Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reaching Your Goals: Little by Little




"Do not be terrified by them for the LORD your God,
who is among you, is a great and awesome God.
The LORD your God will drive out those nations
little by little.
You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once
or the wild animals will multiply around you."
~ Deuteronomy 7:21-22


My older daughter, Maia, and I were taking an evening walk the other day. I had wanted to get out and run, but I was just. so. tired. I'd had a big day and gotten a lot accomplished, so my walk was a compromise on a lovely and mild summer evening.

"I really should be running," I said a little guiltily.
"I know," said Maia, "I was doing so well last week with getting up every day at 6:30, but I've been sleeping in all week!"
"Well," I said, "I'm walking now, but tomorrow morning I'll run. I know I'll have more energy after a good night's sleep. And you can get up at 6:30 tomorrow morning."

And we did.

I think we did because we talked more about what it means to set goals and achieve them with consistency. But I look at consistency a bit differently than some; I think I generally take a more gentle approach. 

Often, goal setting happens around the first of the year or the turn of the seasons (particularly the start of the school year), the beginning of a month, etc. and they often sound something like this:

I am going to run 2 miles every day!

or

I am going to plan my menu and prepare a bunch of things for lunch for our 
coming week every Sunday!

or

I'm going to work in my journal (written or visual/art) every day!

or even

I'm going to blog every day! ;)

These things for the most part, in my experience, only really work in the short term. They may work for a week or a month, a season, or even a year, to which the numerous "year in the life" books (that I shamelessly love to read) can attest. But as any teacher can tell you, a plan that looks great on paper does not always work as well in real life. We are not programmable; we are organic, human beings affected by so many things: our diet, our hormones, the weather, the seasons, the changing light, our sleep, our relationships, our jobs, our finances and the list goes on.

There are many reasons, therefore, why we may never accomplish a particular goal. And yet, plenty of people still do. Is it by sheer willpower alone? Do others have something we don't?

Well, I'm not about to try to write a scientific research paper here, but I can tell you one thing I feel is helpful for me when it comes to consistency and that is simply not quitting.

I have kept written journals since I was in my teens and I have a chest full of them to prove it. Do I write in my current journal every day? No, I do not. And I also don't do it because I feel I must. It's something I love doing, something I'm driven to do, something that helps me sort my thoughts and brings me peace and so I do it with regularity, usually, but not always, at least a few times a week.

Ideally, I would run every other day but, as I'm not training for a race, rather just running for my exercise and relaxation and all the other benefits that come from running, I run a different number of times every week.

I also maintain a practice of reading my Bible every morning, because it is both a priority of mine and at this stage in my life (without little ones), it is possible to do so. Plus, it has changed my life. That doesn't mean it doesn't take discipline. All goals we want to reach do. The main thing about these goals - any and all of them - is simply that we just don't quit. 

God has designed us to achieve lasting success when we rely on Him and accomplish things little by little. Patience is one of the very necessary fruits of the Spirit, because few things come to us immediately and often, if they do, we are not necessarily equipped to handle them. As the verse above says, "the wild animals will multiply around you."

In thinking of this verse metaphorically, what could those wild animals be? Well, I think when we have something before we should, things can often get a little crazy. Or, we may find that we cannot handle all of what is given to us and so areas of our lives are "let go," untended, and the wild animals are let in.

But when we take our time, prayerfully asking for God's wisdom and guidance and gradually developing new habits that lead to lifestyle changes, we meet with greater, lasting success. If we understand that we are in something for the long haul, we are less apt to throw in the towel too soon. Hopefully a good analogy of this is parenting. Most of us don't give up when we have a bad day with our kids and say, "I'm never parenting again!" Likewise, just because I missed my running day, doesn't mean it's all over for me. It just means I'll try again tomorrow.

If you've tried to quit smoking and you had a cigarette today, don't give up. Just don't have another one. Recommit to your goal.

If you've tried getting up early so that you can have more time to yourself to have quiet time with God or to exercise or plan your day and you overslept today, try again tomorrow.

If you're trying to clean up some foul language habits and you let one slip today when you stubbed your toe, don't berate yourself and go back to your old ways. Just start again. Right now, start again.

The Bible tells us that the LORD's mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). Yes, we must be disciplined and not lazy, but we must also be patient with ourselves in our striving.

I have a new goal that I want to work on starting tomorrow and I want to share it with you! I'll tell you a little bit about it so you can think a bit if you want to join in with me and how you might like to participate. 

I am going to begin a "40 Days of Fitness Challenge." I have one particular goal in mind that I will share with you tomorrow, but if there's something you have been wanting to work on and would like some support, perhaps you'd like to join me.

I'll be posting here weekly just for fun and as a way to be accountable. And if you aren't ready to start tomorrow, no sweat. You can pick any 40 Days and join in mine at any time.

So. We'll practice toward our goal with regularity, but not severity. We'll see how we do at the end of 40 days. Maybe we'll see that we need to do more. Or maybe what we're doing will bring some pleasing, noticeable results. It's just an experiment; we're trying it on for size. So stop by tomorrow for the details if you like. You can join me or maybe just cheer my on toward my goal, little by little. :)
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