One night when Kassidi was about 5 years old, I had already walked her to bed, tucked her in and was headed back to my room when I heard her yelling, “Mama! Come here, Mama!” So, I ran in her room to see what was so urgent. She said, “You forgot to tell me the plan!” Sounds kinda funny, but every night when I would tuck her in and pray with her, I would always tell her “the plan” for the next day. Needless to say, I’m quite the ‘planner’. I do need a little more spontaneity, but I have to say…I love having a plan.
I’m such a believer in the phrase that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” You’ve got to have a plan if you’re going to succeed and fulfill God’s ‘plan’ for your life. God is such a planner. Did you know that the shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalms 117? The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalms 119. The middle chapter in the Bible is Psalms 118, right between the shortest and the longest. The middle verse in the Bible is Psalms 118:8, right in the middle chapter in the Bible. There are 594 chapters before Psalms 118 and 594 after Psalms 118. If you take 594 and you add 594 that gives you the number 1,188. If you put a colon there between the 8’s, that gives you the middle chapter in the middle verse of the Bible. It gives you Psalms 118:8. Wow!
God did that! That wasn’t an accident. God was detailed enough and structured enough to be able to plan something that small. Aren’t you glad that when God created you, He took time to plan? We need to take time to plan our dreams and goals.
I want to share a simple solution with you that has become the most profound key in turning my life around. Years ago, when my marriage was on the brink of divorce, and I began seeing a marriage counselor, Dr. Farmer recognized tremendous fear in my life. He told me five little words that have changed the way I confront my fears. He said, “Fight fear with a plan.”
Acting on those five words has not only catapulted me out of my past, but it has also truly enabled me to walk right into my destiny! It can do the same for you. It was during this painful time that I had no vision or goals for my life. Dr. Farmer helped me see that I needed a daily plan that included goals surrounding the most important areas of my life. If I wanted to get through my storm, I would have to incorporate goal planning and execute the plan in my daily routine.
Writing down a list of goals is a habit that successful people live by. Having a plan is what gets your eyes off the past and into the present and future. Cosmetic genius Mary Kay Ash is the founder of a beauty line that reached $2.4 billion in wholesale sales in the United States alone. She attributed her success to the fact that every day she wrote down six of the most important things to do each day.
There is a saying that the secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. This was something Mary Kay Ash knew. This was something Dr. Farmer advocated. And this was something I was going to have to learn. I took some time to think about what some of the most important things in my life were. I didn’t want to waste another miserable moment stuck going nowhere, so I hit the ground running.
Here are four guidelines to remember as you start thinking about your own goals.
1. Goals must be in writing.
“Goals that are not written down are just wishes.” Even God tells us the importance of putting things down on paper. Habakkuk reminds us to write the vision (see Hab. 2:2).
2.Goals must be measurable.
There’s a big difference in saying, “I want to lose weight” and saying “I will lose 10 pounds by March 1.” Your goals must be measured by something; this is what increases your chances of achieving them.
3. Goals must be realistic.
If your goals are completely unrealistic, then you’re setting yourself up for defeat. If your goal is to get closer to God, then you need to be realistic in how you plan to get closer to God. Don’t tell yourself you will pray for four hours every day. Be practical. Set aside 30 minutes of alone time a day instead. It’s important to set realistic and attainable goals so that you are able to reach them.
4. Goals must have a deadline.
Isn’t it amazing how a deadline causes us to work harder? When my sister and I were younger, and we were told to unload the dishwasher, we would look at the clock and see how fast we could get it done, in less than four minutes. We were determined to reach our goal. Why? We had a deadline. Always assign a deadline to your goals. It’s energizing and motivating.
In my new book, ‘Make Your Dreams Bigger Than Your Memories’, I share in detail the six areas that I began setting goals and putting a plan in action.
1. Faith (my relationship with God)
2. Family (my home/personal life)
3. Finances (my income and expenses)
4. Fitness (my health and wellbeing)
5. Friendships (my time with those closest to me)
6.Free time (time for myself)
Goal 1: My Faith
Knowing that faith is the foundation of my life, I knew that I needed to get closer to God. In order to do this, I was focused on hearing the Word. It has been proven that it takes 21 days to break an old habit and start a new one. My plan was to commit to studying the Word for that period of time to build my faith and create that new discipline in my life. Why did I do that? Because the Bible says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, NKJV).
It takes faith to overcome defeat. It takes faith to overcome addictions. It takes faith to overcome depression. It takes faith to overcome hopelessness. It takes faith to overcome sickness, laziness, procrastination and painful memories of the past. Whatever you’re facing, it will take faith to overcome it! How do you get faith? “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17, NKJV). I knew that I needed to build my faith because I needed to overcome things in my life. I invested in faithbuilding sermons I could listen to in my CD player and began listening every morning in the bathroom while getting ready. And after those 21 days, I didn’t want to stop. Why? Because it was changing me! And I still do it to this day.
Goal 2: My Family
I wanted to have a peaceful home even though my life wasn’t at peace at that time. A peaceful home meant to me that it would be clean and organized. It was a start. I didn’t realize how therapeutic this entire process was, but it proved to provide more emotional healing than I ever could have imagined. I began writing a daily vision for one room in our house at a time. Each day, one particular room was cleaned out, organized and sprayed with air freshener.
As I cleaned each room, I listened to the Word. I carried my CD player with me and listened to message after message as I opened every cabinet, cleaned out every drawer and wiped off every countertop. My tormented mind was focused on a cleaning project and hearing the life-changing Word of God at the same time. When you are hearing the Word, it’s not like just listening to music or hearing background noise. It is changing you because it is getting down inside of you. Every time you hear the Word, your spirit is being recharged. Not only that but a peaceful home = a peaceful mind. When you start to care about your home, it’s a sign you’re starting to care about yourself.
Goal 3: My Finances
It’s going to take finances to do whatever God has called you to do, and if you spend everything you make, then you’re not going to get very far. There are great books in print by intelligent and well-experienced financial planners that you should purchase to help you in this area. It’s an important area to manage in your life in order to get to the place where God wants you to be, specifically, free from financial burdens.
If you make $50,000 a year but you spend $50,000 a year, what will you have at the end of the year? Nothing. If you do the same thing for the next 10 years, what will you have? Nothing. Do you think that’s what God wants for your life? Of course not.
Here are three tips to take control of your finances today:
1. Pay your tithe (10 percent of your income belongs to God).
2. Pay yourself (set a goal to save 10 percent).
3. Pay your bills (set a goal to live on 80 percent).
The first step toward a major turnaround in your finances is to tithe. It is an act of love to God, and it is sowing seed rather than something you owe Him. (Mal. 3:10). It’s a good idea to set some financial goals in giving to the Lord. Let’s say you would like to give $1,200 to the Lord’s work this year through your church and other ministries that you believe in. Break that goal down into measurable steps. Giving $1,200 for the year breaks into $100 each month, which means around $25 each week. Now that’s attainable.
Paying yourself involves saving money. Look at what you can save, and then set a goal for the year. How much do you want to have in your savings by the end of the year or by next year? Is it written down? Is it measurable? Is it realistic? Does it have a deadline? If you can put $10 aside from every paycheck, that’s a start. You may not think it’s much, but over time it will add up. And, hey, if you’re not saving money at all, then you’ll be miles ahead of where you are now.
Look for ways to put something in your savings account from every pay period. Sacrifice one meal of eating out so you can fulfill your goal of putting $10, $20, $50 into your savings. Get into a habit of thinking about your savings account with every bit of income you receive. If it’s birthday money, a bonus check, profits from a garage sale or however you obtain extra money, put something in your savings. It will inspire you in preparing toward your future. Remember, your goal is to get your eyes off of your past and onto your future. “A person with no vision (for their finances) will always return to their past.”
Goal 4: Fitness
There is a correlation between emotional health and physical health. If you’re filled with all sorts of wounds and memories of the past, one of the best ways to support your goals toward freedom and being made whole is to physically take charge of your life. Studies have shown that people feel better when they exercise.
If you don’t spend time working out, I suggest making a plan to do so. Be realistic about it. Start slow. Take your time. Do what works for you. I love walking, and I highly recommend it. When I walk, I spend time with God; so not only does it increase my fitness level, but it also strengthens my spiritual walk (no pun intended). God is a great workout partner. My walks with Him have healed so much in me. I do most of the talking, but it’s still therapeutic. I know I’m not just talking to the sky. I know that He hears every single word I say. I’ve spent my time walking, crying and praying; and by the end of every walk, I’ve felt refreshed, renewed and filled with incredible peace.
I really want to encourage you to start small—to start where you are and build on it. Set a goal to walk for 15 minutes a day. But here’s the key: be consistent about those 15 minutes a day.
Don’t stop! It only takes one diet to lose weight. Which diet? The one you stick with!
Goal 5: Friendships
If you want to see where your life is headed, look at the list of names in your cell phone. Who you hang around has everything to do with where your life is headed. It is very important that you spend time with people who lift you up rather than bring you down. If you don’t know anyone like that, then read books by people you admire and respect. Listen to their messages on CD. Learn everything you can from them. It will change your life.
Scripture tells us, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment” (Prov. 18:1, NKJV). Like me, you might have a tendency to isolate yourself from people when you’re going through a tough time. Keep in mind that Satan likes to keep you isolated. He knows where you’re weak, and he knows how to play on your emotions. If you keep godly counsel around you, they can keep you strong. They can help you stay focused on reaching your new goals and keep you walking toward your new life.
Goal 6: Free Time
“Plan my free time? You’ve got to be kidding me!” No, I’m serious. When you’re in a mental battle to either go backward to your old thoughts, memories and ways of doing things, you can’t give Satan any territory or he will come barging in and take full advantage of your life. I’m not saying you have to be busy or active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am saying you have to plan each day on purpose. Do whatever you need to do to quit concentrating on the past. If your plan is to rest, then rest; and don’t feel guilty about it.
Do things that you have always wanted to do but never got around to it because you were weighed down by old memories. Take up that hobby. Rekindle an old friendship. Volunteer for that organization. Get a part-time job. Take music lessons. I like to suggest writing a list of the things you want to do before you die. It doesn’t matter how many items are on that list or how impossible they may seem. Write them down. I read about a man who was featured in a national magazine article because he made a list of all the things he wanted to do. He had been inspired to do this by his grandmother who would constantly say, “I wish I had done that when I was younger.” This man thought to himself that he would never say that when he got older.
So, he began writing his list, which included things like:
• Ride a horse in the Rose Bowl Parade
• Read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica
• Be a missionary in church
• Trace the travels of Marco Polo
• Read the writings of Shakespeare
He was 15 years old when he wrote this list, which included 127 tasks. By the end of his life, he had accomplished 108 of the 127 things he set out to do! Many of us have not accomplished one thing we wanted to do. Many of us haven’t even gotten started by making such a list! Can you finally see the importance of writing down goals and visions on paper? Those who write their goals accomplish significantly more than those who do not.
There is a popular saying: Men decide their habits; their habits decide their future. When you make a habit of focusing on the things you want to accomplish and spend your energy on things that will build up your faith and your emotional, physical and mental wellbeing, it will lead you straight into God’s perfect plan for your life. Why? Because the secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. It’s what you do every single day that matters. Don’t just think in terms of goals; think habits! You can do it; you just need to get started. Speaker and author Lee J. Colan says, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great.” So, what’s the plan? Get started making your plan for tomorrow morning when you wake up!