A Woman’s Guide To Reaching Goals
A young mother once called me and told me in detail just how miserable her life was. Her husband constantly criticized her. Her young children would not mind. Life was boring. There was never enough money.
Betty wanted sympathy. But I didn’t give her sympathy not because I didn’t feel sorry for her, but rather because I really wanted to help.
“Betty,” I asked, “have you set any goals for your life?”
“Goals?” she asked. “Why, of course. I wish we could move out of this apartment into a house with a yard. I would like to have some new clothes. But more than anything else, I want my family to be happy.”
“And how do you expect to reach these goals?” I asked.
“Why, I don’t know,” she replied vaguely. “Those are just . . . ‘dreams.'”
How many times had I heard other women express their desires in much the same way! They thought they knew just exactly what they wanted, but they did not know how to get it. Instead of goals, they had only dreams.
The Book of Proverbs has some helpful advice for such people:
I would have you learn this great fact: that a life of doing right is the wisest life there is. If you live that kind of life, you’ll not limp or stumble as you run. Carry out my instructions; don’t forget them, for they will lead you to real living. Proverbs 4:11-13
If you would have your dreams come true, you must first figure out exactly what a life of doing right is for you. In other words, you must set goals.
A goal is a target for your behavior. To reach that goal you must make your behavior consistent with it.
You don’t have to change everything all at once. It’s a matter of setting a goal, then asking for God’s help in achieving it.
The only way in which anyone can change his attitudes or his behavior is to work on them, one area at a time.
For example, since Betty wants a new house, she can set a goal of making money for a down payment. She can then start aiming her behavior at that goal by doing part-time work. Perhaps she longs for her clothes. If so, she can set a goal of learning how to sew. The wish for a happy family might be met by setting a goal of reading inspirational books, or of obtaining family counseling.
There is little to be gained trying to achieve goals by wishing something would happen. That’s only dreaming. Ten little words can help you set the right kind of goals:
“If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Everything we do from day to day is either aimed at our goals, or it is not. Many miserable people try doing what feels good at the time, instead of disciplining themselves to work on their behavior. “Feelings” are not reliable. You don’t always feel like doing everything that is essential for your happiness and success. You may not “feel” in love with your husband when you are annoyed with him, but you may have to discipline yourself to be understanding and loving, if your goal is a closer relationship.
You may not feel overjoyed when you answer the phone and learn that a friend has a problem and wants to take up precious moments of your time. But if your goal is to serve God by serving others, you will take the time to listen with interest.
If we make a commitment of the will and of the heart to work toward a certain goal, then duty and discipline will carry us through to success.
A word of warning, however: Sometimes dedicated people fail to change their behavior because they have overlooked two important points in the setting of goals:
1. Goals must be realistic.
2. Goals must be clearly defined. Goals that are too vague are seldom reached.
Realistic Goals. If you set a goal that will be impossible for you to reach, you will automatically fail. Such a failure makes you feel worse about yourself than if you had never tried. I once asked a group of high school seniors what goals they had set for their lives, and their answers were very revealing.
“I plan to be a lawyer,” said the first.
“I’m going to become a master photographer,” the second replied.
The third student shrugged. “I just want to pass my exams for now,” he admitted realistically. His goal was limited, but for him it was the best goal he could possibly set. He was a borderline student. He decided to set a goal of passing his exams, because he knew he could easily adapt himself to meet the requirements by studying hard. For him to set a goal of trying to be a doctor would have been unrealistic. He did not have the grades in past work that would get him accepted in a college pre-med course. Such a long-range and ambitious goal would only have frustrated him and destroyed his motivation for trying to pass the senior exams. He would have failed, ending up with a poor attitude about himself.
Clearly defined goals. Betty said she wanted a happy family, but she didn’t know how she could change her behavior to make herself and her family happier. Her goal was too vague. A more specific goal for Betty might have been to learn to control her tongue, instead of nagging at her family in order that they might be happier.
Many women have idealistic goals of wanting to help others, or to serve God in a new way. These are wonderful desires; however, they need to be specific in order to be considered goals.
One way might be to start a Bible study in the home. Another might be to do part-time work and earn extra money for a worthwhile cause, or to donate time and services wherever needed. I like the advice written in the margin of an elderly missionary woman’s Bible:
You ask me what is the will of God
And I will answer true.
It is the nearest thing that should be done That God can do through you.
Many people have not been taught to set goals. Many live dull, humdrum existences. Because they have never been encouraged to have dreams, they feel life is meaningless. They have never learned the secret of turning their wishes into realistic and attainable goals by simply changing their attitudes and their behavior one step at a time.
Bill Gothard, well-known Christian educator and lecturer and founder of the Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts, says that there are seven areas of life in which it is important for us to set goals: intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, social, family and financial. As a career woman, I have added to this list the matter of business or career. This vital area affects or is affected by all the others.
Following is a chart that has proved helpful to many. I suggest that you take the time to fill it in and then refer to it frequently.
What you write on your chart will be entirely different from what I write on mine. Each of us has different problems, needs and desires, as well as varied tastes.
It is important, however, for you to consider each goal carefully. After doing so, write down your thoughts as to what your goals should be and what obstacles might prevent you from reaching each goal. Finally, write down the possible solutions to each obstacle. In the “Time Frame” column, write down when you expect to begin working on each goal as well as a date when you want to attain it. Check your progress weekly and note your findings in the “Progress Report” column. Don’t forget to include in the “Possible Rewards” column the benefits you will receive from attaining each goal. To stimulate thinking about how to fill in your goal sheet, let’s look at each of the areas to be considered.
Intellectual goals. Perhaps you wish to begin reading some inspirational books or study information necessary for your job. If so, write it down under “Possible Goals.” The possible obstacles might be that you are a slow reader, or that you have vision problems. Perhaps you have little or no time for reading. As possible solutions, you might use cassettes instead of books. Perhaps you need new glasses. You could set aside some time each day for reading.
The possible rewards are that you may become a more interesting, fulfilled person, or one who is more knowledgeable on the job.
Emotional goals. You might want to heighten your appreciation of your loved ones, or of the beauty around you. A recovered alcoholic once told me that he had never been able to fully realize the loveliness of his wife, his home, his children even his yard. Each time he took a drink, his awareness of the beauty that should have stirred his emotions was dulled. Drugs, too, can dull awareness. But so can the fact that you are too busy to notice, or too tired, or too worried.
One of the greatest enemies of womankind is fatigue. It clouds our decisions and erodes our disposition. Everything looks different to us when we are rested and refreshed.
Worry is the biggest waste in the world. It accomplishes exactly nothing. Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its strength.
If either of these conditions is an obstacle for you, the solution might be to become more organized, or to use your time more efficiently. And if you find that resentments and irritations are taking the place of gratitude and appreciation in your life, you might find it helpful to start thanking God each day for the source of the irritation: your husband, your home, your children, the family automobile. The possible rewards are greater happiness for you and for others as you find your own attitudes changing to those of gratitude and appreciation.
Physical goals. Perhaps you would like to lose weight and the big obstacle is food, or having to cook for your family or having to eat out as you travel to work. There are many possible solutions: You might change the eating habits of your family, or go on an exercise program. I have to plan a period of 15 minutes of stretching and breathing exercises every day. It takes discipline!
Spiritual goals. Do you long to know God better? Do you want more time to spend with Him? If so, set a goal to intensify your relationship with God.
Possible obstacles may be that you are just too busy, or perhaps you are concerned that if you insist on having a prayer time every morning, your family will think you are a fanatic. Possible solutions include reading your Bible daily. Join a Bible study group or start one. Pray every morning and learn to replace doubt and frustration with faith and prayers.
What are the possible rewards of enhancing your spiritual life? You will be blessed. You’ll have a victorious life and be better able to function. You will be filled with more energy, and you’ll be calmer and more secure, even on the trying days. Social goals. All of us need friends, but friends don’t just happen. We have to cultivate relationships. In doing this, you might decide that
you are going to be more sensitive to the needs of the other people you know. More specifically, you might find that you want to express your gratitude to the people who regularly perform essential services for you services that are normally taken for granted.
The obstacles to your social goals may be many. Maybe you are just too busy to take time to think of others. Possibly you just do not see people like waitresses and busboys as individuals with real concerns and needs. Perhaps your mind is on other things, or you are too shy to reach out to others.
One solution might be to begin by doing simple, thoughtful things such as writing little notes to people who don’t get much mail. The rewards? You will have more friends and you’ll have the satisfaction of bringing joy to others.
Family goals. We all want to have a close, happy family. Perhaps your goal in this area is to learn to have more patience with others. You might also improve the quality of your time together by having family devotions.
One possible obstacle might be that you find it hard to get the whole family together at one time, because everyone is busy and on a different schedule. Perhaps there is not enough time. Possible solutions could be to watch less television to utilize your time better. You might make a trip to the supermarket do double duty by taking one of your children with you and giving that child your undivided attention for a time. And on the rare moments when you are alone with your husband, pay attention to him and let him know that he is loved and appreciated. The rewards will be greater happiness for your entire family.
Financial goals. You may want to have a better house-to be free of debt-to contribute to the Lord’s work. One possible obstacle to these goals might be recklessness with charge accounts. If you are unable to use credit wisely and with restraint, a good solution might be to destroy the cards and start paying cash. You will be rewarded with peace of mind, as you find yourself getting free of debt. Remember that the most uncomfortable place to live is just beyond your income!
Business goals. If all your goals are worthwhile and are being met satisfactorily, you are likely to find that you are achieving your goals in business, providing they are worthy, specific, timely and realistic.
Wisdom is the main pursuit of sensible men, but a fool’s goals are at the end of the earth!
Wisdom is a necessary factor in the selection of prudent goals, and God has promised to give it to those who ask. What a wonderful thing to know that we can have wisdom from above, just for the asking.
As we seek the wisdom of God when we set specific and attainable goals, as we gradually conform ourselves to God’s pattern for our lives and start chipping away at the barriers that stand between ourselves and what we desire to achieve with God’s help, we are amazed to find that our lives have begun to change in dramatic ways. We become more productive, more successful, happier. It seems that we can see miracles being wrought right before our eyes.
But God is in the miracle business, and we are co-laborers with Him. As we seek to apply His heavenly principles to our lives, we cannot help but be successful!
The above article, “A Woman’s Guide to Reaching Goals,” is written by Mary Crowley. The article was excerpted from the Focus on the Family article, 1991.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.