Goal Setting for the Unstructured and Selectively Motivated

I know it’s January and most people are starting in on their New Year’s resolutions, but resolutions never were quite my thing. I used to feel guilty about that, especially after watching the millionth commercial for a Peloton or food that arrives in the shape of a box and promises fast weight loss. Some may label it procrastination, I call it selective motivation.

It’s not that I’m not ambitious. And, just because you or I might be more on the unstructured side doesn’t mean that we are a failure if we don’t have every meal planned out for the next two weeks or a list of S.M.A.R.T. goals with set deadlines. God wires each of us differently. For those of us who are a little more spontaneous and unstructured, the rigidness of many resolutions and goal setting activities just doesn’t work for us. If you are a free-range, mostly unstructured, go with the flow, in the moment kind of gal, then goal setting and vision casting can feel more like a straitjacket than a pair of Lululemon ABC pants and a comfy fleece.

Somewhere along the line I gave myself permission to just be me and do me, and Me isn’t a resolution gal; but just because I don’t do resolutions after the fireworks and ball drop, doesn’t mean that I don’t think intentionally about who I am or what I want to accomplish. FYI—less than 10% of people actually follow through on their New Year’s resolutions.

So how do free-form thinkers like us achieve or accomplish the things we seek in life? While I love my friends whose day planners are filled with perfectly plotted and color-coded tasks, meetings, grocery lists, and more, this big picture girl found her own stride. So here are my go-to’s:

Give yourself permission—maybe you are like me, and you are tired of feeling guilty because you have set and set aside resolution after resolution, only to feel guilty and not enough year after year. Well, girlfriend, toss that lie in the trash, and instead give yourself permission to be who you are and how God designed you. This is the first step of accepting that your operating system just works differently than others, and that my friend is okay! (Psalm 139:14 I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful and I know that full well.)

Determine your life rhythm—as an educator January 1 is halfway through my year, not the beginning of it. So, for me, I prefer to think about year to year achievements in August; that is how my life rhythm works, and it works for me. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. . . .)

Get creative with how you set goals—when my head is too cluttered with the things I want or think I want to accomplish, I clean it out by doing a brain dump. I write everything I want to achieve, accomplish, complete, start, etc. down on a piece of paper. Adapting the KonMari Method™ to my cluttered thought life, I test each item against whether it brings me joy. If it doesn’t, I toss it out or delegate it. I’ve also tried using pictures: A few months ago, three friends and I made vision boards. Mine seems to be filled more with words that deeply resonated with me than pictures of what I hope attain in life, so I’m not sure that is the method for me, but it did help me to learn something about myself. I’m also a huge fan of colored post-it-notes. It’s fun to write each goal on its own colored note and post on my wall.

As a visual person I find that color coding my dreams, posting them on my wall, and arranging/re-arranging them is not only deeply satisfying, it keeps me focused. This month I decided to mind map—drawing out my goals more like a road map than a list. I’ll let you know how that works out. (Proverbs 29:18 Without a vision, the people perish. | Habakkuk 2:2,3 Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that whoever reads it may run with it.)

So, while I applaud Rachel Hollis and Michael Hyatt for their totally structured and planned systems to success, their way fits me like a pair of too tight jeans: it squeezes the joy out of me. Find what works for you and brings you joy in the process. There isn’t one right way to setting or achieving goals. However you set your goals or cast your vision—do what fits you and leave room for God to finesse them. In the end “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose which prevails” (Proverbs 19:21); and “In their hearts a man (or woman) plans his/her course, but the Lord establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9).

So, plan however you plan. Dream however you dream. Be you. And find your happy.

--Jennifer Fonseca

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