I have sat in the same room with some truly inspirational people like Neil Armstrong, Zig Ziglar, Jack Canfield, Bill Cosby, and Jim Lovell to name a few. Of course I use the word "room" rather liberally, since there were a few other thousand people with me.
My husband and I have attended this star-studded annual Mastermind conference for the past eight years. Three days of phenomenal speakers, interesting workshops, and nonstop motivation. It’s like drinking from a fire hydrant. Yet some people I know are skeptical about the lasting effects of motivational conferences like this. They wonder how many times does one really need to hear "think positive," "never give up," and "set ambitious goals?"
As my husband loves to say, "We leak." I constantly need to be redirected, re-energized, re-inspired, and put back on track. Every time I’ve gone to a seminar with an expectation to hear God’s voice, He speaks ever so clearly. The Book of Proverbs tells us that "wisdom calls aloud" (Proverbs 1:20). The question is will I recognize wisdom’s call? Will I listen to God’s instruction and actually follow through with actions?
I’ve been given a treasure at these conferences that I’d like to pass along. Every year, I sit with 5,000 of like-minded people in a convention center. Beautiful classical music plays and everyone journals. I’ve been taught to set goals in five areas of life: spiritual, family, business, financial, and personal. Here are some examples of my goals from a few years ago:
To teach a Sunday school class
To read three excellent books about parenting
To write a book
To cut unnecessary spending
To lose my baby weight
I love these five areas because they encourage balance. If my spiritual life is packed with great Bible studies and service opportunities, but my husband feels ignored, something is wrong. And if my kids have all the attention in the world but I haven’t prayed in days, my priorities are out of line.
So I write down annual goals, which is really the easy part. Accomplishing the goals … now that’s a different story. Maybe that’s why so many of us drag our feet about writing goals because we figure, why waste time writing something down that we’re not going to actually accomplish?
Our culture doesn’t exactly exalt commitment and a disciplined life. It’s more like, "Why make a promise you’re just going to end up breaking?" or "Bail out when the going gets tough." This hardly sounds like what the Apostle Paul wrote about in Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord."
Now I’d be lying if I said reaching my goals was a snap. Many days I felt completely overwhelmed with the thought of writing a book when there was laundry stacked up, dinner to cook, and a toddler pleading, "Mommy, will you draw me a train? Please…!"
But since I had made the big audacious goal of completing a book, I kept taking baby steps every day. I wrote for half hour segments during naptimes and tried to focus on accomplishing one thing during the day and finishing instead of trying to do twenty and feeling utterly defeated. I’m extremely grateful to say one year almost to the date of writing my goal down, I finished my manuscript, Losing Weight After Baby: 31 Days to a New You. And you know what? I would’ve never found the determination to write in one year with two small kids around my computer without that goal setting process.
Once the manuscript was complete, you would think it would have been time to celebrate. But no! Now there were a million new goals on the horizon. Marketing the book could easily have become a full-time job in itself. So I constantly reminded myself, baby steps. To me, goal setting is dreaming with a deadline, and breaking up the dream into doable parts.
One woman at church told me, "If there’s nothing in your life that scares you a little, you’re not really living." I don’t think she was talking about monsters under your bed. She was talking about pushing yourself beyond your abilities and trusting God for seemingly impossible things.
So with a little healthy fear, I’ll set goals once again with my husband. Remember the five areas? Spiritual, family, business, financial and personal. In about six months, we’ll go to dinner and review our progress. Sometimes there’s no progress at all (did I really write that goal?) and other times there are great victories to celebrate. Either way, we’re growing and that’s exciting.
One of my favorite sayings about dreaming and goal setting is from Brian Buffini, the man who created the Mastermind conference that I’ve attended. He says, "We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten." Read that one more time. Wow, that inspires me to dream big. Where do I want to be in 10 years? In 20? Then when all my goals don’t come to fruition next week, I don’t beat myself up about it. I just take a baby step forward.