Setting Goals? Why You Must Do This First

Got awesome New Year’s goals? Fired up and ready to spring into action come January 1?

Here’s my big encouragement to you: Slow down there, tiger. Be still. Rest.

What? That wasn’t what you were expecting?

Rest does seem counterintuitive when we’re planning big changes. We want to hype ourselves up, surround ourselves with crowds of enthusiastic cheerleaders, and then zoom off the starting line like an overpowered race car (tires squealing as we leave our old selves behind).

And yet, that’s not the best approach. At least not if we want lasting change.

Here’s why rest is an important part of goal setting.

Got awesome New Year’s goals? Fired up and ready to spring into action come January 1? Here’s my big encouragement to you: Slow down there, tiger. Be still. Rest. Here’s several reasons why rest is an important part of goal setting. Learn how to not just set goals but use rest to sustain those changes for the long term!

Why Pushing Harder Isn’t the Answer

I have a slight confession to make: When it comes to making changes in my life, I am a bulldozer.

I mean it. If left to my own devices, I would find whatever thing I wanted to change about my oh-so-imperfect life and pursue it at breakneck speed with little regard for anyone or anything else.

Perhaps that sounds like a nice trait to have? Yes, my bulldozer side can come in handy when I have to plow through the end of a 5K, or on those days when I think I’m going to lose my mind if I have to teach that math problem one… more… time.

The problem with being a bulldozer is that you run out of steam really quickly.

Yep, that’s me: shooting up to a incredibly high level (Get out of my way! Who needs to start at level 1? I can start at level 5!), leveling out for a while (Just keep going, Alicia! You got this!) and then quickly petering out (Whoa… I’m tired. Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe this isn’t for me.).

That perfect example of a classic bell curve, right?

I’ve seen this pattern over and over in my life. And while it’s great to passionately pursue something, endurance is the critical element of sustainable change.

But endurance is more than just pushing harder. While lasting endurance can require increased intensity at times, the energy to keep steady pace with the everyday is fueled by continual rest and replenishment.

This is why rest is important!

Our Perfect Example of How Rest Fuels Endurance

How did Jesus handle the stress and changes of a growing ministry? Luke 5:15-16 states:

But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

There’s an urgency here—things were happening fast and furious! And if I was in this situation, I know I would have been tempted to work harder.

I would rationalize, “I don’t have time to rest! Isn’t this an opportunity to meet even bigger goals?” And while we know that Jesus perfectly met all the needs of his people during His earthly ministry (He was God incarnate, after all), His human side also know when He needed to step back and seek replenishment. Wow, I have lots to learn here, God!

This story also reminds me of Jesus’ advice to Mary and Martha. Both were handed huge tasks, and yet, Jesus shared that Mary discovered the best course to successfully (and sanely) meet her goals. You can read the story here in Luke 10:38-42.

What Rest Is (and Isn’t) In Goal Setting

  • Rest is a opportunity for refreshment along the way.
  • Rest gives room for grace (and sanity) to appear and edges out driving perfectionism.
  • Rest doesn’t distract us from the goal but allows us to make essential adjustments to the goal for the best outcome.
  • However, rest isn’t an excuse for laziness. If we’re losing focus and feeling unmotivated (though the steps to the goal are pretty clear), sometimes “rest” can be a crutch when really what we need is an old-fashioned kick in the pants.

What Can Godly Rest Look Like While Pursuing Goals? 

Maybe rest means adding continual margin into your life (if so, have I got a great book for you!). Peace, stillness and space in our schedules are essential aspects of sanity, whether we’re pursuing new goals or not. And when we’re under the stress of lifestyle changes (a new diet or exercise regimen, for example), we need that room to breathe (and to process) more than ever.

Maybe rest is a daily time to read (and truly process) the Bible. I would encourage you to make this part of your daily routine, even if it’s going through one verse or looking up verses from a devotional (this one is my favorite). Even if your goal has nothing to do with spirituality, meditating on God’s Word absolutely refreshes and refocuses our attitude. And I’m convinced that attitude determines our destiny.

Or rest could be simply taking scheduled time each week to track your progress and to listen to new direction from Him. He is the author and perfecter of your life, and He has great wisdom on the best way to make changes toward a better you. Journal your thoughts. Write down your prayers. And just listen.

Can I be bold and say godly rest probably includes a combination of all three? All of these demonstrate why rest is an important part of goal setting.

Powerful Bible Verses on Rest While Pursuing Goals

  • God knows how to replenish us: (Psa 23:3)
  • His guiding hand sustains and restores: (Isaiah 58:11)
  • God’s ways provide invaluable insight and wisdom along the journey: (Psalm 19:7-8)
  • Protecting our soul through rest encourages a positive outcome: (Prov 4:23)

Other Must-Read Posts on Goal Setting and Rest:

Don’t Make These 6 Big Mistakes When Setting New Years Goals

The Secret to Successfully Meeting Your New Years Goals

Our Family’s Experiment: Teaching Kids to Treasure Rest

About Alicia Michelle

As a wife and mom to four passionate kids, Alicia Michelle loves encouraging other moms with practical tips for joy-filled living in everyday life, especially in parenting, marriage, faith and health.Alicia is the owner/editor of Your Vibrant Family; the author of Plan to Be Flexible, The Back to School Survival Manual; and the creator/producer of the "7 Days to a Less Angry Mom Online Video Course,", Christ-Centered Christmas Resources and My Memory Box Organizing System. In addition, she is a monthly contributor for several popular family blogs, including her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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