"…And she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25

Scale back

January came and went, and February chased after it like a whirlwind. Now March is mercilessly speeding by, and before we know it we’ll be a quarter of the way through this “new” year. That makes this the perfect time to go back and revisit those earnest resolutions we made as we flipped our planners to the start of 2012. How are we doing? Are we meeting our goals? Are we exceeding them? (Or is this the first time you’ve even thought about them since the first week of January?)

If you’re like most people, discouragement with your progress can make you want to throw in the towel. Don’t do it! If you’re having trouble reaching the goals you’ve set, let me encourage you: Don’t quit trying; simply scale back. Maybe you need more attainable goals to start out with. You can always raise the bar later on, after you’ve met with some success.

Here’s a personal example:

I know what the “experts” say about how much water we should drink each day. I also know that I’m probably never going to be one of “those people.” You know the ones…They walk around with a giant plastic mug of ice water because they just can’t get enough, and proudly proclaim that they hit their water goal without even trying each day. Well, here’s a little secret: I don’t really enjoy drinking water. I know it’s important, and good for me, and it does taste great after excercise…but it’s not something I love to drink throughout the day. However, each year I set the completely unrealistic goal of drinking x# glasses of water per day. Each year, I fail. I give up by mid-January because I’m not even getting close.

This year, I changed my goal to ONE BOTTLE of water per day. I know that’s not really enough, but it was a goal I had the potential to reach. And I did. And after a month of success, I upped the challenge to TWO BOTTLES per day, which I’ve also been meeting. Starting slowly allowed me to finally “get it right,” which motivated me to push on to the next level.

What about you? Any discarded goals you could start over on, adjusting your expectations to make them more attainable?

Here are the two challenges I usually hear the most complaints about, with my clearly-I-am-no-expert-but-always-have-an-opinon-anyway advice:

1. Bible reading

Daily Bible reading is one of the most important habits I think anyone can have, yet so many people struggle with developing the routine to make it happen. People switch from one complicated Bible study to the next, reading an hour one day and missing the next three altogether, and….well, you get the picture. The most important thing you can do is make it a habit. And the only way you can do that is by doing it every day. And THAT means you might just have to scale back on your expectations. Do whatever it takes to make it doable! Maybe that means chunking the study guides and just reading your Bible. Maybe that means adjusting your time commitment. (Yes, an hour a day would be great, but if you are not in the habit of daily reading, the most important thing is for you to read every day, even if just for a short time.)

Is five minutes per day enough time in God’s Word? That’s not really what I’m saying.

Is five minutes per day better than none, because it’s helping you form a routine that you will stick with from here on out? That’s exactly what I’m saying!

Set a goal you can’t possibly miss. Who doesn’t have five minutes a day, somewhere, somehow? (You’ll never have an excuse not to read when your goal is “at least five minutes.”) And, after a few weeks, once the habit is established, you can double it. Then triple it. And then…well, it won’t take long before you’re not watching the clock at all. Instead, you’ll be engrossed in learning all the things God wants to say to you. Scaling back shouldn’t make you feel guilty if it helps you toward your desired end result.

2. Weight loss.

Do I even want to go here? It’s the most oft-made and the most oft-broken resolution of them all. So why set an unattainable goal of having to lose x# pounds per week, or x# inches per month? If that’s working for you, then great! If not, rather than giving up and eating an entire chocolate cake for dessert because you’re failing at your goal anyway, why not scale back and try a different approach? How about cutting out ONE problem food every couple of weeks, until you’re eating healthier on a regular basis because you stuck to your very attainable plan??

My personal weakness is Coke. Ah, Coke…I love you, but you’re just not helping me any. I couldn’t seem to break my “Coke habit” because I couldn’t bear to eliminate it completely and I couldn’t even make myself switch to Diet Coke. So, I started a gradual process: First, I cut back to one Coke per day. Then came the painful switch to Coke Zero, which seemed a little less awful than DC. Now, I don’t even buy Zero anymore. (Truthfully, if I am out and about anywhere that real Coke is being served—a restaurant, a gathering of friends, etc.— I will still be tempted. And most likely I’ll even give in to that temptation. But I’m not keeping it at the house or drinking it habitually, and that’s big progress for me!)

Don’t be afraid to start over, and start smaller. Sometimes you have to scale back to succeed.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Thanks for stopping by!

What goals are you working on? I’d love to hear about them!

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Comments on: "Scale back" (12)

  1. So often we set ourselves up for failure before we even start. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder to be realistic with our goals. 🙂

  2. Janice (mom) said:

    Thanks for challenging thinking about goals and how to attain them. When did you get so wise?!

    • Mom…go look in the mirror! Although I don’t consider myself wise—I have a loooong way to go—I have been taught by the best and am still learning from you. Thanks for teaching me!

  3. leahcoats said:

    Love this post, Amy! Great advice! 🙂

  4. You had me till you started talking about giving up Coke! LOL I’m not sure I can live without my diet coke! But I really like the scaling back idea – I always start my “Read thru the Bible in a year” Bible on Jan 1 and I usually make it to Leviticus and then give up. I’m starting over today! PS – tell your mom the wisdom is hereditary…she’s a wise woman and I miss her!!

    • Karen, you’re right! About my mom, about the seeming impossibility of giving up (Diet) Coke, and about the need to start over. I would love to hear how it goes!

  5. Awesome advice, Amy. I’m going to set my goals a little smaller too, and see if I can do it better.
    My real goal this year was to be a better (and more regular) hostess. I wanted to reconnect with all those people I “keep meaning to” invite over, but never seem to have the time. I’ve invited a total of two families to my house this year, and one of those cancelled due to illness. Pitiful, well, yes, but I’m going to maybe think smaller. Instead of spending the week stressing over cleaning my house & preparing the perfect meal to have a family over for dinner, perhaps I should just call some long time friends I’ve not spoken to in a while. Or send them a card. Or something simple.
    Thanks!

  6. Thank you so much for such great advice, I think I my goals can be more attainable looking at it this way. You are the best, love you sister.

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