Find out everything you need to know about Christian goal setting for the New Year—from praying to prioritizing your yearly goals.
If you’re anything like me, you love the fresh start of a New Year and all the possibilities it holds. And as every year of my life passes, I find myself drawn more and more to goal setting and self discipline.
The relentless forward motion of time and human aging remind me that I only have so long to call this Earth my home.
So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.Psalm 90:12
Temporality is the undercurrent of human existence that prompts us to take inventory of our daily actions, plans and goals. And the older I become, the more often I seem to audit my life, discerning whether or not my actions and attitudes are producing spiritual fruit or simply making a mess of things Earth-side.
That’s why setting aside time for regular reflection is so important. Not only does it help us with Christian goal setting, but it reminds us of why goals are important in the first place.
Why is Reflection Important for Christian Goal Setting?
Reflection gives us a glimpse of our past history so that we can make goals for our future. Giving serious thought to the past year helps to set our upcoming direction, motivation and overall purpose.
Year-end reflection is a great way to assess past goals, as well as learn from mistakes and change our course so that we strengthen any weaknesses. It encourages us to live more intentionally and add more meaning to life. Reflecting on the past also helps us to analyze if our lives are living up to our greater purpose.
Related: The Importance of Reflection
Frequent reflection (monthly or quarterly) fosters gratefulness, as we are less likely to take things for granted and more likely to recognize our blessings. For many, it compels us to shift from being reactive to being proactive in life as it sets the next course of action.
Just as importantly, regular reflection allows us to accurately track our progress of where we are in achieving bigger goals.
After reflecting on your past, you’re ready to begin Christian goal setting for the New Year. Here are 6 detailed tips for setting your goals:
Pray First and Seek the Word
You may think that the first step setting New Year goals involves a pen and paper. But for the Christian woman, that isn’t the case. First, you find a quiet time to pray and immerse yourself in God’s word to ensure you’re seeking His will and not your own.
Line up goals with spiritual convictions
As easy as it is just to jump into the New Year with a list of your own plans, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best to pray first and be in the Word before setting goals for the year. At times, my goals didn’t line up with my spiritual convictions, which meant God prompted me to change my goals mid-year. Very humbling.
Start praying early
I like to start specifically praying and pondering about goals at least a month before the New Year, so that I don’t feel rushed when the New Year begins. Admittedly, I’m an ideas girl, so praying helps bring to light all these “good on the surface” ideas that I have in my head so that God can refine them over time. My prayer is for God to align my desires with His plan for my life.
Trust in the Lord with all your heartProverbs 3:5-6
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
My own understanding has taken me down several wrong paths in life, and I can admit that most of the time this occurred when I was not in close communion with God through prayer or studying His word.
Brainstorm and edit ideas
Jot down ideas for your goals on your phone notepad, scribble on a notebook or type in your Google Drive (like me!). Then, review your list, pray about your goals and start editing them as God leads you.
Create Goal Buckets
Next, it’s important to create goal buckets or categories. When I create my goals, I vary them in different areas or buckets of my life. If I put too many goals in one bucket, then I tend to get overwhelmed because my focus is tipped too heavily in one direction.
As notable as it sounds to only focus on personal spiritual goals, if I am to have any fruit in my life, it will be evident across my all my goal buckets—not only in my Spiritual bucket.
‘Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.’John 15:5 NLT
Though all my New Year’s goals buckets aren’t obviously Christian, I truly believe that my faith affects every single bucket—from my attitude to personal discipline to serving others to creating a lifegiving home.
Examples of goal buckets
- SPIRITUAL (ex: reading the Bible, Bible studies, praying, memorizing scripture, spiritual disciplines)
- FAMILY (ex: husband, kids, grandkids)
- PHYSICAL (ex: health, exercise, diet, activity)
- MINISTRY (ex: volunteering, community, church, writing, mentoring)
- HOME (ex: projects, finances, hospitality, gardening, homesteading)
Some goal setters may include a bucket for work, but for me, my ministry is my work at this point.
Record, Share and Review Goals Regularly
After you have prayed about your goals, searched the Word for guidance and narrowed down your goal categories, it’s time to edit your brainstorm list of goals.
Know your why
Be sure to pinpoint why you are choosing or setting each goal. Why is it important to you? Why is it important to God? How will this improve your life or the lives of those around you? How will this improve your personal growth?
Remembering why you chose your goals will help you follow through with them in busy times and hard seasons. Your why is a reminder of your purpose and an ongoing means of motivation throughout the year.
Set a visual reminder of goals
As much as we women enjoy keeping all of our lists like rotary file cards in our heads (kid schedules, to-dos, groceries, etc.), it’s important to record your goals and position them in a visible location. Maybe that’s your phone or computer screen saver, your prayer journal or above your home or work desk.
Not only will a visual reminder help keep your goals top of mind, but it will also be a trigger to review your goals.
Accountability also helps us in achieving our goals. Share with your spouse, a close friend, on your blog or even your social media handles. Your goals may inspire others to set their own goals.
Make a plan to review goals
How many of us have made a list of goals in the New Year only to realize that we haven’t even started some of them by Q2? Don’t worry—me too!
In the past, I’ve reviewed goals monthly with my husband to have some accountability. But I also think it’s a great idea to review personally at the end of each month and reflect on your goals before staring a new month. Create a habit of this by setting a reminder on your phone or wall calendar.
Set Realistic Goals
Many of us are ready for the New Year come January. We love the blank slate of possibilities and are motivated to follow through with our goals. But it’s also important to tame our excitement so that we aren’t overly ambitious and, instead, set realistic goals.
Save your idealism
As humans, we tend to be idealistic—at least, I know that’s how I am. I set goals for change, growth and the production of spiritual fruit to later realize that I’ve overscheduled, overcommitted and spread myself too thin.
In trying to improve my life and my usefulness to God and those around me, I’ve actually muddied the waters and filled up every free moment with a task or goal.
Leave space for margin
That’s why it’s important to leave space for margin each year. As a woman with a mission of hospitality, margin is crucial in fulfilling my calling.
As Rosaria Butterfield, author of one of my favorite books on biblical hospitality, writes, “Practicing radically ordinary hospitality necessitates building margin time into the day, time where regular routines can be disrupted but not destroyed. This margin stays open for the Lord to fill.”
Creating margin for others in our busy lives isn’t always easy. As a mom of four, I know first-hand how hectic our daily routine can be.
But the calling of biblical hospitality, which I have felt tug on my heartstrings over and over in my adult life, supersedes our personal inward-focused schedules.
Whatever calling God has placed on your heart, it’s important to leave enough margin in your life to be able to pivot and adapt to say yes to those daily, weekly and monthly calls.
Once you have a set of realistic prayed-over goals for the New Year, it’s important to prioritize those goals.
For those of us raising young kids, it may not make sense to focus on community volunteering in the afternoons if that conflicts with the time your kids are home from school.
Prioritize relationships the way God ordained
In the Bible, God makes it clear that our relationship with Him comes first, followed by that of our spouse and then our children. After those relationships, we can add in our church and community.
I’ll admit that prioritizing goals can be a delicate balancing act.
As someone who loves to serve and volunteer, I’ve learned that serving is most ideal for my family while my kids are in school or in a situation where they can serve alongside me. In this way, my serving detracts less from my role within my family.
Of course, plenty of times, I’ve prioritized my goals wrongly, but God has been patient with me—often using my husband to help guide me back on course.
Make Goals Measurable
Not all of us think in measurable terms such as businesspeople. If we lean toward the creative side, we often think in more abstract terms.
But when it comes to setting goals for the New Year, measurement is a key indicator of success. If we don’t record a form of measurement, how do we know that we accomplished a goal?
Last year, I set a goal to read the whole Bible chronologically in a year. It was easy to track my progress because I followed a daily reading plan that kept me on course to complete reading the Bible in 365 days.
Not every goal will have such a straightforward means of measurement. But it’s important to brainstorm how you will measure your goals.
Track your progress daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly
Do you want to volunteer monthly, have a family devotion weekly or read your Bible daily? Do you want to set aside one date night a month with your spouse or commit to exercising three times a week?
Oftentimes, simply writing a goal or to-do on your calendar is enough to set aside time in your schedule to complete that goal.
And to take it a step further, color coding your calendar or your journal can make it easier to schedule and review the progress of your goals.
There are also tons of tracking apps for your smart phone or tablet that allow you to input specific goals and track them.
Create habits or action steps
For many of us who long to set new goals, success is dependent on creating habits, which become automatic over time. And while you’re at it, use these new beneficial habits to replace old unproductive habits.
- If you can never find enough time to read your Bible or exercise, make a habit of getting up at least 30 minutes earlier than normal.
- If you spend 30 minutes scrolling through your phone at night, instead, try committing to read a Bible study during that time.
- If you want to spend more time with your spouse, plan ahead and book a babysitter for your kids or make a dinner reservation early so that you preserve that special time.
- If you want to spend more time with your family, replace your nightly TV time with family game time a few nights a week.
- If you want to save money, meal plan for the week so that you eat out less.
Start Setting Your Goals
Now that you have tips for Christian goal setting for the New Year, it’s time to take the first step!
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