Tuesday, 06 October 2015 14:03

Pursue Goals Like a Champion

Written by  Olivia Pierce
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The word goal tends to make us cringe, as initial thoughts include sacrifice and misery.  Building goals from a platform of achievement and satisfaction, however, makes the process seem less daunting and more palatable.  Who better than Paul, an encourager and Champion in Christ, to guide us through goal creation and attainment?  In his pep talks, he uses athletic analogies involving achievement.  In true sports psychology fashion, Paul encourages visualization and mental rehearsal to persevere.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, he writes, “run in such a way as to get the prize” instead of “running aimlessly” or “beating the air.”  If you feel like you’re fighting without purpose or spinning your wheels, here are some Paul-inspired tips for building and achieving goals.

1. Shift Your Language

One small shift from negative to positive language can give your goal a different feel.  In this case, negative implies taking away and positive implies adding to.  Let’s say your goal is to be less stressed.  Put in negative terms: “I will decrease my stress.”  This is called an avoidance goal, as you are avoiding a thought, feeling, or action.  These goals drain us mentally just by the thought of moving against something.  Simply ask yourself, “What would I like instead of stress?”  The result in positive terms: “I will live my life more carefree and with purpose.”  This is called an approach goal, as you are approaching thoughts, feelings, or actions.  These goals fuel us mentally, physically, and spiritually because we are moving towards something, not against.  Instead of waiting for the absence of the problem (stress), we can immediately begin searching for and noticing the presence of results.  If you catch yourself living more carefree and with purpose, you are more inclined to continue with the goal because the reward center of your brain is tapped, craving more.  

Paul exemplifies how goals are meant to be embraced, not feared.  He states the perfect approach goal in Philippians 1:21: “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  He created a win-win mindset.  If he lived by an avoidance goal, like “try not to die,” he may not have felt as encouraged, being less inspirational to his audience.   


2. Visualize Your Preferred Future

This involves mentally capturing what the end result will look like before taking a step forward.  It keeps us on course, maintaining our focus.  Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-15, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”  Have you ever set a goal with all thrust and no vector, finding yourself somewhere quickly but at the wrong destination?  It makes much more sense to set your coordinates before the launch.  First, imagine what others will be saying to you once you’ve reached your stated goal of living your life more carefree and with purpose.  Second, think about what you did to make that happen (e.g., being more spontaneous, finding meaning in everyday tasks, etc.).  Third, envision what you will be doing differently as a result of reaching this goal (e.g., different thoughts, feelings, and/or actions).  Knowing how you’ll be living your goal bridges the gap between what you desire and how you get there.  Motivation, therefore, comes from the hope and expectation for a better tomorrow (optimism bias), not from the stated goal itself.  “Expectation and hope” are what gave Paul the courage and strength to face the anxiety of possible death (Philippians 1:20).


3. Mentally Rehearse Overreaching Your Goal

Positive psychology challenges individuals to strive beyond just getting back to normal.  If you were less stressed two years ago, is getting back to baseline necessarily doing anything more than status quo?  In this ‘growth mindset,’ instead of viewing your goals as an end product, you think of them as an ongoing, developmental process.  Weaknesses are even viewed as necessary to stretch us in becoming more innovative, optimistic, courageous, and therefore more confident to pursue other goals.  Paul states eloquently in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What would happen if you began pursuing goals as Paul, lacing up your shoes every morning with the intent to “run in such a way as to get the prize”?  Perhaps you’ll receive similar heavenly results.


Last modified on Tuesday, 20 October 2015 14:06
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