Imagine this scenario. You’re going on a family vacation. You pack your car full of luggage, food and other things you’ll need for the long trip ahead. You grab your map -- or GPS if you are tech savvy -- and load up the kids in the back, making sure they are strapped in securely by their seat belts. Heading west from Atlanta you start the drive and a smile crosses your face as you think about the good times waiting ahead of you. At some point, in a random spot in Alabama, one of your kids utters the infamous line, “Are we there yet?”
And that’s when it hits you.
You slam on the breaks and pull over onto the side of I-20 as you realize you don’t know where “there” is. You prepared for the vacation in every way except for the most important part — you failed to pick a destination.
While you would never go on a vacation without knowing what your ultimate destination is, many people choose to live life this way. They cruise along without setting goals they intend to reach, just taking life as it comes. But what is the best approach when it comes to the road of life, and what does God expect from us?
There are two schools of thought on having defined goals in life. One says that those who have goals may be narrowing their focus so much that they fail to enjoy life as it comes. The other says that the most successful people always have an end goal in mind and that this is oftentimes what separates them from those that achieve only moderate success or no success at all. This point is driven home effectively in Stephen R. Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Hard to argue with that.
As a Christian, I truly believe that God is always directing my steps, but that he is letting my heart do the planning or “goal setting,” if you will. Proverbs 16:9 says that, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."
God ultimately puts the desires of our hearts there to begin with, though, and has amazing plans for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” He lets us do the planning, and ultimately helps us along the way.
During a conversation this week with a trusted friend, we ended up talking a lot about goals. A very wise man, he stated that no one has target practice by shooting first and then drawing a circle around the bullet hole saying, “look I shot right in the middle of the circle!” No, you have a predetermined point — the bullseye — that you are trying to hit from the beginning. It is indeed a very gratifying feeling when you finally hit it.
True success, I believe, will come for us all once we learn to strike a balance between trusting God, yet staying motivated to pursue the goals and dreams that He gave us. God bestowed to us our passions and the skills to pursue them so we should be good stewards of those gifts. When you have a goal or destination in mind, it shows that you are believing for God’s best and aren’t willing to settle.
Without a goal, you may find yourself hypothetically vacationing somewhere like Arkansas, and no one wants that, right?