Posted by: JennyRain | November 1, 2009

Setting Goals vs. Living in the Now

Last week my boss and I worked on my goals for 2010 and my Professional Development Plan (PDP).

This process required that I ask three important questions:

  •  What are my short term career/development goals?
  •  What are some of my long term career/development goals?
  •  What are my greatest strengths?

These are all of the same questions that I, for almost two decades as a training manager, asked employees to help point them in a direction that would provide them fulfillment in their lives and career. I have asked myself those same questions many times to recalibrate the direction of my career as well as find a source of motivation and challenge to keep me going.

So I was flabbergasted last week when those three simple questions left me tongue-tied!

I mean, I am the girl who has known what I wanted to do since I was twelve! I still remember the summer of 1982 when I came out to D.C. and told my dad that I was going to do three things when I grew up:

By age twenty-two I was well on my way to accomplishing all three goals. By the time I was thirty-two, I had accomplished all three of the goals that I set as a twelve-year old.

Were they random goals made by a young dreamer? Probably. But for me, they were S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). More importantly, these goals were visual markers in the distance that provided a road map of what my life could look like when I was “all growed up.”

I have always had a “knowing” of what was next.

I have always “set my goals and live by faith” (As one of my favorite preachers Charles Stanley would say). There has always something in the distance that I am reaching for – a challenge, a goal, an aspiration.

Why now was I having so much trouble setting new goals?

As I examine my life – both career and personal – I realize that there are two things that are constant companions in my daily walk now that were not there several years ago.

  • Contentment
  • Peace

Both, I feel, are gifts from God. Both are things I am so very thankful for as these two “concepts” of contentment and peace were foreign to me for thirty-six years. See, there is something about a constant striving that causes a deep inner unrest and can often lead to turmoil and there is something about abiding in the now that allows you to rest.

Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. (Ecclesiastes 5.19-20 NIV)

But I did not have this contentment and peace – this gladness of heart. You see, for me, the present was something to be escaped from. Something to avoid. If I was not setting goals, it meant that somehow I would find myself stuck in my present circumstances.

I had not learned how to live in the present, so I was constantly setting new goals so I could live in the future.

Now, there is nothing wrong with planning for the future, living by faith, and being regularly energized by goal-setting. My problem was that I was so future-driven that I missed a lot of what was going on around me.  So for the last two years, I have been practicing living in the now, living into the moment, experiencing where I am at instead of trying to escape it with some “future joy” that is yet to be experienced.

Furthermore, the last three years have taught me that often goals we set are rearranged by circumstances beyond our control. We do not know if we will even have a tomorrow. Each day is truly a gift.

The Apostle Paul said, I have learned the secret to being content in whatever circumstance I find myself.

Paul set goals, Paul lived by faith – yes – but Paul also embraced the “now” and because of it, he led a life that was maximally impacting wherever he happened to be. Paul was the quintessential “in the moment” guy, yet he strove towards the future too. He was “already and not yet.”

Where is the balance of the future and the now?

I am happy to report that I did eventually uncover some goals to work towards.

My goals include finishing my MACM from McAfee School of Theology by Fall of 2010 (two classes left!), learning more about website technology, maximizing my current job (and each moment of ministry within my current job), finishing well whatever I put my hands to, practicing my writing daily, and finding an accountability partner. I am excited about these goals!

However, this time – my goals feel different because I am very content in the now that I have been blessed with. Each day is a new adventure, each moment is an opportunity to fully maximize my ministry to whomever might be standing right in front of me at the moment. I do not feel as if I am striving for the future at the expense of the present.

In searching for a picture to end my blog, I ran across a beautiful devotional  on Campus Crusade’s website about contentment in the now, setting goals, and trusting God. I thought it would be a beautiful way to close my blog. (Click “beautiful devotional” to read it).





  1. Thanks, this is a great post. Sometimes it’s hard to live in the present without thinking about your goals.

    For setting and track goals, I’ve been using a web-based app called GoalsOnTrack. It’s very effective in helping you keep focused and getting things done. You may want to give it a try:

    • Hi Harry

      Thank you so much for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed it! I will definitely try out your goals on track recommendation. Thanks so much for the resource!


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