Can You Set Spiritual Growth Goals?

I used to work at General Nutrition Center -  hocking vitamins and supplements helped me get through college and pay a relatively small car payment. It also gave me time to rebel against the corporate evil that made me wear a red polo shirt (nay, BUY and then wear...) every day to work. Evil, evil, evil!

More than that, it exposed me to something called "sales goals." Our store was small, but as a part of the national chain we were required to meet certain goals or else things had to change. I rebelled against goals, mostly because they made me work at my actual job rather than spending my shift studying but also because they seemed, well, so "corporate" and "inhuman."

So, when I think about 2011 I begin to think about goals and I have one question: Is it possible to make goals regarding how I need to grow as a follower of Jesus? Is it "anti-spiritual" to set goals?

I have had a change of heart - I don't believe it is evil to set goals, but they need have certain characteristics in order for them to stay out of the "production-only" line of thinking (i.e. I'm only as good as what I've done).

Here are four suggestions on what goals must be:

1. Reasonable

"I'm going to fast for an entire month" is not (at least for everyone) a reasonable goal. If you feel called to that, yes, by all means go for it but don't make it a goal just because it sounds spiritual. You might as well not make one at all if it isn't reasonable for who you are and what you feel God is pushing you to do. I'm going to fast one day a month/week is more reasonable. With a goal like this, you also need a reasonable motivation for doing it. Fasting helps us reduce our dependence on stuff to keep us happy and also helps us focus our hunger on God.

2. Attainable

There are some really good goals for growth that you'll never achieve in a year. "I want to forgive my father for..." is a goal that probably has more than a year's worth of work in it. Start smaller, say, "I'm going to have lunch with my father once a month this year." If you make a goal that you can't reach the goal within the next year, you'll get discouraged and it will leave you worse off than you were before. Also, this will give God a chance to show you that what you thought couldn't be done in a year actually CAN be done through His guidance and strength.

3. Measurable

This is simple - make a goal so that you can clearly state when it's done. "I want to be less of a jerk this year" is a tough goal (perhaps because of #1 & #2 but that's not mine to say) especially because it's hard to know when you've completed it. I'm not saying you have to have concrete data either, and your standard for achieving your goal may be something no one else completely understands (see #4 on this) but ultimately there has to be a moment where you say "Yeah, that's it."

4. Accountable

The goal you make needs to be able to be evaluated and someone needs to hold you accountable for it. If you are going to read one book of the Bible a month this year, you need to have someone (preferably not someone who annoys you to the point of rage) who will gently ask you if you're keeping up with it and if not who will gently whack you in the forehead and say "get on with it." Okay, that's more for me but you get the point.

I'd say get away by yourself in the next week or so, take a pad of paper, a Bible, and items to remind you of the pieces of your life (family pictures, your business card, names of your co-workers and neighbors) and ask God "With these pieces in my life, what must I focus on so that you can make me the person you want me to be?"

I hope to share my spiritual growth goals for this year with you, but until then - what are your goals for this year?