Tag Archives: goals

The October Resolve

As I mentioned my “October Resolve” in the cheesecake entry published Thursday, it occurred to me that I had not explained what I meant by that term. Actually, I invented that term (but not the goals that lay behind it) when I wrote the post.

Recently, I have become irritated by myself and my failures in several areas. A week or so back, I determined that I had to make progress on these three items or I would probably find myself frustrated and defeated going forward. I’ve code-named them G, L, and S, but I can trust you with their actual identities.

G stands for the sin of gluttony. I’ve been up and down with my weight, my healthy eating, and my general level of fitness over the last five years or so. Over the summer, Penny and I both did great. Then I went back to school and wheels came off. Workouts ended and restraint with food went out the window. My G resolve is to eat within control every day through October. I’ll be measuring myself using MyFitnessPal and remembering Proverbs 23:20-21.

L stands for the sin of lust. Let’s be clear–especially if you’re my wife reading this–I’ve not completely gone off the rails. However, I have found my eyes and thoughts going where they should not go.  My L resolve is to keep my eyes on the right things as much as possible and to maintain a pure mind in sexual matters. I seek this beyond October, but I’ll start with these 31 days. To assist, I’m lining up scriptures like 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 to remind me of the importance of mental fidelity.

S stands for the sin of sloth. Although I have plenty of good things that I should be doing with my time, I’ve been a bit of a sluggard recently. With Proverbs 6:10-11 in my mind, I know that I simply have to use my time more productively. Yes, there are lots of good things on Netflix, but I don’t have to watch them all right away. I’ve created a document file that I’ll use to record my actions each day. So far, I’ve felt very good about my use of time, but can I keep it up for a month? We’ll see.

That’s what I’m striving to do this month. There’s no grand conclusion to draw, but I thought I’d share.

Rule #4: Set specific intentions

torah-scrollI have been exploring the individual rules listed in anarticle called “Ten Rules Fit People Live By,”evaluatingeach of them in the light of Biblical teaching. You can check out Rule #1,Rule #2, or Rule #3. Today, we get to examine rule #3: Set specific intentions. Here’s how the author explains this rule.

The more detailed your daily goals and plans, the better. In his book, Harper cites an English study on women enrolled in a weight loss program: The researchers asked about half of their subjects to write down their strategies for managing temptation (for example, When sugar cravings strike, I will make a cup of tea). After two months, those women had lost twice as much weight as women in a control group.

On the surface, this rule seems like a great idea. I’m a goal-oriented person. I set goals (or objectives or plans) for the day, the week, the month, and the year. For example, I have a goal for calorie intake for today. My goal is simple. I’m going to eat no more than 1,750 calories plus one half of the calories I burn through exercise. When I exercised this morning, I burned about 980 calories, so I will allow myself 490 extra calories to be eaten. At the end of the day, my calorie count should be less than 2,240. Good goal, right? It’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed. It’s S.M.A.R.T.! Yesterday, I didn’t meet that goal, going a bit bananas as I watched recorded episodes ofNCISbefore heading to bed. Still, the goal was good and serves me almost every day.

Similarly, I never go out to run without a distance and/or a pace in mind. I don’t lift weights without knowing what exercises I’ll do at what weights and what reps. Goals are good, especially when they help us with things that could get lost in imprecision. For example, it’s a lot easier to say I’ll eat no more than 2,240 calories than to say, I’ll “eat right” or “cut back a bit.”

Goals are biblical. In Proverbs 21:5, we are admonished,”The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty,” while Jesus shared the peculiar little parable about building tower in Luke 14:28: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”

But goals can become an end in themselves. I think that’s why James 4:13-15 warns us about getting too involved in our goals and plans:

Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.

I think the same basic message lies behind the parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12. We set goals. We try to achieve our goals. Sometimes we make it; sometimes we don’t, but trying is a good thing. When, however, those goals become our god, when our goals replace the goals God would establish for us, then we’re just as guilty of idolatry as those who bow down to Baal.

So in the end, rule #4 is a good one but one that can be misapplied. Remember that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Absent that, there are no wise goals.

Doctors, Dribblers, and Dreamers

Muddy kidThis morning, I went to my grandkids’ school to take part in a sort of career fair, meeting with 5th through 7th graders in small groups. One of the things that we did as we met each group was to ask them what they wanted to be professionally. If their answers are to be any guide, the world will soon have an overabundance of doctors and professional athletes.

Reality will almost certainly set in over the coming years for these kids. Let’s look at what the NCAA predicts for high school soccer players. According to their figures, 417,000 high school boys are playing soccer. Of those 5.7% will play in college. That’s 23,769 college players. And of those, the NCAA predicts that 1.4% or 332 will be drafted by the MLS. If those numbers are correct, then the average high school soccer player has a .08% chance of being drafted by MLS. That’s not quite 1 in 10,000 or 1 out of every 500 high school teams. The odds are even worse when it comes to basketball.

So what did we say when these 5th through 7th graders–all of them boys, by the way–indicated a desire to play professional sports? Did we say, “You’re an idiot! You’re not going to be good enough to do that. Even if your body does hold up through college, it’s probably not strong enough to do what you want to do”? Of course not. We asked them, politely, if they had a back-up plan in case that didn’t work out.

But then there’s the whole doctor thing. Just as some kids will simply not have the physical ability to play professional sports–forget about the mental habits–some kids won’t have the mental powers to make medical school happen. These kids will need good grades in reasonably demanding classes, plus they’ll need to do a decent job on the MCAT. I don’t have exact numbers like those provided by the NCAA for athletes, but I do know that in 2013, only about 40% of the 48,000 students who applied to medical school got in. We have to remember that not too many students who are clearly not med school material will be applying. Of those who do get in, perhaps 85% will graduate, but some of these middle-school would-be-doctors will simply not have what it takes.

Whether we are talking aboutour body or of our mind, the reality for most of us is that we typically ask too little of it rather than too much. What if those two 5th graders who proclaimed their intention to play professional soccer don’t make it? What if they only play on a high school team and have fun? Would that be terrible? What if they get some college scholarship money and get to play a game they enjoy at the same time? Wouldn’t that be awful?

Or what if the med school wannabes wash out and “only” become nurses or physical therapists? Terrible, right? What if their push to become doctors simply helps them to get better grades? I can think of many worse outcomes.

The problem that most of these kids will face, if they are typical, is that they’ll probably never know whether they were strong enough or smart enough to make those dreams a reality. They’ll probably quit on themselves at some point along the way, deciding that playing soccer or practicing medicine just isn’t worth the effort each day.

They might make that decision, but I’m not ever going to be the one to help them quit on themselves.

What’s on Your Plate?

“What’s for dinner?” Is any more important question ever passed between spouses during a Sunday morning lull in the sermon? What could be more spiritual than considering in advance the contents of your dinner plate? This morning, however, that sermon urged me to think not about literal food but about metaphorical food. “What’s on your plate?” in terms of responsibilities and projects.

plate 2

Over lunch today, I wrote down my priorities–the activities that I would hope would fill my life–on a paper plate. At the center of the plate I placed God. I’d hope any Christian would aim to put God at the center of life, even if He gets pushed off toward the Brussels sprouts from time to time.

Around the perimeter of my plate I arranged three items: Family, Writing, and Teaching. Those are my items. Yours, more than likely, will be different, perhaps Time Travel or Nuclear Fusion.

But then I sat back and thought about the amount of time that I spend running, biking, eating right, and doing other health maintenance activities. Should these things have gone alongside Family, Writing, and Teaching on the plate’s edge? I don’t believe they do go there. Instead, my fitness activities, whether they be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, serve those other items already written on my plate.

Think about it. By eating right and keeping my body reasonably fit, I’ll have more energy to teach, more years to write, and a greater ability to serve my family. Rather than sacrificing part of my plate to accommodate running and healthy eating, I recognize that these activities actually help me have a bigger plate.

Whatever you have on your plate, wherever God leads you to invest your time, good stewardship demands that fitness matters have a place on the platter. It’s not that controlling your blood pressure or eating more vegetables are ends in themselves. Similarly, sharpening your mind or increasing your emotional intelligence will strengthen you in all areas and help you to achieve more wherever God calls you.

What’s on your plate? Whatever it is, a serving of fitness will aid the digestion. Now if only that burrito I had for lunch would do the same.

10,000 Reasons Not to Be Disappointed

Last Sunday morning–a week late due to a winter-weather delay–the West Bottoms of Kansas City saw the arrival of about 750 runners for the KC version of the Great Plains 10K. I signed up for that race in order to give myself an intermediate goal before the April 11 Rock the Parkway half marathon.

Pointed the wrong way at the starting line of the 2015 Great Plains 10K.
Pointed the wrong way at the starting line of the 2015 Great Plains 10K.

The goal was simple: finish the 10K course in less than 54 minutes. A time of 53:39 would have been great. That’s a pace of about 8:45 per mile. I knew I could do it. In reality, I had done it with a fair margin to spare the previous week on a treadmill. Sure, a treadmill is not a city street, but I believed that the thrill of the race would make up for whatever advantage the machine gave.

After three miles, I was fairly certain that I would not make my goal, but I pressed on. When I passed the five-mile marker, I had something like 8:30 to complete the last 1.2 miles. It wasn’t going to happen. I wound up crossing the finish line at 55:59, two minutes late to my party.

It bummed me out, I must confess. I went to church and sat through service, but my heart was out on the streets of Kansas City, trying to understand why I had failed. Unlike my failed attempt to achieve a personal best in the 5K, I had not gone out too fast. I covered the first mile in 8:30, which was just about perfect. On Monday, I went out for an easy recovery run. The first mile of that route–that easy paced route–I finished in 8:15. In fact, on that Monday, I did a mixed run and walk of five miles at a pace just slightly slower than my Sunday morning disappointment.

As I turned this riddle over in my mind, blaming bad fueling, insufficient or excessive sleep, a headwind, or–every runner’s favorite–my shoes, I realized the folly of the entire affair. In fact, as I thought about that aggravating 10K, it occurred to me that I had 10,000 reasons not to be aggravated.

Do you have that Matt Redman song playing in your head yet? “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O my soul, worship His holy name.” That’s the song that played for me as I started to put these thoughts together. The first verse of that song seems especially pertinent.

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Do I believe those things? If I can allow a poor run to dampen my spirit, then I don’t believe I’m actually paying much attention to God’s holy name. “Whatever may pass,” the song says. That means that no matter how much I wanted to achieve that goal, I still should have been singing when the evening came.

Goals are worthwhile. Working toward a goal is a solid of making the most of our opportunities on this earth, but allowing a goal to separate me from the Creator of the Universe is just as surely an act of idolatry as is bowing down before a statue.