Goals. I talk a lot about them, and pretty much every motivational speaker, writer, and thinker that I have ever come across has said that they are absolutely essential to intentional living. They have to have certain qualities to qualify (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic*, and timely), and of course they must be our own goals in order to have any emotional traction. However, there is one question that I feel does not quite get stressed enough in these discussions. How does one know what one wants?

Reflection is the one-word answer, but it is not by itself a helpful one. I wanted to try and dig into this a little bit more, and I started thinking about what questions I ask myself that lead me to set the goals that I set. So I decided to use this year’s goals as an example and work out to some general concepts from there.

  • Goal 1: Read through the Bible.
  • Goal 2: Read 10 fiction and 10 nonfiction books.
  • Goal 3: Maintain weight of 160-165 lbs. (i.e. be no heavier than 165 lbs. December 31).
  • Goal 4: Be able to do 100 pushups in one set.
  • Goal 5: Complete law school application.
  • Goal 6: Get out of debt.

There are some sub-goals, of course, but these are the big ones. There are a few themes here: spirituality, personal development, fitness, and family finance. When I made these goals, part of what I was trying to do was to cover a wide base. This is at the recommendation of some of those goal-setting teachers I mentioned. However, the goals that have fallen off for me are the ones that I set solely to fulfill a prescribed notion of “well-roundedness.” This makes sense, because goals have to be your own. But what are the questions I asked to get these goals?

Really, just one: “What needs to be true December 31, 2016 for me to feel like this was a good year for me?”

It’s not an easy question to answer by any stretch of the imagination. However, one of the things I believe to be true about intentional living is that it takes a little bit of extra time and thought when compared to reactive, moment-to-moment living. But how do you know when you’ve hit on something that makes a good goal for you?

You get excited about it. You decide that it’s important enough to take the extra time and effort it takes to do it. It’s not sophisticated, but it does require time in thought.

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