How About Setting a New Year’s… Vision?

How About Setting a New Year's... Vision?How About Setting a New Year’s… Vision?

EXPOSE  |  The Time for Vision

“While I’ve long been a fan of goal setting, my ardor for it has cooled a bit… I’ve come to think that focusing too much on goals can actually get in the way of living a truly flourishing life.” – Brett McKay

EXPLORE  |  How Are Those Goals Working For You?

So, are you going to do it again this year?  Set some goals, see what happens?

In and of themselves, goals are wonderfully appropriate.  But my list of New Year’s resolutions often look like a bunch of strangers threw in a couple of ideas each in an attempt to solve EVERYTHING.

“There are problems with goals. Suggesting that is heresy to many.  Goal setting has been such an important concept in the vernacular of success that some have come to view it as sacred.” – Mark Sanborn

While it is important and necessary that we intend for certain things to happen, even a brief reflection on some of the questions raised about goal setting could be enough to keep us from being sucked into the whirlwind of setting some wild, hairy, bodacious, ultra, supersonic goals (or whatever the current goal setting buzzword is) this year:

Are your goals guiding you, or controlling you? It’s the difference between being goal-oriented and goal obsessed.

What is your motivation to set/pursue the goal?  Guilt? Someone told you to? Everyone is doing it?

What will happen if you set the goal too high? Too low?

These and other thoughtful questions have been raised about goal setting that might not only temper our rush to bang out a list in time for the New Year, but help us see beyond “the list” to the better pursuit of setting a vision for the New Year.

What would the next year look like if we were to adopt a vision instead?

EXECUTE  |  The Drawbacks of Goals

What is it about goal-setting that should give us concern?  In his article for Psychology Today, Ray Williams cites some of the behavioral implications of cranking up the intensity around goal-setting:

  • We place unintended stress on those around us
  • It can blind us to important issues that appear unrelated to our goal
  • There is an overemphasis on short-term thinking
  • We will sometimes adopt riskier decision making
  • It can promote cheating
  • And, can create an unnecessary culture of competition

In the quote above, Brett McKay observes that “goals can actually get in the way of living a truly flourishing life”, further supporting the caution we should have when setting goals.  He identifies that goals can:

  • Lack a deeper meaning
  • Cause self-defeating, single-mindedness
  • Lead to depression and angst

However, it is not that we should avoid goals altogether, but instead, set and implement them carefully.  I believe that goals are more suited to “guide our activity toward being purposeful.”  What is that purpose that would allow goals to fulfill their proper role? A vision.

The Significance of Having a Vision

In his article, Vision Over Goals, Brett McKay talked with Dr. Jeff Spencer, a former Olympian and current coach to world-class athletes, who saw first-hand the great let down medal winners experienced after returning home from the the Olympics.  While there is an overwhelming sense of “now what do I do?” for most athletes, others were able to continue on. The difference?  Those able to continue on had a “vision for their entire lives.”

McKay identifies these advantages a vision has over goals:

A vision provides purpose and significance.  Goals can’t tell you WHY you’re doing something. They just tell you WHAT to do. If you’ve been achieving goal after goal in your life, but still feel empty, it’s likely because you’ve made goals the ends in and of themselves.

A vision provides room for adaptability.  A vision provides an overarching ideal and aim in life, but then allows for pivoting to different path.

A vision provides long-term vitality.  You don’t complete a vision.  It provides an ideal to keep aiming for even when you’ve completed a goal.  And you avoid the syndrome mentioned above that Dr. Spencer discovered with Olympic athletes: “now what?!”

We can see these last two points borne out, for instance, in what Paul says in Romans 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son.”  Talk about a vision.  

This isn’t a goal to be reached, or even a pursuit, but more of a path to be walked; a journey with a specified direction.  However, what that path looks like can be very different from the path others take, and far different than what we would have ever planned.

This highlights a military principle that might be helpful to keep in mind as we understand our pursuing a vision for our lives.  The details may be unique to your path, but the destination and direction is based on the overarching Commander’s Intent:

“Commander’s Intent is the description and definition of what a successful mission will look like. [It] fully recognizes the chaos, lack of a complete picture, changes in enemy situation, and other relevant factors that may make a plan either completely or partially obsolete when it is executed. The role of Commander’s Intent is to empower subordinates and guide their initiative and improvisation as they adapt the plan to the changing battlefield environment.” – Chad Storlie, Manage Uncertainty with Commander’s Intent

With life sometimes feeling a bit like a battlefield, all the more reason we depend on God (as Commander) and His vision (intent) for our lives.  He brings definition and direction and confidence in the chaos.

How might 2017 look if we set goals that give purpose to our activity toward fulfilling the Commander’s Intent?

This will be the last issue of the year.  Have a terrific Christmas.  Let’s do this again next year!

Original articles:

why goal setting doesn’t work

vision over goals

the problem with goals

4 problems with the goals you’re setting



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