“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

A New Year

I know you’re reading lots of New Year’s posts and blogs to help you to refocus for 2019 (as you should)! So I want to try to keep this brief, because it’s important and may be a good first step for you to prioritize as you consider and “prepare for” all that will come in the next year (I put that in quotes because there are really so few things you can do to actually prepare for the next twelve months). A colleague I respect recently said this: “New Year’s resolutions feel flimsy, but “vision” feels more viable and concrete.” I agree! I’ve noticed when talking to people recently that there is this “pressure” to resolve to do better at parenting, to stop engaging in the addiction that is interfering with their life, or to begin creating a new routine of habit that will lead to better health. The problem with “resolve” is that, though our intentions may be good, we are not very good at follow through. Well, some of you might be… but the majority of us find it challenging to create lasting and meaningful change because resolve just isn’t enough. But the bigger problem is that when we fail to follow through, we hear shame whisper something like this to us: “You did it again. You’re weak. See, you’ll never change.” 

Goal vs Vision

So what is the difference between a “goal” and a “vision” and how do we use these things to silence the voice of shame in the New Year? 

Most of us use the words vision, goal, and resolution interchangeably and though it may seem like “semantics,” words are important and knowing the difference can be helpful. 
Vision is tied to our values and is more of a direction you want to go in (think North, East, South, or West); a goal is a specific destination that you want to end up at. Creating goals is a valuable practice, so long as it is a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time limited). An “unSMART” goal might sound something like this: “I want to read more books this year.” Whereas a SMART goal might sound something like this: “I will spend 30 minutes per day reading’ I will start with _____ book, and will read every morning somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30am.” But before I even set my goal, I need to identify and begin with a value (in this case, for education and knowledge) which becomes the vision that I used to motivate me to complete the goal that I have created. Though the vision might be the same, the “unSMART goal” is vague and lacks boundaries and objectives; it is almost guaranteed to lead to failure because intention needs actionable steps in order to be successful. 

3 Quick Tips

What are 3 quick tips to transform your weak resolutions into powerful goals? 
1. Don’t just think about it: Don’t allow your ideas to remain in your thoughts, put them down on paper. Write them down and keep them with you every place you go. This constant reminder will help you to re-enforce your goals more than you can imagine. 

2. Don’t set goals you think that you “should have”: Make sure your goals are designed with what you truly desire and have in mind for yourself, not others. Don’t let others expectations of you dictate your goals. 

3. Be positive: Be sure to decide and declare what you want to move toward, not what you want to move away from.

For those of us who have been unsuccessful in keeping New Year’s resolutions in the past, vision is less pressure-laden, and more flexible, hope-full, and meaningful as it creates forward movement towards the destination we’d like to end up at (even when the goal is not accomplished on time or in the way we’d expect). More recently over the past couple of years, it has become popular to choose a “word” or “statement” for the New Year (i.e. health, joy, gratitude, generosity). This is a perfect example of deciding on a vision, based on a value, prior to the formation of your goal. 

What Is My Vision?

Here are two simple steps to discovering and living out your vision for 2019:

1. Begin by asking yourself: “Do I actually believe that God has good plans for my life?”

My answer to this question is a bold and unabashed “YES!” But, I didn’t always believe this. Like most of us, I have been through some very hard things and these “things” can create barriers to my ability to trust that the words of Jeremiah 29:11 apply to me. If my first reaction to this question is “no,” then it is important for me to get this sorted out before I can create any meaningful vision or goals for my life. Maybe you feel like you don’t deserve to have good plans for your life? Maybe you have been told in the past (with or without words) that you are worthless or that you have no purpose? Or maybe “trust” is an issue for you? Maybe you have unresolved pain or trauma that keeps you in “survival mode,” always on the defense? Or maybe you are not sure what you value?

Though I cannot know what the future holds or see all of the details for the next 5, 10, or 20 years… I choose to say “yes” to this question because it provides me with a strong sense of hope. Blogger Jenni Catron makes this important and powerful statement on the subject: “Hope is the anchor of a strong vision. Hope steadies a team. Hope redeems doubt. Andy Andrews says it this way in his book The Final Summit: “Hope is the captain of courage and the author of success. For the person whose hope remains unshaken has within them the power to do miracles. Hope sees what’s invisible, feels what is intangible, and achieves what most consider impossible.” The awesome thing is that scripture backs this up! Do a study of the word “hope” in scripture and discover all that God has to say about this. The basic translation of hope is simply, “the expectation that something good will happen.” .

2. Remember, if you don’t set a vision, something (or someone) else could derail you. 

We can either decide to set a vision that promotes the best version of ourselves by reinforcing the values that are important to us, or we are at risk of some unexpected negative circumstance determining the trajectory of 2019. I have patients and friends who have been through unimaginable trauma in this past year (i.e. affairs, death of a child, miscarriage, divorce, robbery) and ended the year with some of the most hopeful and life-giving declarations I have ever heard. One such friend (whose name I will omit to protect) made this powerful statement just two days ago: “Remember that there will always be seasons of suffering in life, but joy comes in the morning. I know that I’m not alone in this season. Some of you are just heading into a season of suffering, some are right in the midst of it and some of you are just seeing the light on the other side. Keep the faith. Stay strong in the Lord and begin the New Year with Him.” 

Whether we like it or not, the clock keeps ticking and time keeps pushing us forward. Our God, the creator of the entire universe, wants to do a new thing (something that’s NEVER been done before) in you and through you this year (see Isaiah 43). In the days and weeks to come, you will be confronted with unexpected joy and pain and though they may feel similar to things you’ve experienced before, they are not… they will be “novel” or new. A few years back, I feel like I heard the Lord say, “Novelty creates and deepens intimacy.” Think about it. The way you fall in love all over again when you try something new with your spouse, the way that you hyper-bond when you go through unimaginable tragedy with virtual strangers. New things, novel things, well-navigated have the potential to lead us to a deeper place of connection and communion. This New Year is no different!

Opportunities Ahead

My point is this… whether the “novelty” is positive or negative, it carries within it an opportunity for increased intimacy, trust, and connection. This level of relationship offers us a sense of comfort when fear attempts to muddy the waters of our minds, or anger stirs within our hearts, or pain intrudes- finding its way, uninvited, into our souls again. 

What are some vision words or phrases for 2019? Take some time to think about this. Consider the two points above; how do my responses and reactions to both of these play into my ability to formulate a vision with goals to accompany it?