Category Archives: Goals

Why I Failed To Meet The 31-Day 500-Word Challenge

Last month I joined with a group of over 1,500 people who sought to meet a challenge, issued by author and entrepreneur, Jeff Goins, to write at least 500 words each of the 31 days of January. The first 22 days were a success, and then the 23rd of January arrived, and I didn’t write again for the rest of the month.

I was upset with myself and actually cried about not completing the challenge, which is an unusual response for me. My pride was wounded as I thought about not wanting to be labeled as a quitter or as someone who didn’t finish something she started. I thought about the excuses that I could give for why I didn’t finish and then I thought about ignoring it altogether and not even drawing attention to the fact that I had failed to meet the challenge. But, over the last two weeks I have come face to face with the real reason why I failed and realized that if I don’t share it, that I will not just be failing myself but I will be failing you as well.

In the Old Testament of the Bible we are introduced to Samson, who rules as a judge over Israel for over twenty years. We are told, even before he is conceived, that Samson will be used by God, that his life is committed unto God. Judges 13:24-25 tell us that Samson is blessed by God and that the Spirit of the Lord is moving on his life. Throughout his early adulthood years, we are shown several instances where the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson. It becomes clear, at least to us as the reader, that Samson’s strength comes from the Lord, that it is a gift from God to him. It is not until Samson tells Delilah his secret about his hair never having been cut, and she deceives him and has his hair cut and hands him over to the Philistines, that he too learns that his strength was really from the Lord and was not his own.

In not completing the 31-day writing challenge, I was brought face to face with my own strength and its source, just as Samson was. I’m in no way claiming that I have been blessed by God in the way that Samson was, but I have realized that when I tried to write through my own strength, through my own power, that I failed miserably.

During the writing challenge I started by committing each writing session to God and really seeking His direction and guidance as to what to write about. Then, somewhere in the process I started to try and write through my own strength based on my own thoughts, ideas, and observations, and on January 23rd I fell flat on my face. It took about a week for me to even be able to recognize that this was the real reason for my failure. I moved from a place of depending on God for strength and for the words to write, to depending on my own strength and writing based on what I felt like I wanted to write, and that is how I failed. I allowed pride and arrogance to drive me and failed to acknowledge God as my source.

I imagine (and hope) that I’m not the only one who has ever been the cause of her failure; how have you done so in your life?

Setting Goals For God

Haggai 2:19 says that we can count on a blessing from God even before a seed has been sown. This means the blessing is unconditional and not contingent upon any action or behavior from us. This means the blessing is not transactional. This means the blessing is free.

Doesn’t this just make you sigh with great relief and cause a feeling of lightness, like a great weight is being lifted from you?

Sadly, because many cultures, including our own business cultures, are centered on the “you must give in order to receive” mentality, we have automatically conditioned ourselves into believing that our relationships, including our relationship with God must also be one that is transaction based; that effort is required from us in order for a blessing from God to be given to us.

But again, let’s look at Haggai. He speaks to the Hebrews after they have returned to their homeland following the Babylonian exile and explicitly tells them, “Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yet yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.”

The Hebrews had grown weary, unfocused, tired, lacking in direction, and forgetful of the vision that God had given them before the exile. God wanted to reassure them, through Haggai, that despite these things they could still count on God to bless them, to be there for them, to provide for them with the resources they needed to be revived and restored.

The same is true for us today. In every aspect of our lives, whether it’s physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, emotionally, relationally, or vocationally, we can count on God to bless us.

In his New Year’s Eve message, Steven Furtick, Lead Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, counted down to the New Year by declaring 52 things that he is counting on God to do in his life and in the lives of his church’s attendees in 2014. Some of the things that he listed were: to protect us, to direct us, to change us, to amaze us, to provide for us, to embolden us, to heal us, to pursue us, to forgive us, and to be with us.

Since I’m not one for resolutions, but I do set goals for myself, I started thinking about why not do something similar to what Pastor Steven is doing and set goals for God; things that I want to be able to count on God for this year.

So, I started a list of my goals for God. Some of them relate to my career aspirations, some of them to my husband and our marriage, some of them to my general well-being, and some of them to my calling in life.

So, how about you? If you believed what God told Haggai to tell the Hebrews, and you knew you could count on a blessing from God, what goal would you set for Him?

Letting God In On Your Goals

I’ve never really been one to make New Year’s resolutions. I guess it always felt phony, like I was trying to reform, conform, or transform myself; attempting to make myself someone new, someone different, someone who I naturally wasn’t. I also didn’t want to be labeled as part of the crowd who gives up on their resolutions within two weeks, since statistics show that is what happens to most people.

I have, however, always been a goal-oriented person, or maybe just a downright stubborn person. When I’ve set my mind on something, I’ve always gotten it done, made it happen. But, I’ve struggled with this because while I like the feeling of achieving my goals, I don’t want to be so ambitious, so driven, so focused, so type-A, that I put blinders on and close myself off from what God has for me.

Desiring to remain a goal-oriented person, but also be inside of God’s will in my goals and endeavors, last year (2013) I decided to try something new for the goals that I set for myself. I wrote down my goals, as have done for the past several years, using the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) format that many highly successful people attribute their success to, and recommend as the way that leads to the highest percentage of achievement. But, in setting my goals, I did something different that ended up bringing me more peace of mind and satisfaction than in years past; I set two goals for each goal, an attainable goal and a stretch goal. For example, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to lose it in time for my 20th high school reunion. So, I set one number that I knew I would be excited to reach and that was definitely possible, and I set a second number that I knew I would be on cloud nine if I could reach, but wouldn’t be discouraged if I didn’t reach it. An additional example is that 2013 was the year of completing my doctorate degree; there was no way I was going to let the year come to a close without having defended my dissertation. In January when I started writing my dissertation I didn’t know all that God had in store for me for the year, so I set two timeframe goals, one that would bring me absolute delight if I could reach it, but that would definitely be a stretch, and one that was more easily attainable but would still have me reach my overall goal of completing my Ph.D. in 2013.

While I did not reach the stretch goal in either one, I did reach the attainable goal in both. I was victorious and could acknowledge and celebrate my successes in both goals, knowing that I had committed my goals to the Lord and released my hold on the reins, so that He could guide me through my goals from start to finish. The experiences allowed me to know that God cared about me and that He could be trusted to bring the desires of my heart to pass.