I’ve lost count of how many people have asked about my goals for 2011 in the last week. It’s one of those conversations at this time of year, isn’t it? The new year seems to be a great opportunity for revisiting what we’re doing with life – and usually resolving to do better.
Now I like to set goals with the best of them. I was coached once for a while. I think even my coach was a little shocked by the enthusiasm which I applied to writing goals and by the level of detail that I went into! Still, it worked…if by ‘worked’, you mean that I met my goals. But the more I think about it for 2011, the less convinced I am that I want to set any goals for the year.
To put this thought in context, I have written down at least twenty possible goals for the next twelve months. (And that was the conservative list!) But I’m just not sure what the point is right now. Let me explain…
I am beginning to wonder whether some of my activity is intended to hide that I don’t know where I’m going. I am beginning to wonder whether a lot of our goal-setting actually operates to obscure our not knowing who we are with a lot of activity. I am beginning to wonder whether I am, in actual fact, lost in 2011!
You see, if I and others name me based on what I do, then I don’t have to grapple with who I am in my innermost essence. What I do becomes an easy way of defining who I am. But easy though it may be, I believe that it is also erroneous.
In fact, experience tells me that doing which does not come out of being never gets me anywhere anyway. Think about New Year’s Resolutions. Where have they got you? My guess is either burned out (as early as 7 January? ) or apparently successful with another fistful of accomplishments at the end of another year.
Because I’m stubborn (which you already knew!), the latter is more usually my experience. But, even then, successfully completed goals tend to become yet another pile of worthless dust in the scramble for the next achievement. They are powerless to help me understand who God created me to be, to name who I am.
So, I’m giving up on goals for the moment. They have their place when they flow out of who I am; of course they do. But like any tool, they can become master, starting to define who I am.
Who I am should never be defined by what I do. What I do must proceed from who I am.
And for me, setting goals right now would be based on what I have done in the past, the gifts which I have demonstrated and the skills which I have begun to hone: in short, my history of doing. It’s an easier option, for sure. But it does not automatically take consideration of what God has called me to be.
And the only way for me to get clear about the latter is to get in front of God again, to listen again to what he says about me, to hear once more his unique naming of me. And to submit to his timescale for that revelation rather than mine.
So, you see, I suspect my temptation to set goals for 2011 is just that: temptation. Temptation to shore up my identity by doing something. Temptation to avoid the far harder task of letting God realign my understanding of who I am.
But I am also convinced that if(!) I can discipline my heart in 2011 to wait for God to reveal more of who he created me to be, then what I do will flow naturally from that.
I might, of course, find that the actual things I then start to work towards are the same as those goals that I might otherwise have set for 2011.
But the difference is that I will not be doing in the hope of thereby defining who I am. I will be doing because I know who I am.
Well, that’s the plan anyway!