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Sometimes we get so excited to execute new goals that we set ourselves up for failure.
When I was a teen, our pastor announced that he was going to focus on the fruits of the Spirit. Each week he would discuss a different fruit.
Well, I was humble enough to know there was some room for improvement in my life, even if I thought I was well on my way to being practically perfect.
So, I devised a plan for myself. Or a goal.
Each week I would focus on learning and practicing the fruit discussed that week. Within nine weeks, I would have mastered those 9 different fruits and would be able to then focus on improving myself in other ways. (Like learning to speak German well enough to raise bilingual children!)
Executing my plan and setting the goal.
Well things started out pretty good, with the first fruit being love.
My heart was already pretty much full of love. At my tender age I didn’t have any enemies I hated. And while my siblings would get on my nerves, I still loved them.
The first week coasted by and I thought things were going just fine. I seemed to have this love fruit down. Maybe a tweak here or there, but basically one fruit mastered.
The second week was joy. Yes, the pastor talked about joy in trials, which I was experiencing none of at the moment, but I was pretty certain that I would be joyful during a hard trial. Afterall, I was a cup-half-full kind of girl. A spot-the-positive, and keep-moving type.
Yup, I had joy and love down. This developing new fruit goal was cruising along like a freshly released frisbee.
Week three arrived. Peace. I inwardly laughed. Were these fruits all going to be so easy?
I looked inward and examined my heart. I was at peace with the world. At peace with my peers, family, teachers, and authority. Peace reigned in my heart. I slept well and wasn’t really to worried about much.
Well except that I was anxious that Jesus might return before I had a chance to grow up and really get to live life. I was hoping he would delay his coming until I had at least gotten married. Or got to live life more than currently had.
Three fruits accomplished. Six more to go.
Hitting a goal snag.
Week four was about longsuffering. Or as the pastor said, extreme patience.
Well my teen ears perked up. I was after all, a patient person. Living in a family with six siblings and only two bathrooms, one had to be.
Then he droned on about how longsuffering meant having already, or showing, patience during troubles, but especially towards troubles caused by other people.
Well that caused me to suck my breath inward. Maybe I had finally hit upon a fruit that would challenge me and take a bit of work.
Well I was one who enjoyed a challenge. I was pretty sure I had this.
But it turned out I was wrong.
That week clearly showed I was not oozing over with long-suffering. Patience was not a virtue I had mastered. And as the individual week days were crossed off, it became apparent, even to my over rated self-concept, that patience would not be checked off, or accomplished, within my seven-day window for self-improvement.
By now, you are probably laughing at me. And right you should be.
Because by the end of those nine weeks, I had not mastered patience. (Or as I realized years later, any of those other nine fruits.)
Maybe because I had too much schoolwork. To many siblings. Or I was confronted with too many situations that required patience (I was thinking one situation a day would provide better mastery).
But most likely, because we can’t develop patience in a week. (Although before children, I did think I was a rather patient person. Parenthood, though, helped me realize the truth.)
Here it is years later, and I am still struggling with being patient. In fact, I will be struggling with learning and displaying the fruits of the Spirit until I am called home.
Partly because they don’t come naturally. They are instead a struggle. A doing what I don’t want to do, but know I should do.
It seems so many things in life are like this.
A struggle. An unnatural fight against myself.
When does your year and goal setting start?
With the start of a new year, I keep reading about setting goals. Keep hearing about the goals others are setting. And have been asked about my goals for this new year.
I don’t know about you, but January does not seem like a new year for me, but a continuation of the last year. My year instead, seems to follow the academic calendar. For me, the beginning of a new school year feels like a new year.
That’s when I am setting goals and trying new things. Committing to do things differently.
Probably because I am a mother and my life revolves around the school year. Maybe because I am a teacher.
While others are setting goals and endeavoring to accomplish and do things differently, this January I am not setting any big goals. I am just continuing to carry on and complete the goals I set last August and September.
Here’s what I have been asking myself:
*. what has been working in my life?
*. And in what areas can I keep improving?
These are the questions that are keeping me on course.
Around last fall, I started yoga, and find it very relaxing and beneficial. So, I want to continue it. Maybe even add another class time.
I also started deciding a loose meal plan for the week. I pull out 5-8 different dinner recipes, and then each morning I choose which to make for that day. I like the flexibility of being able to select which meal works best for that day and the amount of time I have.
Walking more. I have always been a walker, but often with others. This fall I started walking more by myself, and find I like the time to think and contemplate. Sometimes I listen to a podcast. But I am finding I enjoy it and want to keep improving in this area. Especially now that it is winter, and I am walking less outside.
I was doing such a good job of taking breaks and getting outside several times a day. Even just a few minutes can be such a head clearer and mood changer. With winter, though, I need to improve in this area.
Staying off my phone on weekends and later evenings has been working and I want to continue this habit.
Remembering to greet God hello first thing in the morning and pray for a few friends before I get out of bed is something, I also want to continue.
How not to fail at your goals.
There is a joy and excitement in setting new goals. And there is a joy and excitement in seeing that you are making progress. That some things are working in your life. That you can modifying and stop goals that are not serving their purpose.
I don’t know which place you are in. Making new goals, or working on old goals, but I do know that lots of small steps will eventually accomplish big things and over time develop large changes.
Reading one chapter a day, may not seem like much, but it will get you through about 30 books in a year.
Often our goals, or life changes, take more than a week or nine. Or even six months. Things like being a good mother. Eating healthy. Getting in shape. Living debt free. Losing weight. Starting a business. Worrying less.
These are more life time goals, or a period of life goals. Not easily accomplished in a small amount of time.
There is a big difference between a to-do list item and a goal. One can be accomplished in the short-term. Things like cleaning a closet. Finishing a book. Attending today’s yoga class. Eating a healthy dinner. Goals, though, take many days of effort and consciously making the right choice time and time again. Like being physically fit. Organizing and cleaning the whole house. Reading 20 books in a year.
Tasks can be done and crossed off short-term. Goals require making a conscious choice to complete steps towards the goal day after and day.
And here is another sticky trap about goals. We can’t get healthy after a week of eating kale and chia seed smoothies. It takes making good food choices for the long-term. It requires a change to the way we think about our food and choose our food. It requires forming new habits.
And that is hard. And it is one reason we get discouraged and give up on our goals.
So many goals require doing them long-term, or maybe life term. We won’t just wake up suddenly having reached our patient-threshold after years of trying to be patient and can now quit thinking about being patient ever again.
We won’t wake up with an organized and clutter free house and never have to devote any more energy again on that task. No, we will be tossing things we don’t need or want for the rest of our life if we want it to stay organized and clutter free.
So, keep plodding away. Slow and steady wins.
And once in a while, look back and see how far you have come. (But always, give yourself grace. No shame allowed.)
You do that, and I’ll keep working on conquering the fruit of patience.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.
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Join the Discussion: Are you a January goal setter? What is working in your life?