How I Got Faith-Based Goal Planning Wrong
Friend. You were designed to flourish. God intended it this way and He’s the one who created the means by which it is to happen. He laid down the path to follow at the beginning of time and calls us to walk in it.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
But as you know, walking the flourishing path isn’t something that comes by default. Nor does it necessarily look like all of our current dreams and desires coming true. Walking the path God has for us also don’t come from tirelessly striving as we try to plan every step of the way nor does it come from sitting back and saying “Jesus, take the wheel”.
If you’re like me, you give in to the temptation of both extremes. One day trying to figure out God’s plan for my life, and the next wanting to be free from all expectations and pressure to perform. This yo-yo way of goal planning has been my life, and I’m ready to walk in the way God has for me.
I’ve come to learn to be focused on my goals, or rejecting them all together, isn't where my focus should begin. I’ve lived a life more interested in the output of flourishing than being interested in God alone. The summary of the life God created for us is best said in words of John Piper in his book Desiring God, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
We so easily make the desire for flourishing and success our greatest desire instead of the greatest desire being the one God designed in us, Himself. If God designed us to glorify Him and when we are glorifying him we are most satisfied, then our primary goal in life is already handed to us, directly from the one who created it.
And this whole concept can be taken one step further, God has not only created us with this ultimate goal, but he’s placed us right were we are, in this exact place in time, as part of his overall plan for humanity. So not only does he have a purpose and plan for your life, he has a goal and plan for all of humanity.
Our God is one who has goals and plans and he accomplishes every single one of them. This desire in us for goal planning is in us because we are created in His likeness. However, as I tell myself almost every day, He is God, and I am not. While I desire to come up with grand plans for my life, I’m not the great creator and sustainer. I may desire to run the show, but I’m merely called to walk in faithful obedience to what God has already in the works.
As an avid goal planner, this is the place God led me over the past year as I fell short of all my ambitious goal planning. I’ve spent hundreds of hours planning out my life and not once considered how glorifying God and walking in the plan he has already laid out for me was to be my primary goal. Of course, I put my faith at the top of the list, but it didn’t look like being ultimately satisfied in God.
Every goal planner I purchased or content I consumed only framed my mind to plan for my best life now and what I can accomplish to make all areas of my life great. I boiled everything down to and what I needed to do to have the life I wanted. For example, maybe the goal was to grow my faith, so it looks like reading my bible every morning, or for my marriage, maybe it's planning intentional date nights to grow our relationship deeper. You get the point.
Now I don’t want to lose you just yet, as I’m not saying having goals for a better marriage or growing in your spiritual disciplines aren’t worthy goals to have. Nor does have specific action steps to improve in these areas a bad thing. No, I don’t think this is where we go wrong. Before I share where I’m headed with this, I’d like to share how I goal planned the last few years.
I was the girl with the pretty planner, script handwriting and all the best stickers and washi. I still have quite an epic collection. I would pray for vision and direction, and once my words were down, I’d set my plans before Jesus, thanking him for the vision he’s given me for my life and then try my best to get things done.
I produced some good things, even great things in the process. I saw God show up and grow my faith in crazy ways. Leading me into more faithfulness as he meets me in the goal planning process over and over again. However, the burden to keep up with my goal planning became one that was too great for me to carry, so I set it aside this past year and swung to the other side.
I gave it a title, “Unplanning.” Breaking free from the chains I had created. I put zero time and attention into goal planning each month. So instead as I finish something worthwhile, I'd write something down and check it off. Looking at what I accomplished at the end of each month gave me the satisfaction of completing goals, without the pressure and expectation of words on a page that I needed to live up to.
While I no longer struggled with my life being about checking off a box each day, I ended up boiling my days down into a list of outputs I could be proud of that resulted from no particular plan I had in place. I enjoyed this place of freedom over the legalism, yet as I sit here today, I’m left with wanting more and think there is a third way God calls us to walk in.
So this is where I’m at today. I believe God desires us to have great vision, to dream big and run wild with our ideas. However, when we are the ones in charge of designing our goals we can end up missing the main thing altogether. I believe our primary goals are already spelled out in scripture. That we should be people, who are primarily concerned about being satisfied in God, what he has to say and living a life of obedience to His words in the Bible.
If you’re like me, you may think this takes out all the fun out of planning, and may even make it so you can’t have goals in the traditional sense. That’s the temptation we fall into when we’ve either been the ones driving the car of our life, or on the other side loving the freedom of having zero expectations on our life. We start to fight the idea of giving up the control on how we thing life should go. We begin to wrestle with the lie that God may not have our best interest in mind. That he may lead us to a place, we’re not interested in going because there are big goals and dreams we have on paper that we want to accomplish.
I can promise you this, living the life that we create by our might and will isn’t one worth living. You may have a bunch of nice things to be proud of, but I have a hunch you’re heart still longs for more. How I know this to be true is because it’s the way God created us. We are called to be satisfied in God as that glorifies him most, which means there is no alternative to ultimate satisfaction but finding it in God.
I believe God wants us to become fully invested in the means by which we accomplish His goals. To become passionate about what He’s passionate about and to walk out our faith with great joy and freedom. To have confidence in knowing He has a good and perfect plan already laid out that He’s designed each one of us to walk this out in faith.
I believe this is where he wants us to bring in our planners and our pens. To recenter our goal planning and put the focus on Him. It’s always going to be our temptation to desire the output of our goals, the clarity of our plan and the direction of our steps over God Himself, yet He will remain faithful to us as we figure it out.
When we come to God with the desire to build faith-based goals, he is going to meet us where we're at and help us know which way to go. Before we get to that step, I believe digging deep into what God has to say about faith-based goal planning is the next right step. Getting clear to what his word has to say on this topic before we try to figure anything else out on our own. I’ll be releasing a five-day faith-based goal planning devotional going over scripture that outlines this whole concept. Just in time for end-of-year goal planning and I’d love for you to join me! Sign up for this email series below.