My 2011 Goals, Or, Why I’m Not A Resolution Guy

To “resolve” is to determine to start doing (or to stop doing) something. It’s all about habits, really—breaking bad habits and starting good habits. I don’t set resolutions. The reason I don’t is because I find that my habits usually change only once I have a goal in view. So I tend to put the emphasis on goals. I tend to get better results by setting a target first. That’s why I am not a resolution guy, more of a goal guy.

In 2010 I set out with one big goal: to write a 55,000-word book. So on January 4, 2010 I sat at my desk, opened a new Word document on my computer, and began writing a book. It was really frightening at first, but as the days and months passed and the book began to take shape, I started to realize the incredible potential of 12-month project.

The lesson I learned from the experience is that 365 days is a period of time long enough to achieve one BIG goal. I guess I knew this. I’m reminded of this importance of long-range goals by a quote that I keep on my computer desktop from Mark Dever. He says, “Young men tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in the short term and underestimate what they can accomplish in the long term.” Over time I have discovered the deep wisdom of those words.

On October 29, I delivered my book manuscript to the publisher (I consider 12 months a “long term”). Apart from two short writing retreats, my book was completely written in my free time, days off, and vacations. I had plenty of time to complete the book in one year, and I had more meaningful time with my wife and kids this year than in any other. I suspect my life patterns were molded and shaped by my goals.

So what about the next 12 months?

In December I began putting together a list of goals for the year. These are more individual goals since as a family we have our own list of goals for 2011. My personal goals include these three:

1. Write the bulk of book #2. As soon as I delivered the Lit! manuscript to the publisher I began working on book #2. This next book is centered on the Christian life and is quite unrelated to the content of Lit! In comparison, the length is substantially longer and it will require a full 19 months to write. But I estimate that over the next 12 months I can write a bulk of the content. My goal is to write 50,000 of the total 70,000 words, or about 70%. And that’s a very reasonable goal, if I use my free time very wisely. At some point, perhaps in the fall, I’ll share more about book #2.

2. Write a 30,000-word collection of reflections on pastoral ministry. For three years I have been compiling notes and observations as I have worked and traveled alongside my friend and boss C.J. He offers much pastoral wisdom to pastors and I’m hoping to take some time throughout the year to write short reflections on what I’ve learned from him. It should be fun. Again, perhaps by the fall this project will take shape.

3. Lose 75 pounds. This is the loftiest goal of all, really. It’s certainly the most intimidating, the most likely to not happen, and the one goal that is most likely to kick my rear and leave me black and blue in a dark alley. My target weight is 240 pounds (do the math) and hitting this target will require focus and commitment. I’ve put a lot of thought into how to go about losing the weight, since this is a battle that will be waged on three fronts: (1) spiritual (cultivating self-control, confronting gluttony, etc), (2) making wise food choices, and (3) becoming consistent in my workouts. I hope to lose the weight this year without joining a gym or eating processed diet foods. Throughout the year I do plan to write some brief blog meditations to help me win the battle on the spiritual front.

So those are my goals, and that explains why I’m not really the “resolving” type. I don’t want to workout and write; I want to lose weight and complete projects. I would rather let my goals, rather than a list resolutions, change my habits.

Maybe resolutions are not for you. Maybe goals are a better focus. So what are your goals for 2011?

5 thoughts on “My 2011 Goals, Or, Why I’m Not A Resolution Guy

  1. Good article, but I think we need both goals and resolutions. The resolutions help us meet our goals.

    You want to lose 75 pounds, so you resolve to fight on three fronts: “(1) spiritual (cultivating self-control, confronting gluttony, etc), (2) making wise food choices, and (3) becoming consistent in my workouts.”

    On the other hand, saying that we resolve to read the Bible more this year is kind of useless without some sort of goal to measure your progress by.

    Even Edwards sometimes combined resolutions and goals in his Resolutions. One of my favorites is:

    28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

    Granted, his goal isn’t very specific, “as that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same,” but it is a goal nonetheless.

    In the end, I think you are right: good habits are easier to develop with a goal in mind — but we must resolve to pursue the goal.

    Best wishes on your goals for this year!

  2. Tony – thanks for going public with your weight-loss goal. I have at least that much to loose (but am targeting 52 pounds for 2011). I was far too casual in 2010 and made little progress. My guess is that YOU are now the point man on this for many in our same boat. May the Lord help us!

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