Soul Sculpting Project: To Reach a Goal
Week 1: Pray, Dream, Draw
I’ve made New Year’s resolutions that have lasted for less than two weeks. I have made one resolution many years in a row. I keep resolving and keep failing. What is my problem?
Well, first the problem of keeping resolutions is not unique to me.
- 2-15 weeks is a typical length for our resolutions to stay resolved.
- 10 times is a common number for us to make the same New Year’s resolution.
- 90-92% of us will fail to keep this year’s resolution.
These are not hopeful statistics and I am guessing you may be one of the 90% with me.
So in this Sculpting Project I invite you to join me in seeking to become part of the 10%.
What can we do about resolution failure?
Choice #1 Give-up making resolutions to improve.
For me as a follower of Christ this is not an option.
I could stop using the word ‘resolutions’, but my call as a Christian is to increase in faith, virtues, knowledge, self-control, love… . 2 Peter: 1:5-7
I am called to lay aside the sin that weighs me down and run with perseverance the race set before me. Heb. 12:1
Jesus tells me to be perfect/mature, as my Heavenly Father is. Matthew 5:48
How do I plan to heed this call?
I join with Christians throughout history who have made resolutions to follow Jesus.
Johnathan Edwards is a poster child for resolutions. This brilliant and deeply devout Puritan left us a record of his first 70 resolutions from his late teen years.
Here is the preface and some samples.
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.
Remember to read over these resolutions once a week.
- #52 I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: resolved, that I will live just so as I think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to an old age. (July, 8:1773)
- #36 Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, except I have some particular good call for it.(Dec. 19, 1772)
- #14 Resolved never to do anything out of revenge.
- #28 Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may plainly perceive myself to grow in knowledge of the same.
- #15 Resolved, never to allow the least motions of anger to irrational beings. (Made after being slowed down by a stalled horse in Manhattan traffic.)
- #37 Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. (December 26, 1772)
In reading Edward’s list some of us will have warning lights going off.
As an adult looking back on these original resolutions, Edwards himself felt that he had “too great a dependence on his own strength”.
There is a delicate balance here between our resolutions/goals and God’s grace/unconditional love. In our call to run the race with perseverance, we also know that we are worthy, not because of what we do, but because God is deeply in love with us.
In spite of the possible dangers of resolutions I still think the alternative is more dangerous. “Aim at nothing and we are sure to hit it” is actually supported by goal research. Studies also show us that when we correctly create resolutions they can make a remarkable difference in our lives.
So my intention is to move forward in making resolutions and to succeed this year at my longest standing resolution. Here is my plan.
Choice #2 Get smarter about resolutions/goals.
How to succeed at our resolutions and goals is a topic of many psychological studies. Findings from this research can tip the balance in our favor for success.
I invite you to join me in creating and pursuing an excellent resolution/ goal.
Here we go.
Sculpting Project: Create an Excellent Goal
Step 1: Pray and Dream.
Guiding Psychology Tips:
- High goals are more effective than low goals. If it is a performance goal set it high.
- Your goal can be Realistic or Unrealistic.
Unrealistic goals can be broken down into bite size chunks. Many of the world’s notable achievers are those who set unrealistic goals.
Pray: “I invite you, God, to lead me into a ____________ goal.”
Select the most powerful/ meaningful/ inspiring word you can think of to fill in the blank. Try several words until one feels right. Incredible, life-changing, remarkable, . . . .
Dream and listen to God. This may take a short amount of time or it may take days.
At some point move to the next step.
Step 2: Create a Goal
Guiding Psychology Tips: As you create a goal ask these questions.
1. How can I make this goal approach oriented? _______________________________________
- We are more likely to succeed when our goals are Approach rather than Avoidance.Example: Approach: eat healthy. Avoidance: don’t eat junk food.
2. Whose goal is this? My goal, or simply a goal someone else has for me. __________________
How does this goal relate to my deep values? ___________________________________________
- Your own goals will create more satisfaction when accomplished.
3. How will I know I have reached this goal? How is this goal measurable? _____________________ __________________________________________________________________________________ Some is not a number, soon is not a time.
Step 3: Write It and Draw it
Guiding Psychology Tip: There is no doubt among goal setting experts that written goals are more successful than unwritten goals.
- Resolved: My Goal ________________________________________________________________
- Draw a picture of your goal. Fine art or stick figure works.
Drawing gives your brain one more tool to work with. I have kept my simple drawing nearby and have noted its helpfulness.
So what is my longest standing resolution that I am taking on this year? I’m not telling.
Here is one more surprising tip from psychology studies.
Don’t tell your goal to anyone –unless they will be a support team holding your accountable to keep pursuing your goal.
This finding surprised me. Here is the logic behind it. When we tell others about our goal we receive the neurotransmitter dopamine in the reward center of our brain and feel as if we had already achieved our goal and therefore don’t need to work at it any more.
So we can be choosy about who we tell our goals to. If the person will help us keep working, then tell them. Their social support/pressure will help us. If the person will not hold us accountable, keep quiet.
In the next Sculpting Project we will gather more tools from goal setting theorists and take the next step in Reaching our Goal.
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake. Remember to read over these resolutions once a week. Johnathan Edwards 1703-1758