The start of a new year can be both exciting and intimidating. It is an opportunity to reflect on the successes and shortcomings of the previous year and the personal growth that took place. For example, this last year I had the goal to read roughly 25 books, or at least 5,000 pages. It was so encouraging to add up the page count in December and celebrate that although I only read 23 books, I did surpass the minimum page count reading nearly 5,500 pages. This goal revived a love of reading and learning on a variety of topics, in addition to encouraging a habit of diligence.

A new year is a time to set new goals, or resolutions, for the next 12 months. But goal setting can be extremely intimidating. So much can happen in a day, much less an entire year. In addition, whenever a goal is made, there is opportunity for failure which dissuades many from making goals in the first place. However, by setting resolutions for the year, a vision is cast for where we want to go, what we hope to accomplish, and how we desire to grow. Without vision it is unclear where one is going, and if one does not know where they are going, they neither accomplish nor fail at anything.

Setting goals gives us the opportunity to step back and consider different facets of our lives and how to pursue growth in each area. Rather than look at life as a whole when goal setting, it can be helpful to think in terms of categories such as spiritual, ministry, physical, educational, relational/family, financial, travel, work, and fun. Order allows for thoughtfulness and well-rounded goal setting.

Further, after determining the categories one wants to grow in, it is important to craft goals in a way that sets one up for success. To this end, it is helpful to pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals. This acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. By thinking and planning along the lines of this framework, it is possible to formulate goals with a higher probability of success.

For example, it is common for Christians to have a goal like, “read the Bible more this year.” However, consider how this broad goal fails the S.M.A.R.T. test and is therefore difficult to track. For example, this goal is not specific about how it will be achieved. It lacks measurable guidelines. Moreover, while the goal is generally achievable, it lacks clarity or direction. Further, while the goal of reading the Bible more is realistic, it is so undefined that it is impossible to know what constitutes success. Finally, the general goal of simply reading the Bible more lacks a time mechanism by which it can be tracked and there is no inherent accountability for gauging progress.

All these deficiencies can be relieved by simply thinking in terms of the S.M.A.R.T. framework. For example, consider this revised goal: “Read 2-3 chapters of the Bible every morning before breakfast for at least 30 minutes with the goal of reading through the Bible in two years.” FRC has made it easier for you to start your day immersed in the Word. Check out our two-year Bible reading plan which you can sign up for to receive a free daily email with the readings and reflections.

If you are struggling to make goals for resolutions this year, or maybe you have never made goals or resolutions before, do not be discouraged or overwhelmed. This process takes time, prayer, courage, and diligence.

FRC has several ways for you to start this year by resolving to be more up to date with cultural issues and current events in our country, in addition to setting a goal to walk with us in prayer and the reading of Scripture. These opportunities include subscribing to the Washington Update, listening to the Washington Watch radio program, or downloading the FRC Stand Firm app on your phone. You can subscribe to these resources and more here.

Even if you only make one or two goals this year, pray and ask God to give you wisdom as you start 2021 and consider the words of Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Each of us has been given the gift of life. May we all be good stewards of our time and the journey ahead.