The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty (Prov. 21:5).
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace (Luke 14:28-33).
Last week I talked about keeping your eyes on the prize, a principle that applies to both our spiritual and daily lives. Last week I covered the spiritual; this week is about the practical.
When you have a goal, you need to keep your eyes on it. But how do you realize that goal?
You evaluate your decisions based on whether or not it helps you reach that goal. And you plan ahead so that, when you are faced with those decisions, it’s a decision you’ve already made. You don’t have to make as many snap decisions, which are draining.
Let’s say you want to lose 30 pounds. You have your target weight. And from there, whenever you do something, you ask yourself, “Does this help me get to that weight?” And if it doesn’t help, you don’t do it. That decision is going to be hard to make if someone’s offering you your favorite dessert, but it’s a lot easier to make when you’ve already decided what desserts you can have and how often.
Your goals inform your decisions. Your goals shape your decisions. Your goals are your decisions.
And goals have a plan. A goal without a plan is just a wish, as it is said. As Napoleon Hill observed, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
What are you trying to do? What is your goal? Now that you have your goal, how are you going to get there? And what is your timeline?
To reach a distant goal, you have to set goals to reach along the way. If you want to run a marathon in July, you have to be able to run a half marathon in June. In order to be able to run ten miles, you have to be able to run one.
Wherever you’re starting from, you need to figure out what are your goals along the way.
Here’s an easy one. You’re a college student. That means that you have classes and homework. I would hope that all of you want to get an A in all of your classes. But are you just hoping to do it or is it a real goal?
Here’s one way to reach the goal of having straight A’s:
You should already have all your syllabi, since those were written up last semester for the course to be approved. If you don’t have them yet, download them. They’re on your school’s website somewhere. Download them.
Now create a Google Calendar for your homework and exams. Put in when assignments are due, when the reading is due (reading is part of your homework, too! It’s not optional!), when exams are, and all that. Now you can see what your crazy weeks are and what your slower weeks are.
And so now you can plan how you’re going to get it all done. Plan out how much you’re going to study each day. If you have 10 assignments due on Tuesday, you probably want to have eight of them done by Monday. Plan it out. And follow the plan.
Since you’re also a student leader in Chi Alpha, you’re going to have responsibilities to the ministry this semester as well. Put those on your calendar. If you have a job, put your work schedule on your calendar as soon as you can. Plan ahead—because being surprised by a major assignment is incredibly unpleasant, as you probably know.
Planning these things out helps you to get it all done and to get it all done well. And it also helps to keep you healthy. This will lower your stress hugely. This will help you get enough sleep. Planning these things out will make you a better you.
So don’t be afraid to sit down and make some goals. Ask God what goals he has for you. This is how growth happens.
What do you want to do this semester? What do you think is reasonable progress for you to do by January 1? Now that you have your goal and your time limit, plan out your steps along the way. Where do you want to be on December 1, November 1, October 1, and September 1? And what steps are you going to take weekly to hit those checkpoints? And what daily behaviors are you going to do to help realize those weekly goals?
Keep your eyes on the prize!