On Goal Setting

It’s 2020 and time for a 2020 vision… right?…

Way too much ‘cheese’ right there I reckon…

But lately I’ve been pondering again, how we live purposefully and richly but without the rigidity of committing ourselves to a binding task list of things we felt were important on January 1st, but now no longer seem so critical. In recent years (the last 10-15) I have veered away from structured goal setting, both in my personal life and in my vocation. You should know that comes off the back of being one of the most anal, focused and driven people you would ever want to meet. I think I even had goals for ‘goal setting’…

What I’ve observed in my ‘unstructured’ years is that I probably get about 80% as much done as I do in my ‘write a goal and a strategy’ years, but that 80% comes with less angst and stress. I am also a nicer person to be around when I am less ‘task focused’ and lived more intuitively.

The question I’m pondering is how much I want to bite into that final 20%, because I know that must come at the cost of a more spacious, relaxed and spontaneous life, but it may also mean a better use of my talents and capacities.

When I first let ‘goal setting’ (as I knew it) slip I was worried as I felt it might end up in laziness and a haze of drifting from one thing to the next but with little purpose. Truth is when you’ve lived in the ‘red-line’ zone of purpose for so long its actually very difficult to amble through life – even without a clear list of things to achieve.

However, I feel like I’m back at a point now where I’d like to inject a little more intentional focus into life. (I’d actually like to have my cake and eat it, as I’d like some clearer focus and accomplishment of some things, but without any imposition on my flexible and relaxed lifestyle.)

I don’t think that’s possible.

What I have observed over the last 10 years which I would describe as ‘living intuitively’ has been that as opportunities have arisen I have taken them, and as ideas have popped into my head I have pursued them, sometimes to the ‘end’ and sometimes until I have found them to be either tedious & tiresome or too difficult. In a previous life there was no such thing as ‘too difficult’ – you just worked harder until stuff got done. I have sacrificed that tenacity for a bit more flexibility and at times that has been good, while at other times I have felt disappointed with myself.

I thought I’d share my reflections on this as I’m guessing I’m not the only one trying to re-imagine purposeful living but without becoming a GTD Nazi.

So where to start as I revisit this stuff?

For me everything starts with vocation or calling – who has God made me to be – what has he planted me on this planet to do. Literally everything else orbits around my answer to this one question. I realise that I am here to ‘love God and love others’ as Jesus spoke of – that’s a given – that I will pursue Christlikeness and the kingdom of God. But within that I have a more specific sense of calling and identity – that of being a missionary in the western world – of communicating the Christian faith to ordinary Australian people in ways they can understand – and leading church communities that resonate with those same people.

I don’t think everyone has that same sense of clarity around vocation and I’m uncertain whether that clarity is possible for all, necessary, or whether I’m just fortunate to have it. Either way I think it helps to give shape to life. It immediately shunts me strongly in one direction while blocking me from other paths that could be distractions. Broadly speaking my life will be taken up with whatever creates space for that vocation to flourish.

Danelle doesn’t have that same sense of clarity around vocation and doesn’t feel she needs it. Although as people spoke of her at her recent 50th birthday the common thread was that she ‘loves broken people back to health again’. I think that’s a perfect description of what flows out of her naturally and she is at her most alive when she is with someone whose life is a mess and she is able to walk with them gently, wisely and courageously through that mess. Lately our church has been besieged with administrative needs and she has found herself bearing the brunt of this red tape assault to a point where it has overtaken the things she is actually created for and called to. The result is stress, anxiety and a lack of joy. So she is on a course correction back to her vocation and away from the other stuff.

So – having written this much already I can see this will be a 2 or 3 post topic… Perhaps this is a good point to stop and leave with the question, ‘Who has God made you to be?

What is your own vocation / calling and what form does that take in your life?

Some questions that may help you grasp this if its feeling elusive

  • What do you find yourself cycling back to continually that may be the Spirit of God leading you?
  • Where do you find the greatest joy and fulfilment?
  • How do you serve the world?

Tomorrow I’ll flesh out a bit of how I have gone about this.

2 thoughts on “On Goal Setting

  1. As someone who enjoys GTD and goal setting I’m working hard to find the right level of order around these matters as well. I wouldn’t say my level of GTD and desire to set and achieve goals impacts on me negatively at this stage, however I know many a pastor with stories similar to yours and I guess I’m hopeful of navigating a path to perhaps ‘90%’ efficiency without the need for a course correction in the mean time. How much the experience of too much and too little is needed to find a good middle ground is a question I wrestle with a little.

  2. G’day Hamo,
    Looking forward to your follow up posts. Have you checked out Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next and his take on it all? I’ve just finished reading it and thinking about how much to implement… one of his ideas is to only schedule in up to a maximum of 70% of your time to allow for spontaneity, love, mercy, justice etc Would love to hear your thoughts,

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