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Goals (Part 2)

Have you ever looked at an empty calendar and asked yourself, “What am I supposed to be doing right now?” Have you looked at a calendar filled to the brim with 25 hours of things to do each day and asked yourself, “What am I supposed to be doing right now?”

By themselves, neither empty schedules nor suffocating schedules help clarify our daily priorities. But identifying our God‐ordained roles will. And if you are following along in this blog series, you have hopefully by now developed your own list of God‐ordained roles.

More on this in a minute.

Judging from the emails you have sent in, there are at least a few of you who want to make the jump from roles to scheduling. Please don’t jump until you hear me out. Because until we fill in the middle, that often‐fuzzy area that connects our roles to our schedules, our calendars will lack purpose and specificity. So please hang on for one more post before we jump into scheduling.

My Roles

Earlier in this series I listed the five primary roles I currently fill:

  1. Christian
  2. Husband
  3. Father
  4. Grandfather
  5. Pastor

This looks like a simple and obvious list—and it is—but it does require a little focused time thinking through and prioritizing these roles. The order is important. So I hope you have invested a few moments to define God’s roles for your life and have the list in front of you.

Please write this list out. We are constantly tempted to read about things we may wholeheartedly agree with (like biblical productivity), yet fail to respond with anything more than a head nodding in agreement. So please take time to list these roles on paper.

The 15 minutes you devote to clarifying your roles will quickly repay itself in hours of time‐saving clarity and purpose as you determine your goals and finalize your schedule.

My Goals

Okay, now onto my goals. For me, I work from two general categories that work well with most of my roles (especially my relationships with other people). Broadly speaking, my goals are twofold:

  • Serve (How can I serve others?)
  • Surprise (How can I surprise others?)

Obviously, I don’t think these are the only categories you may work from, but thinking in terms of serving and surprising has helped clarify my goals and scheduling week after week over the years.

Serve and What?

I think most of us understand the priority Scripture places on serving the needs of others. I don’t think I need to convince you of its importance.

But what about surprising others? What’s up with that?

Granted, surprising others is not always distinct from serving them. But while we often think of serving as limited to meeting obvious needs, there is more to it than that. Paul writes, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10, ESV). The intentionality and the intensity of this statement are hard to miss. God commands a holy competition in showing honor to others.

So do our schedules reflect obedience to this command?

Convicting, isn’t it?

As you can see, I find it helpful to think of these goals—serving and surprising—as separate categories. Roughly speaking, to serve is to effectively provide for legitimate needs. To surprise is to happily and generously honor and bless others!

Both categories should be the effect of the gospel in our hearts and the appropriate expression of love for others. And both categories honor God, and both categories should find their way into our schedules.

Limiting Goals

Now please don’t be running off and setting hundreds of goals in relation to each role! I have too often set too many goals that went unfulfilled and left me discouraged. I recommend just a few goals for any single role. I create no more than three goals per role in a given week.

While we could no doubt develop a long list of goals under each role, our time, energy, and gifts are restricted. Four or more goals are likely more than many of us can handle, and especially if you can identify more than three personal roles.

Please don’t misunderstand. My approach is merely a recommendation for your consideration. There is no need to follow my approach. But you do need to custom‐design some approach that incorporates roles and goals into your schedule.

That’s for next time.