very resolutions or set specific goals in these areas. I certainly have. It’s good to be intentional about positive change.

So today I want to share with you 3 thoughts on new beginnings – 2 kinds of new beginnings available to us plus one additional focus we need. These apply anytime during the year.

The first kind of new beginning is the one you initiate yourself.

I’m a goal-setting type. Last year and this year I organized my goals into categories of body, mind and spirit. That helps me feel like I’m being fairly well-rounded in my focus. This past week I finalized my goals for 2014 which you can read here. These are examples of goals that fall into the category of initiating our own new beginning.

Each of us knows ways in which we can improve. We have a God-given brain and body that God expects us to use for his glory, and initiating positive change regularly is one way to do that.

To encourage us in such efforts, we have the assurance that Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7-8: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Paul’s admonition was in the context of proclaiming the faith, but the assurances are true regardless of the application. We need to claim and practice the self-discipline God grants to his children to carry out self-initiated new beginnings.

Your new beginnings will look different than mine. You may have fewer goals or more – the quantity doesn’t matter. You can organize them differently or not at all, but it seems like we have the responsibility to do and to be our best and to work hard on making the most of this life God has granted.

So the first kind of new beginning is that which you initiate yourself.

The second kind of new beginning is that which God wants to initiate in you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tell us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.” It is one of the great assurances of Scripture – a promise that, behold, he makes all things new.

God accepted us as we were in our sin, but he does not want us to remain there. He told the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Go, and sin no more.” Knowing Christ ought to make a difference in our lives from one year to the next as we grow in holiness. What our lives looked like before Christ ought not be what our lives look like in Christ, and what we look like today ought not be the same as a year from now.

We’re familiar with the “fruit of the spirit” passage from Galatians, but I wish we also quoted the verses before and after the fruity verses. Galatians 5:19-21 says: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Then we have the well-known verses 22-23: “But, the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.” And then Gal. 5:24 concludes with “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

The whole passage from Gal. 5:19-24 shows what life is like without Christ contrasted to what it can be with him. It is a challenge to grow in holiness that ends with a reminder that we must cast aside the old if we are to put on the new. We can only do so as we remain in the vine of Christ. We cannot do it of our own strength, wisdom and effort.

Like the Galatians passage, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 another long list of patterns of sin. But Paul follows that list of sins in verse 11 with: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

This is the kind of new beginning God wants to bring about in you and me. He wants to move us from who we used to be and from who we are to who we can become in him. It’s my guess that God has some aspect of our character or behavior in mind that he wants to change this year to make us more like him.

If only we could grasp our state of forgiveness and what the Lord has done on our behalf in rescuing us from an eternity in Hell, we would never ever choose to remain where we are in life. Rather, we would eagerly desire to grow in holiness.

Let me share with you an idea that has gotten me into trouble before because it’s not what most of us were raised to think. It isn’t what has been modeled by the pillars of the church we’ve heard praying all our lives. It’s a statement some of you make take issue with, but I believe it is soundly scriptural and necessary for us to understand in order to cast aside the old and take on the new. Here’s the statement:

Once you become a child of God, you never again need to ask God’s forgiveness for anything. Read that again to make sure you read it correctly. The book I read a couple of years ago which finally helped me grasp this was The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley. I recommend it to you.

As good little Baptists, we have this tendency to always group confession and asking for forgiveness together. It is as though we think we can’t confess our sin to God without also asking for forgiveness for that sin. While that is appropriate and necessary for someone coming to Christ in repentance and faith for the first time, it is not what should characterize the relationship between God with those who are already his children. Confession and asking for forgiveness are two very different things. Here’s why…

When we initially repent of our sin and place our trust in Christ, he forgives us at that moment of conversion for every sin we have ever committed as well as every sin we will ever commit. From that moment, Romans 8:1 is true for the believer, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Is that a license to keep on sinning? Of course not. Paul says “God forbid” at the thought of sinning more so that grace may abound more. Nobody who loves God would disrespect God in that way. We want to please those we love, not hurt them. We want to live in gratitude to those who have shown us kindness and mercy – especially God. True believers don’t use the knowledge of their forgiveness as a flippant “Get Out of Hell Free” card to be used after self-indulgent sinning sprees. Anyone who tries to play that card doesn’t really know or love Christ.

If we are in Christ, though, we are forgiven, and there is no need to ever ask his forgiveness again. Now, it doesn’t work that way in human to human relationships because we’re fickle and if someone we’ve forgiven in the past ticks us off, we may or may not forgive them in the future. But God isn’t like that. He has forgiven his children completely forever.

If we are to be open to God doing a new thing in us, then we need to understand that forgiveness is different than confession of sin. We still sin, of course. God knows that. He sees that, and it is right and proper to humble ourselves before him and acknowledge what he already knows. It is good to humble ourselves before our brothers and sisters in Christ and confess our sins one to another. The scriptures tell us to do that. It helps hold us accountable. It keeps us from getting puffed up and thinking too highly of ourselves. It reminds us of the work Christ still needs to accomplish in our hearts and minds.

As I child of God, though, when I confess my sins to him, the reason I no longer need to ask his forgiveness is because it makes no sense to keep asking for that which we already have!

Imagine, for example, this scenario. You’re a parent of a young child and you buy a new house. The child has his or her own room and big boy/girl bed for the first time. They’re so excited to sleep there! It’s theirs!

Now imagine that on the second night of living in that house the child comes to you as the parent and says, “Mommy, Daddy, can I have my own room and my own bed again tonight?” You’d think, of course you can! It’s yours. You don’t need to ask – I’ve given it to you. If the child continued to come to you night after night asking for that which they had already been given, at some point you’d have to wonder if the child understands the nature of the parent-child relationship and what has transpired in the giving of a gift.

It is that way with God’s forgiveness of us. He has forgiven you if you are his child for all of the sin in your life – past, present and future. When he looks at you, God doesn’t see the last thing you did and judge accordingly. He sees the righteousness of Christ because all of your sin was crucified on that cross with Christ, and all the righteousness of Christ has been credited to your account from that moment of conversion forward.

Yes, we must continue the process of sanctification throughout this life. Yes, it is good to continue to humble yourself before God and confess all you want. But don’t keep asking your Abba, Father, for something he has already given you as if he may have given your room and bed to someone else since the last time you asked.

When you confess your sin this year, I challenge you not to precede or follow that confession with “Father, forgive me…”, but with “Father, thank you that have you have already forgiven me.” See what that does to your understanding of forgiveness. See what that does for your devotion and gratitude to him. It will leave you not with a desire to take advantage of his forgiveness, but with a desire to bow before him in humble adoration and eternal gratitude.

You are forgiven if you are his child. Grasp that. Be amazed by that. Be humbled by that. And this year can be one where you truly are no longer bound by the sins of your past, but one in which God can start a new thing in you for his glory.

There is one more thing about new beginnings that I think our world needs…

We need to be more intentional about encouraging others in their new beginnings.

As fellow human beings in a world of hate and anger, society needs more people encouraging others in their efforts to change for the better. That means we don’t pigeonhole people as hopeless and incapable of change. Just as God has given us second chances, we need to do the same for others. That doesn’t mean we tell others uninvited how we think they ought to change! It does mean that we be supportive in any way we can just as we would like them to be toward us.

So, those are my thoughts on new beginnings this year.

  • Initiate some of your own using the God-given brains, body and self-discipline he’s given you.
  • Abide in him so that he can abide in you and initiate his desired changes.
  • Along the way, be kind and supportive to others in the new beginnings they pursue.