If we want to be successful in life we should learn from successful people, figure out what makes them successful and adopt their techniques. The Bible uses Olympic athletes as an illustration to teach us ways to stay focused on our goals and fulfil our calling.
What the Bible says about goals
The reason why Olympic athletes are successful is not solely that they are exceptionally good at what they are doing, or particularly gifted. No. There is one particular capability they display: focus. They know how to focus on the goal they have set themselves.
In the Bible, the letter to the Hebrews tells us to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” and to “run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)
When the Bible speaks of ‘sin’ it means missing the mark. All throughout the Scriptures, ‘sin’ refers to falling below the standard of Gods righteousness.
But we can also ‘miss the mark’ while running the race that God set before us. We can miss out on the life we were created for. Just like an athlete in a running track, if we lose focus and get off track, we will miss our goal – God’s calling on our life. (Be sure to also read: The power of having a vision)
Things that stop you from achieving your goals
The first thing we need to do, is to write a vision for our life. Then, set ourselves goals that help us reach that vision. But then, how do we reach these goals?
Just as the author of Hebrews says: strip off everything that weighs you down. What is it that weighs you down? What are the distractions that, again and again, prevent you from reaching the goals you have set yourself?
Is your schedule cluttered with too many things that take up so much of your time, but actually have zero value (in terms of your goals)?
- The obvious: Junk. That could be watching too much TV, scrolling endlessly and aimlessly through social media. You get me.
- Hobbies are fantastic, but sometimes they no longer fit into the season we are in.
- Our inability to No to others – who are irresponsible or even manipulative. If that describes you, learn more about setting healthy boundaries.
- The not so obvious: Activities that otherwise would be good, but are not for the season you are currently in.
- Lack of prioritising.
How do you stay focused on your goals
Does your schedule reflect your goals?
Make an assessment of what currently fills your schedule. Think about which of the things you do on a daily, weekly basis help reach your goals and which don’t.
Take reading for example. It is very beneficial in so many ways. And it could be your kind of thing that helps you unwind and relax (better than binge-watching!). No problem with that!
But it could be helpful if at least some of the books you read, had to do with your goals. In simple terms: instead of cheesy novels, find other books that also interest you, that help you get the knowledge you need to reach your goals.
Prioritise your goals
Maybe you have set yourself many goals and are gifted in many areas. That’s great! But if you spread yourself out too thinly, if you invest in all of your goals simultaneously, it is likely that you won’t reach any of them.
Coming back to the illustration of Olympic athletes: They are men and women like you and me. What distinguishes them from others is that they have identified what they are best at. They may be good at many sports but they left the good things behind and focused on what they can do best and made it their primary goal.
The gold medallist in 100 metres sprint may be good in running 1,500 metres too. He may even throw the javelin a great long distance. But at some point in his life, he realised, that he would not excel at other sports the same way as he does at the 100 m race.
So what did he do? Set up a plan to get better at 1,500 metres? No. He stopped developing his secondary qualities and focused on what he was best in: his speed.
How do you stay focused on your goals? By prioritising one. This is how the world’s fastest man does it. He prioritised one discipline – every single day of his life. He invested all into becoming the world’s fastest man.
Stay focused on your primary goal
Maybe you set yourself too many goals each year (or month). As it happens, many important/urgent things come up along the way, and they too need your attention. In the end, your life is cluttered with many secondary things.
These secondary things are all important. You enjoy doing many of them. You’re good at them. But they are not your priority. At least not in the season you are currently in.
The Bible tells us not to live our life not aimlessly, but with discipline and self-control, focusing on the prize awaiting us:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV)
We need to stay focused on our primary goal. If we do that, we will eventually reach our other goals as well, one after the other.
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Ways to stay focused on your goals
We have seen that we cannot work on too many goals simultaneously. If we do, we will never get any of them done. We won’t excel at any of them. Even worse, we’ll be inconsistent with all of them.
So, here are some steps on how to stay focused on your goals:
- Assess what you currently invest your time in.
- Declutter your schedule off any junk – stuff that takes up your time but has zero value.
- Find out what your primary goal is for this particular season.
- Determine what comes secondary and treat it as such (e.g. leave it for after you reached your primary goal).
- Put your primary goal first when investing your time and efforts.
- Don’t get distracted with other things that are “important” but not primary.
- Don’t give up, run the race until you reach your goal.
One day, we want to reach the finishing line and hear my Master say “well done you good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). We want to accomplish the tasks he has called us to do – and accomplish them well.
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