On a rainy afternoon in 1940, a fifteen-year-old dreamer named John Goddard pulled out a piece of paper and wrote My Life List at the top of it. In one afternoon, he wrote down 127 life goals. By the time he had turned fifty, John Goddard had accomplished 108 of his 127 goals. And they were no garden-variety goals.
- Milk a poisonous snake
- Skin dive to 40 feet and hold breath 2 ½ minutes underwater
- Learn Jujitsu
- Study primitive culture in Borneo
- Land on and take off from an aircraft carrier
- Run a mile in five minutes
- Go on a church missions trip
- Retrace the travels of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great
- Learn French, Spanish, and Arabic
- Play the flute and violin
- Photograph Victoria Falls in Rhodesia
- Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
- Build a telescope
- Read the Bible from cover to cover
- Circumnavigate the globe
- Visit the birthplace of Grandfather Sorenson in Denmark
- Publish an article in National Geographic magazine
John Goddard has not accomplished every goal he set. He never climbed Mount Everest, and his quest to visit every country in the world fell a few countries short. There were also some disappointments along the way. His goal of studying dragon lizards on Komodo Island was thwarted when his boat broke down twenty miles offshore. So Goddard hasn’t accomplished all of his goals, but I doubt that he would have accomplished half of what he has if he hadn’t set the goals in the first place. After all, you’ll never achieve the goals you don’t set.
When I first read Goddard’s list of life goals, I was inspired to come up with my own life goal list. Every year I check a few goals off the list. I also add new goals along the way.
1. Start with Prayer
If you set goals in the context of prayer, there is a much higher likelihood that your goals will glorify God, and if they don’t glorify God, then they aren’t worth setting in the first place. So start with prayer.
2. Check your Motives
If you set selfish goals, you’d be better off spiritually if you didn’t accomplish them. That’s why you need to check your motives.
3. Think in Categories
My goals are broken in five categories: 1) family 2) influential 3) experiential 4) physical, and 5) travel. The obvious omission is a category for spiritual goals, but that is by intention. All of my goals have a spiritual dimension to them.
4. Be Specific
If a goal isn’t measurable, you have no way of knowing whether or not you’ve accomplished it. Losing weight isn’t a goal if you don’t have a target weight within a target timeline.
5. Write It Down
Most people know that the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory. If you haven’t written down your goals, you haven’t really set them. There is something powerful that happens when you verbalize a goal, whether that is in a conversation or in a journal.
6. Include Others
I used to have lots of personal goals, but I have replaced most of them with shared goals. Nothing cements a relationship like a shared goal. Goals are relational glue. I’ve discovered that when you go after a goal with another person, it doubles your joy.
7. Celebrate Along the Way
When you accomplish a goal, celebrate it.
8. Dream Big
Your life goal list will include goals that are big and small. It will include goals that are short-term and long-term. But I have one piece of advice: make sure you have a few big, audacious goals on the list.
9. Think Long
The sad truth is that most people spend more time planning their summer vacation than they do planning the rest of their life. Goal setting is good stewardship. Instead of letting things happen, goals help us make things happen. Instead of living out of memory, goals help us live out of imagination.
10. Pray Hard
Dreaming is a form of praying in faith and praying n faith is a form of dreaming. The more you dream, the more you’ll pray. And the more you pray, the more you’ll dream! These are not useless prayer, but calling that which is not yet as if it were.