By Dan Miller
Zig Ziglar has a famous story about flea training: If you put fleas in a jar with a lid on it, they will desperately pop up against that lid in an attempt to escape for about 20 minutes. Then, while fully convinced they cannot get out of the top of that jar, you can remove the lid.
With a perfectly clear path to freedom in sight, those little fleas will starve to death in that jar. They tried escaping once, and they believe they have no other option.
Similarly, I find many people live within “achievement boundaries” that exist only in their minds—boundaries that can be broken through by setting personal goals.
Are you a goal setter? Goals give you a starting point and a destination. It is the easiest way to give meaningful direction to your life, which releases you to effectively use your talents.
Identify five-year goals then work backward to what you need to do today to make deposits in where you want to be five years from now. Be specific, creating quantifiable benchmarks to track your deposits of success.
Here are seven areas for achievement to plan your personal goals around.
1. PHYSICAL: HEALTH, APPEARANCE, AND EXERCISE
Do you take walks or exercise regularly? Are you living a balanced life? Is this an area that deserves more time?
Can you just give yourself 30 minutes a day to relax?
Eric Hoffer says, “The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we are the busiest people in the world.”
Do you know that physical exercise is a cleansing process that can dramatically increase your creativity? Most blessings are difficult to enjoy if you’ve given up health in the process.
2. FINANCIAL: INCOME AND INVESTMENTS
How much do you want to be saving or giving away each year in five years? How much do you want to have in the bank or in investments? If you can’t dream it, it won’t happen. Nothing is unrealistic if you have a clear plan.
3. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT: KNOWLEDGE, EDUCATION, AND SELF IMPROVEMENT
Your success, financial and otherwise, will never far exceed your personal development. Start doing something that you’ve put off because of the risk of failure.
Want to learn a new language? Do it this year. How many books will you read this year?
Peter Drucker says, “Knowledge by definition makes itself obsolete.” The only thing that will allow you to be a leader in today’s environment is to be a continuous learner. Don’t end your education when you finish high school, college, etc.
Join the Automobile University—if you drive 25,000 miles a year at an average speed of 46 mph, you will spend about the same amount of time in your car as an average college student spends in the classroom.
The question then is, what are you doing with that time? You can listen to audiobooks and podcasts and transform your success.
4. FAMILY: RELATIONSHIP TO OTHERS, DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN
In a speech to graduates of Wellesley College, Barbara Bush said,
“Whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: fathers and mothers, if you have children, they must come first. You must read to your children and you must hug your children and you must love your children. Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”
The second law of thermodynamics is things left to themselves tend to deteriorate. Great relationships don’t just happen—they come as the result of making deposits toward the “success” you want.
What is the kind and length of vacation you will take this year? What is your goal for free time with family and friends? You may try taking the time you normally spend watching a favorite TV show and spend that time instead with your spouse, a child, or a friend.
To be a “better” mom, dad, or parent, define what “better” means. You may decide to spend 20 minutes each night with your child or one Saturday morning a month doing what the child wants to do.
Or how about scheduling one overnight event with your spouse every quarter of the year?
5. SPIRITUAL: CHURCH INVOLVEMENT, PERSONAL COMMITMENT, AND SCRIPTURE STUDY
Can you say that you are now living out God’s purpose for your life? What are you a part of that goes beyond yourself?
How have you handled a crisis this last year? Are you comfortable taking steps of faith, or are you more comfortable with what you’ve already seen? Do you trust your dreams as being inspired? How will you be remembered?
6. SOCIAL: INCREASED NUMBER OF FRIENDS, COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT, ETC.
Change old attitudes. Discard past negatives. Ask for forgiveness.
Make things right with people whom you need to forgive or who need to forgive you. Choose someone you could care for or be a mentor to, and then make the effort to work on this relationship starting today.
What is a promise you made to someone but failed to keep? Spend time with an elderly person and find out some of his or her fondest memories.
7. CAREER: AMBITIONS, DREAMS, AND HOPES
How do you want to grow and develop in ministry over the next five years? Are you rejoicing in your labor as Scripture encourages you to do?
“Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19).
These seven areas are integrally connected. They can rise up together or spiral down together. Where is God calling you to set new goals for yourself to bring Him glory?
Dan, president of 48 Days LLC, specializes in creative thinking for increased personal and business success. He is the author of the B&H Publishing title 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing For the New Normal, from which this article was adapted and excerpted.