Maybe if you’re a parent, you’ve heard the term bandied around — “executive functioning.” It’s a set of skills that some of us, well, lack — the ability to be efficient, be organized, Get It Together. It comes up in conversation along with words like underperforming, procrastination, and Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s my nemesis. And as I was researching how to help my sadly saddled child, inheritor of my weaknesses, I got to thinking about how this scatterbrained tendency impacts people spiritually. Where does a person start a project that huge, a lifetime of walking with God? How can you whittle down a thousand page book to a do-able daily goal?
I have been thinking a lot lately about goals. There’s been an empire of self-help books built on Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely goals, goals that get results. Michael Hyatt, in his recent book Platform, devotes a good deal of time to the subject, giving helpful examples like: “Make one hundred thousand dollars a year doing what I love. Lose 25 pounds and complete a half marathon.” Think big, he says; write down the vision for what you set out to do and work backwards. If I want to lose 25 pounds, what will I have to do? How many calories to cut? How many miles to jog?
It is pragmatic, effective, logical. You decide what you’re going for and dissect the goal into small steps. But where is the intersection of faith and action, dreams and practicality? What if the goals are the wrong goals? It strikes me that there is a big difference between being goals and doing goals — who is it I want to be vs. what is it I want to do? For a writing career, it might look like this:
impactful writing career vs. NYT bestseller list
with discipline, write every day vs. produce one published work every year
pursue excellence in a variety of forms, challenging myself vs. narrowly focus on a currently hot niche and develop a brand
writing as vocation vs. earn a specific dollar amount yearly
The SMART goals, the ones you can really work toward, might propel you into incredible success, but the vaguer, being goals, might shape you into the writer you really want to be. Jane Austen was surely the least popular of her contemporaries, but who remembers any of them? Austen didn’t write to bring home the bacon, and in her lifetime she saw little success, but today she is studied and much-loved. Hyatt would argue that you won’t so much as get a chance to be heard if you aren’t strategic; I can’t disagree. But who will you be at the end of the day?