Suggestions From A Searcher — Part Eleven
This is the eleventh installment of Suggestions From A Searcher. It is about action plans for implementing your goals.
This is the eleventh installment of Suggestions From A Searcher. It is about action plans for implementing your goals.
This is the tenth installment from my book, Suggestions From A Searcher. It is about mission statements and mottos for goal-setting.
This is the ninth installment of Suggestions From A Searcher. It is about your unique mission in life.
This excerpt is about visualizing the person whom you want to be.
This is the eleventh segment of Suggestions from a Searcher.
IV. Plan Steps Toward Goals — Need for Specific Action Plans
A. Translate Goals into an Action Plan for Each Project
Stephen Covey, who wrote Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, advises people to not stop at writing goals but to also have a specific action plan for each goal. I think of action plans as the steps toward reaching the goal. The action plan is thus composed of a number of “sub-goals.”
Some goals do not require a detailed action plan. If it is my goal to form the habit of flossing my teeth every day, my action plan might be as simple as having a checklist to keep track of how I am doing toward that goal. If my goal is to get my Christmas shopping done by December 20th, I could just make my gift list and then schedule time on my calendar to do the shopping.
Other goals are much more complicated. If your goal is to get into a certain college, you need to check out the requirements for admission early enough to take the necessary courses and get involved in the kind of extra-curricular activities that you want on your application. Knowing what is an acceptable S.A.T. score for that college might prod you to take practice tests and develop your test-taking skills. You need to know what is the financial cost and plan how to get enough money. When I am getting ready for a trial, I can’t wait until the night before to get ready. There are many steps and deadlines along the way.
Goals are the targeted end-result; action plans are the details for the steps to reach that particular end-result.
People in business who are doing projects usually have a detailed plan for the various things that must be done as part of the project. They often know what each step entails before they start any step. For example, builders use blueprint drawings. The finished house is the goal but they need more than a drawing of the finished house; they need drawings of each part: foundation, electrical, heating system, etc. They don’t only have the end vision and build as they go toward it. They plan stages of construction.
Action plans vary according to the goal. You have to be creative and you also have to be detail-oriented. How much of each depends on the particular goal.
For practice, make a step-by-step action plan for at least one of your goals.
This is the tenth segment of Suggestions from a Searcher.
A. Motto for life
A motto is an abbreviated mission statement.
From a source I do not now recall, I found a motto that I really like and so I offer it to you as an example:
Take Care of Family.
The U.S. Marine Corps has as its motto, Semper Fideles,
which is Latin for “Always Faithful.”
Write a motto for yourself that summarizes your mission statement.
III. Focus on the Desired Outcome–Goals & Roles (For Your Mission)
There is a saying that, “If you fail to plan; plan to fail.” There is something about how humans are made by God that when we have an aim in mind we tend to subconsciously follow a path in that direction. It is interesting to me to read some of my old written goals because I see how many were accomplished which I had forgotten I had even set as goals. Be careful what you wish for because you just might subconsciously follow the path to get it. Therefore, it is especially valuable and effective to focus on goals that have been well thought out as fitting what you recognize to be your particular mission, which in turn fits God’s larger plan.
On an earlier page I quoted someone who made a distinction between people who are “goal-driven” and people who are “mission-driven.” As I understand that, “mission-driven” people see the big picture and therefore make decisions based on how it fits their greater mission. Without a mission, goals can be scattered and inconsistent. Therefore, I don’t see it as being either you have a mission or you have goals. Rather, I see it as a matter of how you choose appropriate goals. People who are mission-driven still need to set goals; they will be goals consistent with the mission.
A. Types of Goals
1. Goals based on what you love.
Being aware of what you love and dreaming about following those passions can be fun. The difference between mere dreaming and actually achieving is effort. Part of the effort is to put those dreams into words. When you do that, you differentiate between goals you really want and those you cannot or are not willing to even articulate. It is kind of a filtering test.
2. Goals based on what you must do.
We need to recognize that some goals are imposed on us by outside forces. They might not be goals we even want but they are goals which are worthwhile for the roles we necessarily occupy at certain stages of life. For example, you might not enjoy algebra and wish you did not have to take it. However, you are taking algebra and, having taken on the role of being an algebra student, you should do your best. Therefore, in the role of algebra student you can benefit from setting goals, such as how long you will need to study each night to complete your work, and such as what it will take to achieve an acceptable grade. When I was in law school, much of it was not particularly enjoyable, but I needed to complete that hurdle in order to make my goal of becoming a lawyer. It was not my ultimate mission in life to be a permanent law student but it was a necessary step toward becoming a lawyer.
B. Setting Goals
Ed Bliss said that “Goal-setting is the single most important aspect of time management.” That is true for short-term goals at least. I can relate to that from the times I have had the most pressure to manage my time. When I was taking final exams and could not get by with studying only the night before the tests, I would make a specific schedule of what I was going to study at certain times so I would be sure to cover all the material. I was even more structured during my preparation for the bar examination. I scheduled time to study and time to exercise and time to work and filled every minute of a disciplined schedule. It felt good to know I had a plan and was not just flying by the seat of my pants. It also allowed me to know I did my best.
In addition to immediate short-term goals for accomplishing what you already know you need to do, which simply requires time management, there are also long-term goals. For this, you need something else. You need to visualize the outcome you desire. Use the list of things you enjoy most in life as identified in the “passions” section (II.B. above) to form some long-term goals. Try to actually visualize the outcome of what you think you want to happen. If what you visualize as an outcome (not process of getting there — that is the action plan) feels like it fits, then go for it. If the outcome is not that appealing, forget about that as a long-term goal. For example, visualize what it would feel like for you to have a book published. Visualize holding the book. Visualize seeing your name on the cover. In other words, try to experience in your imagination the actual accomplishment of the goal you are considering. Job-shadowing and internships are valuable for that kind of reality check. You might think you want to be a TV anchor until you actually work at a station and then discover that the necessary behind-the-scenes preparation is not your “cup of tea.”
Goals need to be specific and in writing. After you have considered your passions and visualized desired accomplishments, actually write down your goals. Short-term goals are easier and more urgent. They involve your present situation. Long-term goals tend to be more vague, but it will help you achieve them if they are specific. After all, you can change the specifics as you go along and learn more. You can even abandon goals. It is, after all, your life. These are your goals. However, as a technique to help you be successful in reaching your goals, please try to be specific and put those goals in writing.
Susan Woodring teaches a goal-setting technique which she calls S.M.A.R.T. goals. Here is what she suggests:
S – Specific (For example, “lose 20 lbs.” is better than “lose weight.”)
M– Measurable (E.g., running the 800 in less than 3 minutes. You can
tell when you meet the goal.)
A – Action-oriented (E.g., not a state of being, such as “to be happy”
or “to be rich” but rather “to coach tennis”)
R – Realistic (I.e., set goals which you know you can reach but which
make you stretch. Instead of setting the world record,
first set a new personal best and a step at a time work for the world record. Don’t make it all or nothing.)
T – Time Bound (Have a starting deadline as well as an ending
deadline. E.g., I will start training for the marathon on January 9th and be ready by June 5th.)
C. Keeping Goals in Front of You
With your goals in writing, you need to re-read them on a regular basis in order to be reminded and to stay focused and to assess whether you are progressing as you want. I heard of a man who wrote his goals on dollar bill size pieces of paper so he could carry his written goals in his billfold. Index cards would work too. I have a section in my organizer notebook for goals.
As another exercise, on another sheet or sheets of paper, work on both short-term goals and long-term goals for various roles you have in your life. For example, you are in the role of being a student. You may also be in the role of an athlete. You might have the role of being an officer in some organizations. You participate in certain activities. Think of your role as a church member. Think of your role as a family member. Set goals that fit your mission in life at this stage of your life for your current roles.
This is the ninth installment from Suggestions from a Searcher.
A. Mission in life — What is your (unique) reason for being?
“ Average performers are goal-driven.
Peak performers are mission-driven.”
“The primary reason we don’t achieve our goals is that we don’t love them enough.”
Susan Woodring, quoted above, identifies it as a problem that we not love our goals enough. One obvious solution would be to simply do what you love to do! There is something to be said for following your passions in life. In fact, I believe that your worthwhile positive passions were planted in you by God! However, as we live our lives we take on certain responsibilities and encounter various challenges that might cause us to follow a different path than what we intended. That too can be the Lord guiding our footsteps. The beloved movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart, makes that point. “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16: 9
I am recommending that you consciously allow the Lord to guide your steps. Everything we have been working on in this book so far is about how you discover God’s purpose for your life — your mission. The goals of this workbook are to help you understand how you fit into God’s sovereign plan. He has uniquely equipped you with certain gifts, such as talents and opportunities. Use those gifts in serving Him where you are. But having said that, I must caution you that there will be unplanned problems that may re-define the mission you earlier perceived to be your part in accomplishing God’s sovereign (big picture) plan. Therefore, be flexible. Let the Lord use you as His instrument. Do not try to manipulate Him to be your tool for accomplishing your own plan.
I find myself repeating myself as I go along and I think I know why. It is because these concepts, these truths, are inter-related. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do you first identify your areas of giftedness or first recognize God’s purpose in your circumstances? I do not have a totally clear or satisfactory approach, but let me suggest this:
Spend time with God to discover your gifts.
Use your gifts in following His plan.
Trust in Him when things don’t go as you want.
Remember Who is in charge. (Hint: It’s not you!)
Recognize that challenges are part of life.
Dr.Blackaby offers the following advice to people who wonder about what God wants them to do: “Look around and notice where God is at work; then jump in.” The potential disciple who hesitated to respond to the call to immediately come and follow Jesus apparently failed to recognize that God was at work in Jesus. He was awaiting the coming of the Messiah but the Messiah was already present and inviting him to join in the work of the Kingdom of God.
Mission statements are popular devices in the business world today. In the secular use of mission statements, God is often not an acknowledged factor. In our law firm mission statement, we tried to incorporate our shared belief that God has called us to serve Him as lawyers who see our work as a ministry. Then we stated what that work consists of for us: advocacy, counseling and peacemaking.
This next exercise is intended to help you come up with a mission plan for this stage of your life at least. Considering your past success factors, current interests, life-long passions, God-given talents, and core values, think about and pray about these three important questions:
1) What are you going to do?
2) Who are you doing it for?
Write your own personal mission statement, incorporating your answers to the three questions above. Your mission will perhaps change at various stages of life. Think about where you are now. What is your present mission? Why did God put you where you are right now? Where do you see God at work around you in your current circumstances?
This is the eighth section from Suggestions From A Searcher.
A. Vision for your life — What kind of person do you want to be? (Envisioning an “EndState”)
The kind of person you want to be is pretty much limited by the kind of people you know or know about. It is a true principle of life that humans are inevitably influenced by other humans. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” Who you spend time with will either influence you in a positive or a negative way, never just neutrally. Therefore, it is vital to surround yourself with people who will influence you in positive ways and it is even more vital to spend time with the Lord in order to be more Christ-like.
1. Peer Pressure — Avoid Negative Companions
Regarding the much-discussed concept of “peer pressure,” I suspect that the peers who pressure are often not really happy with themselves either. They probably want others to go along with them as some sick way of validating for themselves that they are worth imitating. Peer pressure is often a false front for people who are insecure and lack a strong sense of identity. For example, bullies are usually insecure even though it doesn’t seem like it. Ironically, it is because they are afraid that they want others to be afraid of them. The same is probably true about gossipers. Have you ever joined in gossip and just been glad the conversation was about someone else’s deficiencies so as to take the attention away from yours? Those friends who gossip to you have already demonstrated that they are indeed gossipers, which means you can expect them to gossip about you when you are not present. Anyone who does that is a poor friend. Stay away from people who try to take you down paths that are destructive to others because it harms you to join in hurting anyone.
Remember that you already know who you are because you know whose you are. You should not be insecure because you are precious to God. Trust and obey Him and you will no longer worry about what other (often insecure) people think. Instead, others will want what you have. They will see your confidence and want to know the source of it. They will want to be like you. Be a leader and people will follow you.
We all know people who follow others like sheep. Isn’t it strange that many people seem to be trying to imitate others whom they do not even admire (or should not admire)? For example, why would many junior high girls try so hard to be part of a group of the snootiest, most back-biting girls? It happens. Who are the “wannabees” trying to impress? The answer is: other mixed-up individuals, usually. Why? Often it is out of fear of not “fitting in.” Don’t worry about fitting in. Just try to please God by being you. You are already precious to Him, just the way He made you.
2. Heroes — Seek Positive Examples
That inevitable influence of others is also why it is good to have someone to look up to. Heroes inspire us to reach higher than we would without such examples. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that no one is perfect except for Jesus Christ. Therefore, although we should not idolize our heroes, we can certainly be uplifted by the lessons they offer about such admirable qualities as courage, honesty, faithfulness, fortitude, kindness, generosity, and unselfishness.
I like to be inspired. That is why I like to read the biographies of great men and women. I also like movies with heroes. I suppose that as children we pretend to be brave cowboys or soldiers or princesses because we naturally emulate heroes. That kind of playing is a way to practice being the type of person we long to be. For example, I suppose we can learn to be brave by pretending we are brave already, or pretending that we are someone else who is brave.
Although heroes are inspiring, and that can be good in a certain sense, be careful to not measure your worth by comparing your achievements with the achievements of other people. Instead, remember God made you to be you, a unique individual, not as a copy of your big sister or a copy of some movie star or star athlete. You are a person with your own purpose.
In fulfilling your purpose, strive to be Christ-like. Jesus Christ is available as your model/hero/Lord.
Again, pray that God reveal His answer for you as you take some preliminary steps aimed at helping you answer this question for yourself about yourself: What kind of person do I want to be? Use separate sheets of paper for the parts of this exercise that are leading up to what we will call your personal vision statement.
1) Think about people whom you admire, including historical figures as well as people in your life today. List several individual examples and beside each name write what you admire about that person. What you admire should be a quality that particular person exhibits to you or a value that person holds.
2) What are your core values? Are you living in a manner so that others can clearly see that those are indeed your values? Or would others be surprised to know those are values that you claim to hold? I have read somewhere this question: “If it was a crime to be a Christian, is there enough evidence to convict you?”
3) Imagine your own funeral ! Who would attend? Whatwould people remember about you?
Now, write your vision statement in the context of your interests, core values, and passion. Describe the person you intend to be.
This is the sixth in a series of excerpts from Suggestions from a Searcher.
II. The Big Picture — Start With Who You Are!
— Then Visualize Where You Are Going.
Every person was created by God as a unique individual with special talents, interests, and opportunities. Therefore, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all set of goals or daily routine. In order to make the most of your life, it is helpful (even necessary) to recognize who you really are. The following exercises are intended to help you understand yourselves better by following a step-by-step learning process. Actually, I suspect that much of what you will get out of this will not so much be new knowledge as it will be a reminder of truths you will recognize yet, perhaps, view from a new perspective.
A. Purpose in life — Whose are you?
A person’s worldview is influenced by various life experiences such as childhood training and anything else that affects how we come to see ourselves. Many people flounder and do not know what to believe. Consequently, they do not know where they are going. You all, to whom I am writing, have been blessed with opportunities to come to a personal faith in God. You have already expressed your belief in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, and in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. This book is premised on the Christian faith we share. Because of your belief in the triune God, you want to live as a child of God, which you already are. God made you to have a personal relationship with Him. That is knowledge which requires faith to accept. You get your identity from the truth that you are a child of the only God and that He loves you.