Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Setting Goals

Someone said, “If you shoot at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”  Isn’t that true?  If you don't have any goals, you're not going to achieve anything worthwhile.

The first time this lesson really hit home to me was when I was pastor of a church in North Carolina.  Our average Sunday morning attendance was 180.  I announced to the church that we’re going to have a Friend Day and set a goal to have 400 in attendance on that day.  There were several in the church who did not believe we could reach that goal.  Every time a person said to me “We can’t do it” I responded with, “That may be true but will you help us try?”  I always received an affirmative answer.  On Friend Day we had nearly 500 in attendance and the excitement level in the church was astounding.

I believe in goal setting.  The practice of setting and working towards goals helps us to achieve more.  I have not always seen my goals fulfilled, however.  For example, at the church I pastor now, we set a goal of 800 in church on an Easter Sunday some years back.  Our average attendance at that time was 450.  "Only" 713 showed up, which still made it one of the biggest Sunday’s in our church’s history.  Had we not set the goal, however, we would not have come close to seeing that many people in church.  As a result, we added families to the membership of our church.

Several years ago, my wife and I set a goal to be debt free within two years (with the exception of our mortgage).  I told a number of people what we were trying to achieve.  I found that once I had made it known, I held myself more accountable.  I did not want to fail.  18 months later we reached our goal.  Had we not set the goal, we would probably still be in debt today.  Now that I am debt free, I have more options with the money that I have.

I am convinced that our goals, whether we reach them or not, help us achieve more.  So I will continue to set goals even at the risk of failing.

Tips for setting SMART goals.

SPECIFIC: The goal must clearly state what is to be achieved and when it is to be achieved.

MEASURABLE: This applies to both the end result and markers along the way to attaining a goal. It answers the questions of how much, how often, how many?  When my wife and I set the goal to be debt free, our first marker was to put $1,000.00 in an emergency fund.  Each paid off loan (car, credit cards, school, etc) served as a marker that we were on the right track to attaining our goal.

ATTAINABLE: Make sure that the goals you set are achievable. If you set goals that even you believe are unattainable it is very unlikely you will achieve them.

RELEVANT: Your goals must be relevant to what you want to achieve in your life.  They must fulfill a purpose and passion in your life or you will not stick with them.  My wife and I wanted to become debt free because we knew that it would give us opportunities to give more to what was important to us.

TIME-BASED: Setting a time by which you want to have achieved your goal is highly motivational.  As we got closer and closer to being debt free, we would get more excited and became more intense in our desire to achieve that goal.

Sign up for my weekly leadership newsletter here.