I used to spend a lot of time leading workshops, planning trainings, and giving motivational talks. In all of these there was an emphasis on goal setting, because it is a universally accepted truth that we need to have measurable, attainable goals in order to steer a straight course.
Goals are good and necessary things to have, but as with most of life, too much of a good thing can be bad. How goals affect us can depend on how we perceive them. Are we excited and confident of achieving them, or daunted by the challenges? When I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the goal at hand, a little trick I use is to imagine myself on the other side of the challenge before me. Whether it is a trip to the dentist or learning a new skill for a major project, picturing myself as having gone through it successfully always makes the task seem more doable.
Anticipated pleasure or dread of a future event influences the way we perceive the actual experience of it. Consider the way many people feel about Fridays as opposed to Sundays. The anticipation of a full weekend ahead colors our Friday experience, making that workday more pleasant, while the need to gear up for a week of work can cast a pall on the relaxation or recreation we enjoy on Sunday. We can use this powerful transference effect to our advantage. By turning the future over to God’s control, and trusting that whatever He allows is for my good, I can anticipate and look forward to the blessings on the other side of a challenge. On the other hand, if I focus overmuch on my goals, and the many steps needed to reach those goals, it can overshadow any satisfaction I might have in the process.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, or frustrated along the pathway to meeting your goals, try looking through the struggles with anticipation of the promised blessings. When active anticipation of joy meets the passive depression of dread and gloom, joy conquers, every time.
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)