Greetings! I hope this post finds everyone safe and warm in the wake of the wintry storm so many of us have been experiencing over the past day or two. Perhaps some down time at home has given you a chance for additional reflection on your goals for the New Year. In my last blog about making a fresh start in the New Year, I discussed the importance of supporting New Year’s resolutions or lifestyle changes through the use of SMART goals. Today, I’d like to share another important approach to reaching your goals–realizing and harnessing the power of “baby steps.” As I mention baby steps to you, there’s probably a part of you that cringes at the thought of not being able to beautifully execute a masterful feat in one fell swoop (which sounds eerily similar to “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”). Well, fall back, Superwoman! As Strongblackwomen*, envisioning achievement in this way not only creates ongoing physical challenges, sleep deprivation, and neglect of our homes and relationships, but it also produces a distorted view of who we are. Instead of operating in the Spirit and strength of God, we have re-written Scripture to say “ I can do all things through ME because I strengthen me.” God tells us that God’s grace is sufficient for us, for God’s grace is made perfect in weakness, and when we are weak, then we are made strong (2 Cor 9:9-10, NIV).
So even though we are conscious of the notion that showing weakness is “not a good look,” we also must acknowledge that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. No matter what the goal, it can successfully be broken down into smaller chunks. If you’re having a difficult time identifying how to create manageable pieces, enlist the help of a friend, a mentor, a coach, or a therapist. Not only do you want to write down the chunks, but you want to develop a timeline for when you hope to achieve each step. One caveat about plans: Being made in God’s image, we are able to formulate our own plans. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22, NIV).” However, we must also keep in mind that although we have many plans in our hearts, the Lord’s purpose will prevail (Proverbs 19:21). So I heartily encourage you to prayerfully make your plans, but understand fully that they are subject to the Lord’s revisions!
Once you establish your goal, break it into bite-sized pieces, and have a plan for implementing each segment, then you can begin the work using healthy doses of grace and self-control. Grace is freely given by God, and self-control, is a fruit of the Spirit that God plants in us and allows to grow in us with loving care and maintenance. Self-control is exercising the power to do the things that we need to do as well as exercising the power to abstain from the things we need not do, no matter how we feel. This is not easy, because we can always generate endless reasons for why we are not able to execute our goals at the appointed time: “I don’t feel well.” “I didn’t get enough sleep last night.” “I’ve got a lot on my mind.” “So and so needs such and such”….and the list goes on. Even the Word acknowledges that the spirit is willing but the flesh/body/human nature is weak (Mark 14:38).
Another factor in successfully taking baby steps is building up social relationships with trusted confidantes who can gently hold you accountable in reaching your goals. You may find that it is helpful to have different accountability partners for different goals in areas that best fit those persons’ gifts. For example, the person who holds me accountable for my financial goals is a friend who is an entrepreneur in the financial industry. The person who holds me accountable for my writing goals is a therapist who is a published author. While face-to-face accountability works best for me, it can also be achieved using other forms of technology. The key is making sure that your accountability system is consistent!
À votre santé (To your health)!
*Compliments to Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes for this articulating this concept in her book, Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength (2014).