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Setting goals is as common as brushing teeth for professionals. But that doesn’t mean all goals are satisfying. Episode 84 of Faithful on the Clock offers questions that can help you identify the goals that will be truly fulfilling for your life.
Identifying fulfilling goals requires some courage because it requires us to be self-reflective and honest about who we are, rather than just listening to what everyone else thinks we should do.
Question #1: What do I believe in? This question orients you to your core values, which ideally should align with scripture and God’s character. Goals should not run contrary to core values or you likely will experience stressful cognitive dissonance.
Question #2: What energizes or drains me? Fulfilling goals aren’t necessarily easy or quick. But they should give you a sense of excitement.
Question #3: What skills or resources do I have or am able to acquire? God gives all of us skills and spiritual gifts to work with. The clearer these are for us, the more realistic we can be about our strengths and weaknesses and the paths we could take.
Question #4: How will the goal influence others and me? This question should address the ability of the goal to meet needs.
Question #5: How does the goal align with other goals? Good goals don’t delay or get in the way of goals that you’ve already set. The story of Moses interceding for Israel after the people created the golden calf is a good example.
Question #6: What do I consistently feel? Feelings can be good indicators of trustworthy, stable internal drivers that are going to steer you forward.
Question #7: What messages consistently show up in my feedback from loved ones? Feedback can correct our biases so we see ourselves properly. With a more accurate picture of ourselves, we might change which goals we go after to feel satisfied.
Apply this list of questions to at least one goal you are considering setting for yourself this week.
Review Episode 83 on spiritual gifts to better understand how you might approach the goals you set.
What’s coming up next:
Giving back to your community should be part of your business vision. But how do you get charitable initiatives going? Episode 85 provides some basic options and explains why initiatives should be proactive instead of reactive to be effective.
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Hello, everybody, I’m your host, Wanda Thibodeaux, and you’ve downloaded or are streaming Faithful on the Clock, the podcast where every worm on the hook is there to get your faith and work aligned. In this episode, I’m focusing on goal setting, but not just the let’s-slap-it-on-a-list type of goal setting, OK? I’m giving you seven questions that will help you make sure that the goals you set will fulfill you and let you serve God well. Grab your notebook and a pencil, because these are points you’ll want to remember. Here we go!
OK. So, the only little intro I want to give here on this topic of fulfilling goals is that you are going to have to be a little courageous here as you answer the questions I’m gonna give you. Because one of the reasons I think so many people set goals that don’t provide a lot of joy is that they work in very externally validated ways. And all that means is that they’re looking to other people or to society to get a definition of what a fulfilling goal is. And so then they take this external definition of what’s fulfilling and they completely ignore who they actually are. So, just to give you a quick example, maybe your parents say to you, “You need to be a doctor, because then you’ll have money and respect and you can be happy.” But inside you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, there’s no way I could do that — I like to help people but, you know, what really excites me is just being outside, just being in nature.” So maybe a better goal for you might be to start a landscaping company or get involved with the Department of Natural Resources, wildlife conservation, that kind of thing. But if you listen to what everybody else is telling you, you know, you don’t acknowledge these things about yourself. So, even though I’m not saying that the opinions of others don’t count, and we’ll cover that in a minute, I am saying that this takes some self-awareness, and you don’t get that if you don’t reflect a little, OK? This is all about looking at your own heart and the way God put it together so that certain activities would be really healthy for you. So with that little caveat, let’s get right into the questions.
Question number one is, what do I believe in? So, what are your core philosophies or values that you can use as a North Star to guide what you do? So, as an example, for me, one of my core philosophies is that social and individual responsibility are connected. I really believe we have an obligation to look for those we can help. And there are a lot of scriptures that support that. Galatians 6:2, for example, says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Now ideally, all of your core values will be supported by scripture like that. But the main idea is that if a goal runs contrary to your core values, then pursuing it likely will create a lot of cognitive dissonance. And cognitive dissonance is just the term for what happens when you have two conflicting belief systems going on. But that's usually very stressful, because you can't really get those two belief systems to resolve.
The second question is, what energizes or drains me? And this is kind of what I was getting at with the doctor versus nature example at the beginning. You know, do you like to be around people? How about doing one task for a really long time? Good, fulfilling goals are gonna fill your tank, OK? Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're easy. A lot of really good goals might be really physically demanding or take years to finish. They might have all kinds of hurdles that you've got overcome. Think about Moses leading Israel to the promised land. That took 40 years, and the people griped the whole time. But a good, fulfilling goal should give you a sense of excitement when you think about it. It should make you feel pumped up. And one of the reasons I think Moses was able to keep going was because he could get excited thinking about what the people were going to have once they were free. Because remember, he’d seen firsthand what it was like when they were not. So, for me, I'll use the example of making music. I have to practice a lot to be good at it. It's a lot of hard work. But it feels really good for me to be creative and express myself through singing or playing my instruments. Now, on the other hand, it absolutely drains me all the way to the bottom to have to explain myself in detail or to feel like I have no safety net in the work I'm doing.
So, question three is, what skills or resources do I have or am able to acquire? You know, maybe you're really good at organization, or maybe you have a really strong professional network where you can get assets or feedback. Exodus 36 is a good reminder that all of us have skills we can put to use. And we all have spiritual gifts, too. If you haven’t learned about those or you need to figure out what yours are, go listen to the last episode of the show, it’s Episode 83, because I covered spiritual gifts in that show. But you want to identify the skills and resources that you have or that you could get because that's gonna help you set a clear path of action towards your goal. And that's super important when you consider that a lot of goals you can achieve in more than one way. It also is going to put some guardrails down for you so that you can be realistic about what your strengths and weaknesses are and so that you can recognize where you'll need to delegate or ask for help. Now, I can hear some of you out there right now. You’re all saying, “But Wanda, I don't have anything I need to get to my goal. Does that make the goal bad?” Well, no, it doesn’t. Not necessarily. It just means that you’re gonna have to be patient, make connections, or grow in one or more areas before you can really go after your goal full throttle. So, to give you an example here, I wanna self-publish some books. I’m organized and self-driven enough to do that. But I don’t know anything about marketing books right now, so I'd have to learn about it or hire someone to do that for me.
Question number four, how will the goal influence others and me? So, a lot of professionals, they talk about goals in terms of growth. But I don't really like to do that. I very much prefer to talk about them in terms of meeting needs. Because what shifting my focus like that allows me to do is to avoid comparing the goal I make to anything I've done or see from anybody else. And a lot of the time, that's healthier. But you have to remember that nobody lives in a vacuum. So, really think about the consequence of your actions for others as well as for yourself. You know, what's going to happen in the short and long term for people if you move forward? Probably the strongest verse I can give you is Matthew 18:6. It’s talking about kids, but you really can apply it to everybody as God’s kids, and it says, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” So when you’re considering whether a goal will be good or fulfilling, think about whether it’s going to build up the faith of others or be a stumbling block to it. In general, I think goals that uplift or support people are good. But be careful and watch out for people pleasing. You might hear psychologists call this fawning. And the issue here is just that you can't completely sacrifice who you are, OK? There should be a balance of benefits for you and other people. But, a good example I can give you here looking at how a goal might influence me is running a half marathon. Now, I've done a few of these in the past. And if you follow the growth mindset that a lot of professionals have, you might say, OK, a good goal is to aim for a full marathon or to run more than one half marathon in a year. But if you have been on runs with me lately, you know that if I tried to do either of those things, my right knee would not be happy with you for setting that goal at all, OK? It would protest like none other and I probably would not make it home, to be honest. So, the better, more fulfilling goal in this case might be to run fewer miles and cross-train so that I don't hurt myself. If I do that, that goal respects the state my body currently is in. It doesn't look at the past and assume that all of the conditions are the same or better than they used to be.
OK. Moving on to question five. How does the goal align with other goals? Because usually, ideal goals are ones you can make that aren't going to delay or get in the way of other goals you've already set. If you've got one goal interfering with another, you might end up regressing back into bad habits, and that's no good. You don't wanna do that. So, what you want to do is set goals that provide a foundation for other goals you might want to set later on, even if you don't have complete clarity yet about what those future goals might be. I’ll go back to Moses again for a minute. I use him for a lot of stuff because his story is just so good. But if you go to Exodus 32:11-14, you’ll see that God is just livid about the people having made a golden calf to worship. Like, they really had messed up, OK? And God says to Moses, you know, leave me alone so that I can consume them. I'll make a great nation out of you instead. But Moses intercedes and basically says, God, don't do that, because all that's gonna do is give the Egyptians fodder to mock you and make them think that you're just out to hurt people. So Moses was essentially making the case that wiping out Israel wasn’t aligned with the goal God already had of using Israel to show how powerful and loving He was. And you know what? It worked. God heard Moses out and God didn’t lash out at the people. And if you look at all of scripture, I think that what you’ll see is that every goal God set for somebody, it’s the perfect setup for the next piece of the story of Jesus. Like, that sequence is just too fantastic to be a coincidence, right? But to give another real-life example, I'll use the podcast to show what I mean, too. One goal I have is to take the weekly challenges that I've been doing for the show and to create a devotional from them. Now, creating a devotional like that, it's aligned with the mission of the podcast. It can create marketing for the show and potentially help me build a bigger platform for it. But I can only work so many hours a week on the devotional because otherwise, I won't be able to put the hours I need into the podcast itself.
Question six, what do I consistently feel? And I put this one in here because I really am a strong mental health advocate. I believe with all of my heart that if you avoid what scares you, it's only gonna make your stress 10 times worse. And there is research that backs the idea that avoidance is not a good coping strategy, OK? And plus, you know, you look at stories like Jonah and the whale, and that’s pretty clear that if you avoid something God really wants you to do, He’s gonna set you straight eventually. He’s not gonna let you run. I also acknowledge that sometimes feelings are not justified when you analyze them objectively in the immediate moment. Like, if you are a firefighter and you've been in a lot of buildings and had a lot of close calls, it might really stress you out to smell smoke from a barbecue. You might feel completely unsafe because of your experience, but if you step back, you can see and understand that there's no real threat. So, sometimes you need to lean into your cognitive skills or what others you trust tell you to know how to proceed. But strong feelings often can give you clues about the core values you have. Say I feel moved to take action every time I read a headline about climate change or racial injustice. Or maybe it really hurts me every time I hear about somebody who's gone through something really tough. Those feelings probably are trustworthy indicators of stable internal drivers, you know, the things inside of me that are consistently going to steer me forward. Setting a goal based on the stable internal drivers that you have increases the likelihood that you'll persist with the goal and achieve it. So, my example here is, I absolutely love going to thrift stores. I really enjoy finding antique things because I can imagine the stories behind those items and the people they belong to. A fulfilling goal based on those feelings might be to learn how to restore a specific type of item or to redecorate with a few pieces of older decor.
And, last but not least, what messages consistently show up in my feedback from loved ones or mentors? So, remember. You don't want to cave to a bunch of external noise and take on every goal under the sun that people tell you you, quote, should have. But most people absolutely stink at accurately assessing themselves. That’s the problem. We’re just not good at it. A lot of us will have more weaknesses than we admit, or we won't see all of the strengths that we have. Right? Because biases, which we all have to some degree, they make it really hard for people to see how all of our parts connect and influence each other. So, you need a little feedback to correct any distortions and perception you might have about yourself, your needs, and what you can put toward goals you might set. That’s one of the reasons, I think, that Jesus says to us in Matthew 10:31, “Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows,” because most of us don’t have a clue what we’re worth to God. And as an example here, I have serious imposter syndrome with my writing, OK? If I listened to that, I would have no drafts at all. I wouldn't be published anywhere or have my freelancing business. But I've been really fortunate that I've had a lot of really kind editors who have given me a lot of great feedback and who let me know what I'm capable of. So, with them doing that kind of correction for me, a fulfilling goal might be for me to aim for the next highest tier of publications.
So, that's all seven questions. I think they can help you evaluate just about any goal, but I think they'll really be helpful when you've got some bigger goals to think about, maybe when you are looking for a new type of job, you are thinking about finding a partner, all those kinds of things. But keep these in your back pocket and pull them out whenever you're starting to feel like you don't have the clarity of direction you need or you know, maybe you’re just starting to feel a little unsatisfied.
Let’s wrap things up with a prayer.
Lord, my hope is that by sharing these questions, I can keep people from walking paths they shouldn't walk. I want them to think about who they are and who You made them to be so that they can make the most of the precious life You’ve given to them. And I pray that as they use these questions, they'll remember that the most fulfilling goal they ever can have is to seek You. Let them desire You and make getting closer to You the passion of their hearts. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
This is the part of the show where I’m supposed to right off into the sunset, I guess. Before I do, I'd like to invite you to check out our YouTube channel — yes, Faithful on the Clock is on YouTube. I put inspirational videos and even full episodes up there, so I’ll link to that in the show notes, or you can go to faithfulontheclock.captivate.fm and use the link up at the top. You can always just search Faithful on the Clock on YouTube, as well. Next episode, we’re talking about charitable initiatives. We’ll look at how you can get them going, but also why it’s critical to be proactive instead of reactive with the initiatives you set up. That’s in two weeks. Until then, everybody, be blessed.
Faithful on the Clock is a podcast meant to get your Christian faith and work aligned. You won’t find mantras or hacks here--just scripture-based insights to help you grow yourself, your company, and your relationship with God. If you want out of the worldly hamster wheel and want to work with purpose, then this is the show for you. Hosted by freelance business writer Wanda Thibodeaux.
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer based in Eagan, MN. Since 2006, she has worked with a full range of clients to create website landing pages, product descriptions, articles, professional letters, and other content. She also served as a daily columnist at Inc.com for three years, where she specialized in content on business leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and behavior.
Currently, Thibodeaux accepts clients through her website, Takingdictation.com. She is especially interested in motivational psychology, self-development, and mental health.