A Friendly Reminder of How Setting Worthy Goals Makes a Great Difference in Our Lives

A speech by Walter Albritton to the Lee County Association of Realtors
January 26, 2001

Now and then we hear someone say, "I have reached my goals, but along the way, I lost my family. Now nothing seems to matter anymore." During the recent Christmas holidays, the father of a young woman in our church gave up on his goals and ended his life in suicide. Goals are terribly important, but they need to be the right goals. I have a vivid memory of listening to a man cry himself to sleep one night in a men's dorm while we were on a retreat. When I asked what was wrong, he replied sobbing, "I have been so busy serving God that I forgot to get to know my daughter. Now she is 16, rebellious, and in trouble." I trembled inside as I realized I was making the same mistake while our little boys were growing up.

Is there a one among us who has not said more that once, " I am truly stressed out. I never have enough time to do all the things I want to do. Where is it going to end?" So we need to ask ourselves if there is a way to set goals that in the process of reaching them we can live a joyful, fulfilling life. I believe there is, and I believe you share that belief with me. So what can we do?

You already know the things I am going to say today. You have heard them many times. I can only hope that I can hold your interest while I am jogging your memory. And I do so knowing that it helps us all to be reminded of those principles which, when practiced, make for great living. So here goes:

1. Setting goals is necessary for life to be fulfilling, joyful, and useful.

We need goals for every area of our lives: personal, family, and vocational. Without goals we are apt to drift through life aimlessly. Without goals we will wallow in mediocrity while wasting the gifts God has given us. When we fail to establish clear goals for ourselves, we empower other people and circumstances to shape our lives, thus living "by default," merely reacting to the scripts other people give us. That is no way to live! When we set goals we add excitement and energy to our lives.

2. Setting goals is not a new idea. The heroes of the Bible all set goals and worked to reach them.

Noah's goal was building the ark so his family could be saved from the flood. We are here today because Noah reached his goal! Abraham's goal was to go where God directed so that the great family of God could begin. Moses' goal was to deliver God's people from bondage in Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land. David's goal was to guide Israel to victory over their enemies. Elijah's goal was to overcome Baal worship by convincing the people that Yahweh was the true God. And Jesus invited his desciples to set one primary goal: to seek first the Kingdom of God. In goal setting, history affords us some excellent examples.

3. Setting goals allows us to plan each day according to our own priorities.

When we fail to set goals and plan well, we permit others to determine our priorities. There is great value in making a to-do list for the next day. Then, with high energy, you can tackle your top priority when you are rested and at your best. Elton Trueblood told me the story of a man who gave this idea to the president of US Steel: Before you go home each day, make a list of the things you want to do tomorrow, put it in your desk drawer, then go home and enjoy your family. The next day, pull your list out and get to work. Six months later the man received a check for $25,000 from the president for the idea.

4. Setting goals should flow out of careful prioritizing.

You can begin by deciding what you are living for. What is you desired objective? Are you moving toward it, or just moving? Estelle Carver stirred me by imagining what questions you would ask if you were born on an airplane: Not merely where can I find food, but where is this plane going and Who is at the controls? Once you determine what you are living for, you can establish goals in the three basic areas: personal, family, and vocational. Stephen Covey reminds us, in his popular Seven Habits book, that effective leaders pick priorities which stem from their basic values. That is the pattern we should also follow.

5. Setting worthy goals is an obvious, yet basic principle of life.

Choosing the wrong goals is self-destructive. Since we are made in the image of God, we must ask the God questions. What is God's goal for my life? What help can I expect from God? Will He in fact help me determine, and reach my goals? Surely we can all agree that God wants us to choose goals that help us become better people, goals that benefit others as well as our own families, and goals that require the utmost honesty and integrity. We can get confused about God's approval of our goals.

In our church nationally the United Methodist Men manage a call-in prayer request center in the Upper Room. Annually about 140,000 calls are received. Some requests are more interesting that others. One woman asked for a red Jeep Cherokee. Stunned, the man taking the call did as instructed -- pray with people where they are, rather than try to teach them. A year later she called and said, "I never did get that car I prayed for, but last week I got saved, and the evangelist who came to our church drove up in a red Jeep Cherokee!" Usually God has something more in mind than just meeting our physical needs, as important as they are.

6. Setting goals based on your major priorities leads naturally to putting First Things First on a daily basis.

You remember that this is Habit #3 of Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." This involves the management of your time and projects in four categories: 1) urgent and important; 2) important but not urgent; 3) urgent but not important; and 4) not urgent and not important. One important key here is learning to say no, based on definiing our roles in life and what we want to accomplish in each of those roles. Saying no is not easy, but is is necessary if we are to have the time to focus on those priorities we believe to be important to us.

7. Setting goals is of little value unless we are willing to work to reach those goals.

We must be willing to do what we can do without waiting on others to do certain things, and without blaming others for our failure to achieve. If we accept the axiom that we need to "work smarter, not harder." then it is surely smart to use all the resources that are available to us. Often wonderful resources are all around us. None of us can reach our goals without the help and cooperation of others. No matter what business we are in, we need each other.

Upon receiving my assignment for today, I turned to my friend Scott Kaak, who serves as our Church Business Administrator. I asked if he could help me with a speech on goal-setting. He said, "Sure, I taught that subject at Auburn," and later he handed me five pounds of material! What a great help he was! A resource at my side! Resources God has provided for you are probably close at hand. When our goals are consistent with His will, God is willing to give us the power of His Spirit, and the resources, to think wisely, work wisely, and live wisely.

Two young boys sold a lawn mower to a pastor for enough money to buy a bike. But, the pastor could not start the mower. He asked the boys if they had sold him a lemon. One boy explained: "Mister, it won't crank unless you cuss at it." The preacher reared back in his holiest posture and said. "Son, I've been serving God for so long that I have fogotten how to cuss." The boy replied with wisdom beyond his years, "Keep pulling on that cord, preacher, and it will come back to you!"

Well, I hope as you keep thinking about these principles that you already knew, but may have forgotten, that what you need to do will come back to you, and that instead of "cussing," you will resume setting worthy goals that will help you live a wonderful and enjoyable life.

Joy and Peace,
Walter, sjc

A Talk Given by Walter Albritton to the Board of Realtors 1/26/01