I’m a fan of making goals. I like lists. I like having something to shoot for written down where I can see it and be reminded of why I’m doing what I’m doing. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I overload myself with unattainable goals. I don’t ever want to get lazy, so I would make these crazy, ridiculous lists of things to accomplish, knowing full well I’d never complete the list. But I was okay with that. As long as I got some of them done, I would be fine.
But what I discovered is that I still tried to accomplish them all. I still pushed myself harder and farther and faster than I really needed to, and, yeah, I got a lot done. Yeah, I accomplished quite a bit. But I was exhausted, physically and emotionally and spiritually.
This year, when I set my goals, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to think about what’s reasonable. The problem with performance-driven perfectionists is that when you tell them to “do your best,” they understand that as: “Run yourself into the ground. Go without sleep, without food, and without rest until you’ve done it all and triple checked to make sure you’ve done it right.”
That’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable either. Eventually, you’ll crash and burn. And the point of resolutions and goals isn’t to wear you out. The point is to be effective in what you do.
So with that in mind, I tried to set goals this year that are profitable, attainable, and lasting, and there are some thoughts I had along the way that I thought I might share. Because I know I’m not the only performance-driven perfectionist out there.
1. Stretching too far will always cause damage
I’m a fan of stretching myself. It’s really the only way we grow. If you never challenge what you think or what you can do, you’ll never know what you believe or what you’re actually capable of accomplishing. That being said, even the most flexible person can be stretched too far. Remember those old Stretch Armstrong dolls (dating myself, yes)? It took a lot, but you could pull their limbs clean off. The same thing can happen (metaphorically) to a person who tries to stretch too far.
Set challenging goals, of course. A goal that doesn’t challenge you isn’t worth much, honestly, but if you’re stretching to achieve something that you literally can’t, you’re only going to get hurt.
2. Set your goals according to your mindset (not the other way around)
Do you love to learn? Then going to college is a good idea. Getting that other degree will probably be a great goal to set for yourself. But what if you’re done with learning, at least academically speaking? Then going back to college probably won’t work out for you. That’s not the best example, but I hope you get what I’m saying.
Too many times I tried to set goals for myself that my heart wasn’t in. I set those goals for myself because I felt like I needed to have them or someone told me I needed to do it, but I didn’t really want to. And you have to be careful with this because sometimes setting goals will push you outside your comfort zone, and that’s really good for you. But if your attitude isn’t already set in line with your goals, you’ll have an uphill battle the whole way.
It’s a lot more difficult to change your attitude than it is to make sure your mindset and your goals are aligned.
Now, if your goal is to change your attitude? Well, that’s a different story. If you want to change your attitude, that should be your main priority. And you should focus solely on that. Dig into the Scriptures. Spend a lot of time in prayer. Change the way you spend your free time and the crowd you hang around. That can be a goal too.
I just know that once my attitude is where it’s supposed to be, everything else falls into place.
3. Don’t set goals to please other people
The goals you set should be for you. Yes, it’s important to listen to what other people say, and it’s wise to listen to council from experienced people. But you can’t achieve a goal using someone else’s passion. You can’t accomplish an objective using someone else’s momentum. It doesn’t work that way.
Accomplishing goals is hard work, and the day will come when you’re ready to give up. On that day, you’ll have to dig deep for your own motivation, and someone else’s heart won’t do the trick.
4. If you miss a step, don’t give up
You’re going to screw up once or twice (maybe more). Just saying. Just expect it. Don’t aim to screw up, but don’t be surprised when you do. And don’t be afraid of it either. Every time you take a wrong turn or make a bad choice is an opportunity to learn from it.
The goals you’ve set are worth achieving. Don’t be scared of screwing up along the way. You’ll learn more, and at the end of the year, not only will you have accomplished what you set out to do, but you’ll also have a wealth of knowledge and experience you can take with you into the following years.