When Our Goals Cloud Our Perspective

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Goal SettingGoals. They're a tricky thing, aren’t they? In one breath they can inspire and motivate us to new heights. In the next, they can terrify us, leaving us riddled with insecurity and discouragement. Perhaps you’ve heard about swimmer Diana Nyad and her goal to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. At the age of 62. She attempted it last month and made it nearly 30 hours before she had to stop. A shoulder injury, an asthma attack, and vomiting finally exhausted her to the degree that sheer willpower was simply no longer enough to continue.

Did you catch that? She swam in open ocean waters - rough, choppy ocean waters. With sharks in them. For 30 hours. At the age of 62. That is stinkin’ amazing. Period. I can't even stay awake that long!

But, here’s the thing. Most of us, probably even Nyad herself, will be disappointed that she didn’t make it all the way to Florida. We’ll miss the wonder of what she did accomplish because of what she didn't accomplish. I’m all for pushing ourselves and not settling for mediocrity. But, doesn’t something about that seem just a little askew?

Why do I bring it up? Because I think we do the same thing in our own lives. With ourselves. With our kids. Perhaps even with our husbands. We set these goals – some lofty and life-shaping. Some more mundane like our daily task list. And the goals are good. They really are. They keep us motivated and moving forward with purpose.

But sometimes, I think we’re so focused on the goal that we miss the wonder of today’s moments. We fail to delight in the things that did happen. The amazing progress and growth that did occur. The tasks that did get finished.

Instead, we just see the gaps. The places where we fall short. Or the ways the people in our lives fail us. Discouragement sets in. And we miss the incredible things that God’s Spirit is working in our midst. Day after day. Grace upon grace.

Sometimes it’s especially challenging to see those graces when we’re in the throes of motherhood. Because being a mom means lots of interruptions and half-finished conversations and fleeting teachable moments. Much of what we do is hard to measure. Sometimes we don't feel like we have a lot to show for a week's work.  We wonder, are we really getting anywhere? Is there progress?

When Rick & I first began working in full-time ministry with college students, we had a mentor who reminded us often that real growth takes time. He used to say that "less happens in a year than we would hope. But more happens in five years than we could ever imagine."

We found that to be true on the college campus. I think it’s true in our families, too. God is at work – in us and in the people we love. Let’s not lose sight of that. Open your eyes to see all the graces along the way. And rejoice.