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How to Make Life More Awesome: Set Goals to Prosper

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How to Make Life More Awesome

Set Goals to Prosper

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Recently, I received a letter from my past. In my senior year of high school, my teacher told the class to write a letter to our future selves. In eight years, he would mail our letters to each of us. He encouraged us to think specifically about where we wanted to be in eight years. In my letter, I planned to major in neuroscience and I “couldn’t imagine changing my mind.” Looking back, I giggle at my confidence. I wrote about designing a school based on neuroscience. And I wrote about my expectations for myself: “How are you studying the Bible and growing spiritually?” “Have you developed friendships with people you truly love and respect?”

This experience is noteworthy because those dreams have actually happened. I did study neuroscience in college and just completed my Ph.D. in neuroscience. I entered a national contest to redesign a high school that better prepares youth for their futures: I worked with family and friends and designed a school based on neuroscience research. We even made it to the semi-final round of the competition. Since I wrote the letter, I have made wonderful friends and been blessed with a supportive husband.

This story might sound a little unbelievable, but it’s just an example of God’s mercy and blessings, not my own talent. God wants your dreams to come true, too. And I think that with a few specific strategies for identifying, setting, and reaching your goals, you can accomplish great things.

Be proactive in identifying your interests

The first step is figuring out what you actually want to do. Don’t assume school will do this for you; it won’t. You have to actively seek what interests you, jobs that you might enjoy, and people you want to be like. Read. Ask questions. And don’t hesitate to ask professionals. Most people are happy to talk about themselves and their work.

You can start this process no matter how young you are. Begin with the subjects you enjoy, but think outside the box. There are many jobs you don’t even know exist. Don’t assume that just because you like English you should become a teacher. You could be an editor, technical writer, social media manager, journalist, speechwriter, etc. Talk to people who like similar things. Your church congregation is a perfect starting point because of the varied ages and experiences. Ask members how they figured out what they wanted to do. Find individuals with interesting jobs and ask if you can shadow them for a day. Look up people with cool careers online and figure out how they got there. Read LinkedIn profiles of folks with interesting careers to see their educational and job histories. What were their paths? What smart decisions did they make along the way?

The first step is figuring out what you actually want to do. Don’t assume school will do this for you; it won’t.

If you have no idea what you’re interested in, think about how you like to spend your free time. Do you read for fun or like to hike? Do you love interacting with people? Do you thrive on creativity? Using these observations, write down what you would like to have in a job. You may say, “I want a job interacting with people every day,” or, “I’d like a job working outside,” or, “I want to be my own boss.” Again, talk to people. Use resources to identify possible mentors in your community. My graduate college suggested that I do “informational interviews.” This means that I find individuals with an interesting career and I ask them for a half-hour to talk about their jobs. This way I can find out tricks of the trade before applying for jobs and ideally make connections for possible future jobs. You can do these informational interviews at all stages of your education. This can help you find out what will be expected and how to prepare for your dream job.

Dream big (with God) and then figure out what’s required

Without God and without support from my family, I never would have accomplished my goals. Looking back, I’m surprised that I wasn’t more fearful taking on this career path. I could have easily psyched myself out. Don’t make decisions based on fear. Don’t sell God short by assuming His way stops you from pursuing certain career paths. What do you really want to do? Go for it! It doesn’t hurt to try, especially if you try early, prepare well, and have backup plans. But make sure you include God in every step. Pray! Ask Him to guide your path and help you make wise decisions. Ask Him to help you let go and let Him lead. Ask Him to help you be successful. You never know what He has in store.

But I have to say: Be realistic. Some career paths aren’t the best choice because they put you in tempting situations too often. Think about why you want to pursue a certain career. Can you glorify God with it? Part of the reason I was drawn to neuroscience was because the more I learned, the more I appreciated God’s creation. Will your dream job have positive effects on your spiritual life? It is also important to be realistic when considering what is required for your desired career path. Wanting to be in the NFL may not be realistic for a Sabbath-keeper. Lead guitar in a band may not line up with God’s way of life. Many colleges or jobs have rigorous requirements. Find out what steps you need to take and what you can do to prepare and even stand out.

Write down specific short-term and long-term goals

Once you’ve identified your interests, write down goals. Writing a letter to my future self was a fun way to do this. I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind mailing a letter to your future self. Simply writing goals down makes them more real. Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (“Golden Rules of Goal Setting: Five Rules to Set Yourself Up for Success,” www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_90.htm). Making these goals goes hand in hand with points 1 and 2. To figure out what your goals should be, study careers and successful people. This will be different for every job. Ask yourself: How do I move from my current situation to the realistic next step? Do I need a bachelors degree, or is trade school the best option? Does it matter if I go to a prestigious university? How important are amazing grades or test scores? What scholarships are available? Start this process as early as possible. Create monthly and yearly goals for yourself. There are even apps that can help you set and achieve goals.

Work

No one achieves anything without a commitment in time and effort. This applies doubly if you are pursuing something that may conflict with the Sabbath or with God’s laws. If you are consistently responsible, respectful, hard-working, and willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve your goals, people are more likely to accommodate your religious beliefs. Some might even respect your strength and dedication. The Sabbath is a wonderful blessing, especially if you are working hard every other day. This mandatory rest allows you to recharge. The Sabbath allowed me to work harder and longer during the week, and kept me from burning out during college and my Ph.D. program.

Try to make a habit of doing a little something toward your goals every single day (except the Sabbath), even if it’s only a few minutes. Read an article about an interesting career. Read job postings to see what requirements and expectations they have. Find a mentor you want to emulate. Confide in an encouraging friend about your goals and dreams. Little steps add up and build momentum. Proverbs 13:4 Proverbs 13:4The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
American King James Version×
says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

God expects hard work and dedication, but He sees a special future for you. Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
American King James Version×
reminds us: “‘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’” (New International Version). When you are living His way of life, He plans for you to fulfill your hopes and dreams.

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