It’s time for a goal revolution.
January is the typical time we make goals. And that is goals with an “s,” because we make a lot of them all at once when the New Year rolls around. We think about a fitness goal in the gym. We plan a relational goal, a career goal, and a spiritual goal, among others. We have lots of hopes and dreams, so why wouldn’t we work at all of them right away?
A Call for a Goal Revolution
While January is the most common goal-making month, it’s not the most effective time to do it. If it were, we would all be a lot healthier and less frustrated. And, the gym would still be full of people of people in October.
Goals are everywhere in January – so much so they can make life overwhelming and paralyzing instead clarifying and compelling. Worse yet, when we lose traction on our goals early in the year, we often wait until next January to start all over again. Clearly, this goal-making system isn’t working for most of us. It’s time for a mindset shift.
Over the years, I’ve come to believe something a bit controversial. I am over New Year’s goals. Instead, I believe the autumn season is the perfect time to bring about significant life change. When those leaves start changing, that’s my cue – it’s time to do something different.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How is it possible that the holiday season is helpful for achieving something productive? Autumn is the time of Halloween candy, pumpkin-spiced lattes, long road trips or stressful flights to see family, and thrown-off routines. It’s a season of over-eating and over-extending, which makes it seem like the season is too full to do much in the way of life improvement.
The Benefit of Busyness
However, busyness is not always bad for goals. In fact, it often presents us with a big opportunity. An unexpected benefit of busyness is forced focus. You don’t have the time or bandwidth to set a bunch of goals. You can’t make seven different plans for each area of your life. Who has time for that in the middle of everything? The year’s about to end, so, let’s face it: you’re not going to run a marathon if you haven’t started training yet, and you’re not going to write that bestselling book if you haven’t begun chapter one by now. You can’t do anything and everything in the next few months. But, you can do something. You can focus on one thing. And maybe that something will be the most successful thing you do all year.
In his excellent book called The One Thing, Gary Keller says it this way, “Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.” In other words, don’t try to do everything. Pick one thing. And he gives advice for how to do that. He asks, “What’s the one thing you can do that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
What’s Your One Thing?
I think for most of us we have an idea of what that one thing might be. For me, I’ve known for a little while that I need to make a small but significant adjustment in my life. I need to wake up an hour earlier. Now, let me be clear: I have never been, nor will I likely ever be, a morning person. I’ve tried to become one before and made a bunch of goals with the hope I would magically wake up joyful and energized. There have been a lot of Januarys where I’ve made weekly gym routines, breakfast-making plans, and reading schedules aimed at making me a morning person. In the end, I always make it way too complicated and wind up not doing it at all.
However, I don’t need to become a morning person, and I don’t need five new routines in my life right now. But, it would significantly help if I could simply wake up an hour earlier so that I could catch my breath, spend a moment with God in quiet reflection, and have a cup of coffee before the kids wake up. So, this fall, I decided that twice a week, I will do just that, and then, whenever possible, I will go to bed at the same time as my wife, who tends to go to bed a little earlier than me. That’s it. And, it’s made a big difference. I’ve been in a better mood in the morning and wasted less time at night.
Sometimes we make life too complicated. Or, if you’re like me, you try to do everything all at once. Don’t buy into the New Year’s goal-making lie that says you need to tackle all aspects of your life at the same time in order to be successful. Often it’s one small but significant change that makes all the difference.
I think it’s time we set a new holiday tradition: working on one area of our life with precision and focus in order to finish the year strong. Autumn is a perfect time to focus on one thing. There’s less pressure to have a bunch of goals – no one’s asking! There are more opportunities to get outside – the weather’s better, and the air is nicer.
So, what’s your one thing this season? Now is a great to focus on it. You won’t have time to do everything this fall. But, you can do something right now. And, there’s a good chance it could be the most productive thing you do all year.
Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash