Do you know the difference between a wish and a goal? A goal is something that is realistic and achievable. I could wish all day that I could be an astronaut, but that could never be a goal because it's not achievable for me. A goal has a time schedule and is measurable in some way or another. I may wish to lose weight, but in order to do that, I need to set a goal and a time frame for that goal. "I will lose 10 pounds in four weeks." That's a goal.
Given that definition of a goal, are you truly a goal-oriented person, or do you just wish a lot? I find many of us are very good wishers, but not many of us take those wishes and turn them into goals that we work to achieve. After all, wishes don't take any energy or discipline; goals do. Wishes don't require any commitment from us; goals do. Here are some examples of wishes and how they can be turned into goals:
I want to be more organized.
I want to get along better with my coworkers.
I want to get out of debt.
I want to find a more interesting job.
In order to be more organized, I will start using a to-do list on a daily basis beginning today.
In order to get along better with (specific person), I will invite her to have lunch with me next week and try to develop a better relationship with her.
In order to be a better steward of my money, I will pay off all credit card accounts before charging anything else, and then I will only charge what I can comfortably pay off each month.
In order to find a job that interests me more, I will take a course in computer skills beginning in January at the local community college to get the education needed for advancement.
Think of one thing you want to achieve — one thing you want to improve in your life, on your job or in your relationships. Write it down. Now ask yourself, "Did I write a wish or a goal?"
Once you've written it down and gotten it into the form of a goal, ask yourself, "How much do I want this?" If you're not truly committed to achieving that goal, it simply won't happen. Jesus said we find God when we search for him with our whole heart. Lots of people would like to know God better, but few are willing to put out the time and effort required to search for him with the whole heart. As you look at your goal, you have to be certain you are truly committed to it.
To become a goal-oriented person, you must list your long-term goals, list your daily short-term goals, divide your goals into manageable portions and make yourself accountable.
List your long-term goals
First, sit down and make a list of the long-term things you want to do, both job-related and personal. Most of us have dreams and plans of things we're going to do "when we have time," but somehow a lot of those things never happen because we keep running out of time. Often they are the really important things that should be done. If you don't plan to put them into your daily schedule, they'll never happen.
So list all those things you want to do. Perhaps it's "take a course in writing skills," or "rearrange the filing system to be more efficient," or "take a Bible correspondence course." Once you've listed those long-term goals, prioritize them, and set a deadline for each one. Be realistic about those deadlines, but you need to put some time frames in place.
List your daily short-term goals
Now, make a second list — your to-do list of things that are on the schedule for today. I strongly encourage you to work with a list each day. You don't have to spend lots of time making the list — a few minutes should do it — but it is very helpful in keeping you on track through the day.
In order to get those long-term goals accomplished, you have to put parts of them on the daily to-do list.
So each day try to do at least one small part of a long-term goal. Maybe you can only devote 15 minutes to it, but if you keep on, you'll start to chip away at those long-term goals you never seem to get around to doing.
Remember to include on your list things like: "Write a note to Barbara to encourage her," "Send a card to Jane for her birthday," and "Call Sue and invite her to church." If you don't, they'll frequently get lost in the shuffle.
Divide your goals into manageable portions
In order to achieve those larger goals, make sure you bite off small pieces at a time. Sometimes we discourage ourselves because we see the job before us as so large that it looks like we'll never make it. But if we take the large goal and turn it into a series of small ones that don't look impossible, pretty soon we'll find we've achieved our goal.
This is the sixth book I've written. Each one seemed an impossible goal at the beginning. I was overwhelmed and discouraged. But each time I turned that big goal into a series of small ones, setting deadlines for each chapter, each section. I could tackle writing a chapter but not writing a book. But after writing 13 or 14 chapters, I have a book! That's one of the most important principles in setting realistic, achievable goals: Divide it into small sections that don't overwhelm you.
I would encourage you to establish accountability for yourself in these goals that you set. Ask someone to check up on you. Let some people know what your goals are. That accountability is very important.
Setting goals is a technique that works in all areas of our lives. As we become goal-oriented people, we will be pleasing to our Lord for we will become increasingly better stewards of the time and resources he has given to us.
Mary Whelchel is the founder of Christian Working Women, a radio broadcast addressing the issues of women in the workplace. After 28 years, the program is now aired on 500 stations and includes both the three minute daily program, which airs Monday through Friday, and the weekend edition, which is a fifteen minute program.