Being inclined to procrastinate, I like to set goals to help me avoid putting things off. Having a goal motivates me to action.
Doing this has helped me accomplish more than I would have otherwise. Most of us are like that. However, do you have some things you’ve worked toward a long time but never seem to achieve? (Not talking about our spiritual walks. They are ongoing.) Are you frustrated and disappointed about those things? Sad?
I once heard a man talk about goals and desires. Many people present were military so he used this example. He said, “Making general is not a good goal.” Huh? Why not? Shouldn’t someone aspire to be the best he can be? To serve in the highest capacity possible for greatest impact?
This man explained that a goal is something over which we have control of the factors that make the thing happen. A desire is something we want, but we do not have control over the factors that bring it about.
A man aspiring to be general has no control over the evaluations his superiors write about him, no control over the needs of the service, no control over others up for consideration, etc. He has control over his personal conduct but not over decisions made concerning him. Making general is a good desire, not a good goal.
In my arena, let’s say I really want my children to love good literature. I cannot make that happen. I cannot force them to prefer Milton over Marvel. So that’s a desire. I can set some goals, however. I can read daily to my children starting when they are young. I can refer to characters and stories as they apply in the children’s lives. I can let them see me reading excellent books. I have control over exposing them to good literature and tickling their palates with its taste. That’s my goal.
Recognizing this difference helps me focus where I have influence and let go where I don’t.
It means I can spend time, energy, and thought where God directs and not fret unnecessarily or strive to exercise power He has not given me.
Desire: Be a concert pianist. Goal: Hire a suitable teacher, practice several hours daily
Desire: Host the whole family for Christmas. Goal: Invite everyone in time for each to make arrangements.
Desire: Vacation in Hawaii. Goal: Research and save x amount of money weekly from groceries.
What “goals” do you presently have that might need to be moved into the “desire” category? It’s very freeing!
Dana Edgar says
Thank you for this distinction! This is truly empowering! My greatest desire is that my family and friends will know God. Now I can work at the things within my power to aid that process, and give the outcome to Him. This is exciting!
Beth Sterne says
Dana, thank you! It is empowering. It keeps us from guilt and regret that is not ours to carry. It frees us to focus where God wants our thoughts and energy. He works there and He works where we cannot!