When I once watched paramedics arrive at an accident within minutes, I was in awe of how quickly they had come. What if they didn't have a map? I wondered. Most likely, they would have driven in circles with a next-to-nothing chance of arriving at their destination.
Because goals are the "map” that will guide you toward your God-given purpose, without setting them you will also wander in circles without getting where you need to go.
Setting goals is not unspiritual.
Many people wrongly think, "Goal setting is unspiritual because it shows a lack of trust. It's not right to plan. Instead, people should wait for God to lead them.”
Granted, God doesn't want us to forge ahead in pride without consulting Him for direction. But neither does He want us to sit around without acting, because He's given us gifts and talents and has also said that we are called to do good works (Eph. 2: 8-10, Romans 12:4-8, Matthew 25:14-30).
Forging ahead without seeking God or sitting back and doing nothing can stem from fear or a lack of faith. However, setting goals and consulting with Him shows that you trust Him and believe that He is able to lead you while you are moving forward.
The revelation of God's will is limited and progressive — your goals may change.
My mother talks in details. If you meet her, she probably won't just tell you she purchased fabric for her latest wall hanging. Instead, she'll tell you why she purchased the fabric, whom she was with at the store, when she did it, and how much it cost. She might say something like, "You know Mary? She's my neighbor who is married to the plumber and she has a schnauzer. Anyway, I went shopping with her today for two hours and I purchased some fabric from the store around the corner from Judy's house. You remember Judy, right? Well, the fabric has a sort of blue background with an orange pattern running through it. I just love patterns. I make a lot of quilts using them. You should try it. Anyway, the fabric was on sale, $2.99 per yard. Great deal!"
I recently heard on a radio program that my mother is a "circular communicator”—she starts with a topic, talks in a circle while adding details and then, in conclusion, she ties all the information together in a verbal bow. In years past, I wished God was more like my mother, that He would give me more details about what He wanted me to do. I was certain that more knowledge would guarantee that I wouldn't ruin my life by stepping out of His will.
Sadly, many people are like I was. They assume that God needs to give them the entire picture of how their purpose will play out before they set goals. Because they are afraid and don't trust that God is in control of their future and purpose, they demand to hear from Him in the same way that my mother talks in details. "You will become a doctor. You will go to college at Harvard where you will study brain surgery. After that, you will move to Houston, Texas, where you will immediately become a part of the staff at M.D. Anderson. You'll stay there your entire career until you retire.”
Granted, God can do anything, but my personal experience and the experiences of biblical saints reveals that God doesn't give all the details at once while we are fulfilling our purpose. Instead, He often provides just enough information to help us move forward one step at a time. This helps our faith grow. This does not mean we shouldn't set goals. Instead, it means we need to trust Him to lead us into the unknown, and that we may need to reevaluate and change our goals as He gives us more information. This is OK. It's part of having a dynamic, collaborative and exciting relationship with Him. Can you imagine if we had the future all figured out? Life would not be as exciting.
As you progress in your purpose and God reveals more information to you, keep a dialogue open with Him, pay attention to the road signs He provides along the way and listen to Him speak to you through His Word and the Holy Spirit. Then you can be confident that He will show you when you are in—and out—of His will.
Set goals in the context of the total person that God has made you to be.
There are many ways to approach goal setting. Some people look at the big picture, then break goals down into smaller chunks, and some like to take a looser approach. However, no matter how you set goals, it's important to consider the total how God made you in the process.
God created you (and every person on planet Earth) with several parts. Like a pie with separate pieces, each part is critical to who you are; and all of these parts must be considered when you set goals.
The five parts of a person include:
If you fail to give each part the proper attention and care as you reach toward your God-given purpose, you'll experience problems.
For example, because God created you as a spiritual being, He wants you to love Him with your whole heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22: 37-40). This means that your goals must agree with your spiritual convictions. If you set goals that go against what you know God asks of you, you will become fragmented emotionally and intellectually and you will lose your joy and enthusiasm.
Additionally, because God also created you to need connection with others, if you neglect the social aspect of your life and become "all work and no play” you will become out of balance and you'll most likely experience physical, emotional, social and spiritual troubles like a character I learned about when I was seven.
I learned about Mr. Bumble from A Pickle for a Nickle, one of my favorite story books. Mr. B. had full, pink cheeks, tiny eyes, a belly like St. Nick and a total Type-A ‘tude. Thankfully, he knew his purpose and was passionate about it, but he had a problem—his life was out of balance because he failed to set his goals in the context of the total person God made him to be.
Like you and I God made Mr. Bumble with a deep need to connect with others and God. He also had a body that needed care to run efficiently and a mind that needed to solve problems. But because Mr. Bumble was all work and no play, he was often cranky and irritable.
One day when "Type-A Bumble” came home after work and discovered that his neighbor boy had taught his parrot to ask over and over, "Want a pickle for a nickle?” it pushed Mr. Bumble over the edge. His red face filled an entire story book page as he ranted and raved. If Mr. Bumble hadn't neglected so many critical areas of his life, my guess is that he would have been a little less up tight—and he would have had more fun while he was fulfilling his purpose.
There's no doubt that God wants you to fulfill your purpose. In fact, it's your duty since He has given you gifts to do so. However, be mindful not to neglect any of the five areas that make up you who you are while you do His work.
Finally, remember that the world does not rest on your shoulders. You will make mistakes in setting goals. It's OK. Because God wants to see you do His will, He will teach you the way to go as you walk in faith (Psalm 32:8).