Newsletter 596 – Goal Setting That Woks

goal setting1It is well documented that New Year’s resolutions almost never work to bring lasting change. But what kind of goal setting does work? This week I worked my way through Michael Hyatt’s mini-course on how to set and reach goals successfully. I watched the tapes, did the homework and committed myself to following through with the course recommendations. This course is unlikely to work for everybody since it was designed for “busy, high-achievers.” Time will tell if the course lives up to the advertising hype that accompanies most of what Hyatt produces.

Titled “Five Days to You Best Year Ever,” the course recommends five steps to goal-setting effectiveness:

  1. Believe it can be done. Probably a lot of goals never get reached because deep inside we expect to fail, sometimes because we’ve tried before and not succeeded. Hyatt calls these “limiting beliefs” such as “I’m too old,” “I can’t do this,” or “I have no idea where to start.”
  2. Re-evaluate the past. Look over where you failed to reach previous goals. What have you learned from this?” What can you do differently this time?” Remember that you can’t keep doing the same things in the same way and expect different results.
  3. Set new goals. Force yourself to make them the SMART goals that coaches recommend: Specific, Measurable (so you know when you succeed), Actionable (that means what you will do, not what you hope to become), Realistic, and Time-bound (which means having a deadline). Hyatt adds two more: Exciting, by which he means personally compelling, and Relevant.
  4. Determine why each goal is worth achieving. Lose sight of this and you will quit more easily.
  5. Start moving. At some time the planning needs to stop and we need to take at least one action step towards making each goal happen.

All of this useful, practical advice but it assumes that reaching goals is within our control. It bypasses how unexpected life events can hinder even our best goal-oriented activities. Doesn’t God have a place in our goal-setting? At one point Hyatt mentions Jesus, then quickly makes a point that this is not a Bible study. Admittedly this course is geared to secular audiences and that shapes the content. Better perspective: the new year is a good time to plan ahead so long as we remember who ultimately is in control. Any comments?


  1. I believe for those of us who are committed to serve our Lord and Savior, starting any goal setting without a time of reflection and praise for who God is and what He means to us, will take us down a very secular and empty in the end process.
    We need to start with the end in mind, which should be eternity in heaven praising our Jesus forever and ever.
    Then ask the question where is God leading us, and what would He have me focus on for this next period of time.


    1. This is good stuff Bruce, I was sobered by your second paragraph. Of course it is futile to plan solely in our own wisdom. It is of great importance to set the goal planning on the foundation of asking how our goals will honor Christ and what he is leading us to do in the year or more ahead. Ultimately that is more important than all the goal setting strategies that we might do based on secular guidelines. Thanks for your post.


  2. SMARTER goals remain mere wishful dreaming, when formulated without hope, opportunity, resources, experience, skill, knowledge, planning organization, leadership, threat assessment and monitoring of progress.
    The biblical history recorded in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah describe all the necessary elements in action.


    1. Galen you are right. As I went through the Hyatt program I became increasingly uncomfortable with how we were being directed. Periodically I go back and look at the excellent leadership principles in Nehemiah. I wonder, however, why this man seemed to get so angry at the end of his life. It seems like this undercuts all the admirable leadership (including goal-setting) principles recorded earlier in this book and shown in Nehemiah’s younger years.


    1. This probably could be done on line. I don’t know of anything available but probably something is out there.

      Here is a suggestion. Seek God’s leading. Ask for wisdom. What might he have you do, say in the coming year or so? Then write down 7 to 10 SMARTER goals. Give each a target completion date. Share your goals with somebody who could hold you accountable. Determine to reach the goals but hold them lightly so you are not a slave to your goals Be open to mid-course directions when you encounter unexpected conditions or God’s surprises (which often seem disrupting). Bottom line, I’m not sure the course for which I paid $147. said a lot more than this, and is said nothing about God’s leading or unexpected circumstances that get in the way.


  3. Thx for this challenge to consider goal setting principles. I often struggle with the juxtaposition of goal setting, business planning, etc… and being called as follower of Jesus. Followers do not set the agenda. Rather, they wait, listen, & obey. Sometimes following will defy conventional wisdom and require sacrifice.


    1. Tim, you perfectly describe what I often feel. Good leaders start by being good followers. And good followers “do not set the agenda. Rather, they wait, listen, & obey. Sometimes following will defy conventional wisdom and require sacrifice.” Your comments and those of the others who wrote have stimulated further thinking in me.


  4. Good quotation Tim. Thanks. I don’t like to comment on the same topic two weeks in a row but this goal-setting stuff has been in the back of my thinking for the past two weeks. So decided to keep with the same topic one more time: this week.


  5. Yes, events can intervene. My recommendation is to make the plan, prayerfully for Christians. Then review and revise the plan periodically as events transpire. For an annual plan that might be somewhere from monthly to quarterly.

    In reflecting on events that alter plans, one possibility to consider is that they reflect divine guidance. Most of us are delighted when God says yes, but dismayed or worse when he says no. Yet a divine no may be a powerful form of guidance that can shape our lives in important and powerful ways. On occasion I have been in the uncomfortable position of speaking the divine no. In one memorable instance I was able to observed the ensuing divine yes a couple years later that set the person on a muc hbetter and more affirming life course.


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