Confessions of a Present-Over-Planning Person

Hi. My name is Christa, and I am most comfortable living in the present.
I don’t easily see into the future.
I have a hard time being motivated by something that is not directly in front of me.
I don’t strategize about what to do today so that tomorrow will be different.
I work best for people, not for goals.

Making goals around New Year’s is often overwhelming to the point of debilitation. Here’s what goes on in my head:
“I’m supposed to plan for what will happen in the next twelve months…52 weeks…365 days…8,760 hours?? It sounds nice, but I don’t even know what will happen this afternoon! I don’t know how needy or how independent my four year old will be. I could have two hours to work on my goal or two minutes. And if I can’t know that for this afternoon, how can I know that for the year? How am I supposed to make a goal with that kind of unknown before me?!? Anyway, do I really want to focus on some ethereal goals when I know that there are dishes to be done, a floor to be vacuumed, games of Uno to be played and books to be read to little people?”

Anyone else out there like me? My husband is not like me. My best friend is not like me. There are people out there who see goals in front of them like they are physical entities. They easily see how today’s small actions move them closer toward accomplishing the goals that they have set in their hearts. I am jealous of those people. I wish my brain could work in the present with a focus on the future, but it is not how I am wired.

yearly goals

So, should I throw in the towel on goal setting? Is the yearly act of looking ahead strategically at the coming months simply for the forward-thinkers among us? Should those of us who are people-driven and present-driven just live in who we are?

I don’t believe so. Simply because something is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. The hard things are often the things that are most valuable.

So, how do non-goal-oriented people make (and stick to) goals?

Let me share with you what I have learned through years of fumbling with this.

First, work with what motivates you. I am externally motivated, so I need a person who will hold goals out in front of me. Having a friend, a coach, or a mentor hold me accountable to things I want to do is vital. Five years ago, I was able to enter a coaching relationship, and I was amazed at the change I was able to see in my own life when I had someone else encouraging me to think critically and act with intentionality. If you are motivated by people, find your person. He or she is out there, I promise.

Second, set goals that are flexible. Goals that are very specific, like “run 13 miles every week,” are too static for me. This week, I might be able to do that, but next week, I might have a friend who needs to grab coffee, and I like the freedom to be able to say yes to her. I want to be able to stay true to who I am by saying yes to present needs without feeling guilty for reneging on my goals. A goal that gives me flexibility helps me to both be intentional with my time and be open to the needs that pop up on a daily basis. A running goal that works for me is “sign up for two 10K races in the next year.”

Third, write them down and find a way to keep them in front of you. Perhaps this is in a weekly meeting with your accountability person. Perhaps this is writing them down 52 times in your planner so that you see them every seven days as you turn to a new week. Perhaps this is a strategically placed Post-It note. One thing that has been helpful for me has been setting a reminder in my phone to alert me each week of the thing that I want to do.

Let me give you an example of one way I’m doing this this year. “Using my prayer journal regularly” is one thing that God has placed on my heart for the coming year. When something weighs heavily on my heart, that’s a good indicator that I should make a goal around it. Within that broader goal, I specifically want to be praying for the people I am discipling. That desire leads me to the goal of praying for them weekly. I see them on a weekly basis (which helps inform my prayers for them), and I have an alarm that reminds me to set aside time Wednesday mornings (before my kids wake up) to pray for them. If I begin struggling with following through on this goal, I can ask my husband to keep me accountable to it by asking me about it at our weekly business meeting. Before you know it, I will have spent over 1000 minutes in prayer for them by the end of the year! Pretty amazing, huh?

prayer journal

Did you see how my prayer goal was not necessarily motivated by the end product? (All the strategic goal-oriented people reading this just shuddered. And I’m ok with that.) Because product goals do not motivate me, I organized this goal around people (who do motivate me) and around present needs (like the weekly struggles they experience).

Not all of us are wired to be motivated by year-end goals, but that doesn’t mean that goal setting is only for the strategists. It’s for those of us who prefer to live in the present, too.

I invite you to press into some goal setting, even if it is hard. Bring a friend alongside you—let them know you need their help to achieve the thing that is pressed upon your heart. That thing on your heart is important. Treat it as such. God gives his people wisdom and understanding to know the things we should be doing, but there is plenty in this world that would love to distract us from doing that which is most important.

Setting (and sticking to) goals that help us do the things that God puts before us is some of the most valuable work we will do all year.

What about you? Are you goal-motivated or present-motivated? What goals have you made for 2020?

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