Summary of the book The Law of Happiness by Dr. Henry Cloud
When we look over the many characteristics of happy people, goal setting is at the top of the list. Setting goals is biblical as well. Proverbs 13:12 states: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
When we live a life that is just “going through the motions” and never achieving, we feel depressed and listless. Yet, even those times when our only goal is to get through our “to do” list by the end of the day, once accomplished, we have a sense of satisfaction. We feel refreshed and complete.
A life must have goals, and these goals should stem from the desires of our heart. God gave each of us different talents and gifts. He has a different plan for each of us. Two people can have the exact same goal, but their approach may be very different. For example, both may have a desire to help their local homeless shelter. One person is very math oriented, and the way they contribute is by working on the financial books of the organization. The other person has the gift of hospitality, and they help the shelter by hosting fundraisers. Both people are working toward the same end, yet they are going about it in very different ways. If the “party person” sat at a desk and crunched numbers all day for the charity, because she felt she was “supposed to,” she would be miserable. If the “numbers person” was given the task of hosting a fundraiser, the charity might fold on the spot! The point of this is, you need to know what your God-given talents are, and put them to use based on where your heart is guiding you.
My family and I set goals every year. We put aside about 2 hours right after the new year and have a “dream” session. We write down everything we would like to do, from 1-year to 20-year goals. We dream about our financial aspirations, our personal desires, along with our material and spiritual goals. Our favorite question is: If we could do anything we wanted to do, what would it be? I love this part of goal setting, because everyone loves to dream. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is too big or out of reach. We just dream! This is a very important part of the goal setting process, and it should not be discounted. God has placed these desires in our heart, and our job is to figure out which ones we are to act upon. So, don’t skip this step. Just start writing!
After this initial session, we then get a little more serious. First, we pray about these goals, “Ok, God. We had fun doing this dream session, but now we want to know what YOU want us to accomplish this year. Where are we to put our focus?” It is amazing to watch this work. Every time we finish praying, it becomes very clear which of our goals are frivolous, and which ones start to come into focus. We begin crossing things off the list until eventually we are left with a few dreams we can really sink our teeth into. A good prayer to pray is, “Lord, don’t let me desire anything that is not Your will.” God’s will for our lives is the same as saying God’s goals for our lives. God will place the desires in our heart for the things He wants us to accomplish. If our heart aligns with God’s plan, we will be very joyful people.
I want to reference a portion of a transcript from John Piper from his blog www.desiringGod.org, which explains in greater detail what it means to align with God’s plan.
This is what David meant when he said in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The desires of the heart cease to be merely natural desires when the heart delights above all else in the Lord. Delighting in the Lord — in the hallowing of his name and the seeking of his kingdom and the doing of his will — transforms all-natural desires into God-related desires. Prayer is not for gratifying natural desires. It is for fruit-bearing, for the glory of God. Another way of saying it is this: if you want God to respond to your interests, you must be devoted to HIS interests. God is God. He does not run the world by hiring the consulting firm called Mankind. He lets mankind share in the running of the world through prayer to the degree that we consult with HIM and get our goals and desires in tune with HIS purposes. The evidence for this in the writing of John is in 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before him, that, if we ask anything according to HIS will, he hears us.” Prayer is not for gratifying our natural desires. It is for gratifying our desires when those desires have been so purified and so saturated with God that they coincide with HIS plans. “If we ask anything according to HIS will (all emphasis mine).”
This is why my husband and I always pray over our “dream” session once we are finished and ask God, “Ok, God, what do YOU want us to accomplish?” We know our goals will not come to fruition if they are goals that belong only to us and do not FIRST belong to Him. Back to Dr. Cloud and what he says when setting goals. Choose goals that fit your strengths (as mentioned earlier). Then break your goals down into doable chunks. Lastly, he reminds us not to forget the journey when he says, “…the happiness is found not mostly in the finish line of your goal but in the journey itself, so choose goals that call for you to love the work itself and that involve you in tasks you enjoy doing.”
I fit this description to a tee. My life has always been about the journey. Obviously, I love to entertain (to me, it really IS all about the table!). Although I love to entertain the joy comes in the planning and preparation. I cannot tell you how many times I have said an hour before I am about to host an event, “Let’s hurry and get this party over with so I can start planning the next event.” Sometimes, it is not actually about the party, it is about the preparation leading up to the party. This is just how God wired me. (On a side note, once the party begins and my guests arrive, I have as much fun as they do, because my other great joy is seeing the people around me take a respite from life and enjoy fellowship with others).
So, our marching orders for today:
Have fun and daydream.
Capture your greatest desires on paper.
Pray over your goals and see which ones begin to show more clarity.
Write a step by step action plan of how you will accomplish a specific goal.
Break that goal into small chunks so it is more easily accomplished.
BEGIN (No goal is accomplished unless you take physical steps to achieve!)
Together with you,