A friend once asked me how I was doing, and I answered by telling him I’d decided to live. His brows shot up and I hurried to clarify. What I meant was, I’d decided to really embrace life, to live on purpose, to grab hold of it with both hands and make the most of it. To be honest, some days I do better at that than others. I find it helps if I have something to reach for, something to look forward to.
For the last 35 years or so, my husband and I have made a point of setting goals in January for the coming year. We started the practice because of the post-holiday blues that can sometimes set in when all the hustle and bustle of Christmas is past. When so much energy goes into preparing for the holidays, the quiet days that follow can leave us (me) drifting aimlessly or crashing altogether. We wanted something that would energize us, give us a target to aim at, and create a little excitement and momentum in the drab winter months. We figured a date night that included a dinner out followed by a bit of brainstorming would net us a few plans for going forward into the new year.
That first year, we sat down and made a list of categories. It included things like financial goals, personal development, home improvements, ministry goals, vacation, and a few others like hobbies, that could conceivably fall into one of the categories already mentioned. It might sound dry, but it actually wasn’t. It got us talking and dreaming a bit as we jotted down our ideas. Once the list was made it got tucked away in a folder and we didn’t look at it again until the following year. We didn’t really need to. Most of the things we wrote down got fixed in our thinking just by talking them through. We were keen to get started and January came to feel like a fresh beginning.
Of course, we recognized right away that we would need to hold those plans loosely. After all, God is the one who is steering the boat. Proverbs 16:9 says that the heart of a man plans his way, but God directs his steps. Stuff happens and being flexible is a good thing. There was nothing hard and fast about those goals. There was no pressure and no guilt involved. Some years we were able to check off nearly everything on the list. Then again, there were some years when life took an unexpected turn, and a whole new set of goals got made on the fly. We still considered it a win even when we didn’t actually achieve much of anything that we’d originally planned on. Each new year, we’d pull that folder out and take a look at the road behind us before we started dreaming for the year ahead. It’s become an annual thing. The folder is getting full now and all those sheets of paper make an interesting record of the things we’ve done or thought to do from one year to the next.
This year, we’ve put off our planning date and may not get to it till the month is almost over. It seems like life may be taking one of those unexpected turns before we even get the year started. One or two unanswered questions could make a big difference in how the year unfolds so it’s probably worth while to wait a bit before we sit down to talk about goals.
Whatever 2020 might bring, we want to tackle it full on rather than as passive bystanders. You can’t steer a boat that isn’t moving. The specific goals we set aren’t really so important. What is important is that we live on purpose. No one knows for certain what a given year will hold but we know we’ll be able to handle the twists and turns that come our way because we trust the One who is at the rudder. It pays to remember that He loves us, and we belong to Him.