Setting Goals

Setting goals – it’s one of those things that we all think we understand, and of course it’s especially popular at the beginning of every new year. We set these goals with all sorts of good intentions, but it normally doesn’t take us long to abandon them altogether.

Why is that?

One reason, I think, is that while we are generally determined to do better, we are often less enthusiastic about being better. Of course we want to achieve that level of success, finish that book, lose that weight, etc. We just aren’t as thrilled about having to do the work it takes to get there.

The other reason, I think, involves a simple lack of clarity. It amazes me how often people set goals that are either outrageously unattainable (I’m going to write a book a month for the next 12 months!) or so vague that they can’t be measured (I’m going to save money this year!)

So how do we fix these problems?  How do we change our patterns so that the goals that we make become achievable as opposed to forgettable?  How do we help ensure that we’re setting ourselves up for success instead of failure? What can we do differently today that will change our outcome tomorrow?

Well, everyone’s different – what works for me might not work for you. But here are a few general guidelines that have helped me along the way:

1. Get Specific. This is one of the simplest things that you can do to help make your goal achievable. If you’re serious about a goal, then you should be able to specifically define what qualifies as success in your mind. Do you want to save money? Great – how much? Do you want to get healthier? Do you want to write more? Well, that’s wonderful, but what does that ACTUALLY mean in your mind? If you can’t tell me that, then you don’t have a goal, you have an idea. Ideas are nice and all, but you can’t achieve ideas. You can’t work toward ideas.

2. Try setting goals that you can meet all on your own. In other words, don’t put your success into someone else’s hands. This can be a hard one to face up to, because so many of our goals involve approval or acceptance by other people. But when our goals involve decisions that we aren’t empowered to make, we can end up feeling like failures just because of other people’s choices. So if you want a better job – don’t make “getting hired”  your goal. That’s not in your hands. But set goals that will make you a stronger candidate for the job you want, and set goals for how and when you will go out there and apply. Do you want to sign with an agent? Well that’s not a great goal, because at the end of the day it’s not up to you. But you can start SUBMITTING to agents – and that’s the type of thing that you can control and plan.

3. Set goals for habitual change, not end results. This isn’t an absolute must, but if you’re the type of person who forgets about your goals 60 or 30 (or let’s be real, 10) days in, it will help to keep you on track. Instead of setting the goal of loosing 20 pounds, try setting goals to change what you eat or increase you exercise. Instead of saying you’re going to finish your book by the end of the year, why not set a daily writing goal – one that’s manageable – and try sticking with it for a month or two? You’ll be surprised how those small daily successes will keep you motivated, and at how quickly they will lead you to real results

4. Build gradual increases into your goals. I love those people who decide every January that they’re going to run 5 miles every day and stick to a strict raw-vegan diet from now on. I love them, but I don’t believe them, because most of the time those types of extreme changes aren’t sustainable. What is sustainable, however, is change that comes in gradual increases. So rather than deciding that you’re going to write 5,000 words a day every day, why not go for gradual change? Set a low goal for January, one that’s easy to achieve – maybe you’ll decide to write 200 words a day or 1000 words a week. And then decide that on February 1st you’ll change it to something more challenging. And then do it again in March. These kind of gradual changes give you time to adjust your life to fit the goals that are important to you.

5. Only set goals that you want to meet. There is no bigger setup for failure than the goal that you don’t actually want to achieve. We set these goals out of a sense of obligation or guilt, but deep down inside we don’t care if they never happen. News flash – those goals are not only pointless (because let’s face it, you’ll never actually do them) but they’re also incredibly harmful to the goals that you actually want to reach. They clutter your plate, so to speak. They weigh you down unnecessarily. They stifle your momentum and steal your focus. None of those things will help you to reach the goals that are important to you. So this year why not do something radical and get rid of the goals that you don’t actually care about.

6. Keep track of your progress. This is so important for anyone who has a goal that’s going to take a while to reach. If you don’t have a plan to reach your goal, you won’t meet it. But just as importantly, if you don’t STICK to your plan, you’ll fall short in the long run. So revisit your goal on a regular basis. Look at how you’re progressing, and celebrate your incremental victories. It’ll keep you focused and motivated throughout the year.

7. Make adjustments. Listen, life is going to throw you curveballs this year, the same way it does every year. That’s just how it works. Some of the goals you set now will happen more quickly and easily than you expect. Others might suddenly become impossible as a result of unforeseen circumstances. That’s all fine. Don’t throw in the towel when things don’t work out. Don’t stop pushing just because you’ve already done better than you’d expected. Make adjustments to your goals throughout the year if you need to. It’s ok to redefine success as you move ahead. That’s part of life, part of growth. If we all stuck to our original goals the world would be full of princesses, ballerinas, fire fighters, and doctors. That wouldn’t be such a bad world, but you get the idea …

I hope these tips helped! Comment below and let me know what you thought. What kind of goals are you setting for 2015? What tips or tricks have worked for you? What important piece of advice did I leave off of my list? Let me know!

Stretch Yourself

A few months ago I was spending time with one of my very best friends, when she suddenly announced that “we” were going to get in shape together, and among her many plans for diet and exercise was one little nugget that made me cringe. “That’s it!” she said with enthusiasm, “We’re going to do 50 crunches a day every day from now on!”

I have to admit I laughed. I told her there was no way on God’s green earth that I was capable of 50 crunches. “That’s no problem!” she said, “You can work up to it! Come on, Paula – we can do this!”

I groaned a little inside, but since I’ve never been good at saying no to my friends, I finally agreed to do the crunches – and I did. I didn’t do them every day – it was 3 times a week, and it took me a week or two to build  up to 50, but eventually I got there.  And once I did, I have to admit I was kind of proud of myself.

And then one night I woke up in excruciating pain. Every muscle in my abdomen was cramping at the same time, and I couldn’t relax them enough to uncurl myself out of the fetal position. The problem, of course, was that I  had spent so much time focusing on working those muscles, but I’d never bothered to take the time to stretch them.  For a while I got away with it. They even got stronger. But eventually it all caught up with me, and the result was a night of serious pain and very little sleep as I tried to undo the damage, release the tension, and relax the muscles.

Now that’s a relatively simple anecdote – but it illustrates an important and relevant point.

You see, the crunches were a good thing. They took work and effort, and I took them seriously. They made me stronger and I found a moderate level of success in doing them. But that only took me so far before it all backfired. Because all of that effort and work was pointed in only one direction, the muscles in my body eventually rebelled. There was only so much work they could handle before they “broke” under the tension.

They needed to stretch. They needed to be pulled in unfamiliar directions, forced to move in a new way. Without that key component, all of the time and effort I’d put into working those muscles proved pointless. I hit a brick wall (or more, it hit me – in the stomach – at three in the morning).

I think that this is a truth that we can apply to our lives on a much broader level. Have you been working hard in an area of  your life and just not seeing the results that you want? Have you ever found a moderate degree of success, and wondered how you could ever manage to achieve more? I want to let you in on a little secret that’s not much of a secret – you probably need to stretch. Your life will never really be able to grow and expand until you are willing to push yourself beyond  your limits and move in a new direction.

How often have you talked yourself out of doing something new just because it wasn’t familiar? How often have you decided that it was better to stay where you were comfortable than to venture into the unknown? We do it all the time, and I think it’s because we’d rather remain firmly planted in what we know than try something that might fail; and – GET THIS – we do it even when what we know isn’t working all that well either!

The problems with this kind of thinking is that it always sets us up to fail.

Remember that the familiar things in life can only get you so far. If whatever you’re doing right now isn’t producing the results that you want in your life at the level that you want, then it’s probably time for you to venture out into some new territory. It’s time to try something different.

This isn’t to say that you need to toss aside the things that are working for you. But you can’t allow yourself to get boxed in by the familiar either. By all means, do what works – but make a point to go out and do something new at the same time!

Even the Bible encourages us to go out and to try new things:

As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or  how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 NKJV).

Isn’t that such an encouraging word? This verse is telling us that we can’t know what God plans to use in order to bless our lives, we can’t always see which of our options will produce the best results. That’s why we always need to be willing to try a little of everything. We have to be willing to stretch ourselves a little bit!

 

9 Excuses That You Need to Stop Using Right Now!

Do you know what’s frustrating? Talking to people about their dreams. The closer I get to publishing Dream Chasers (the Kindle edition is available for pre-order NOW, if you’re interested), the more time I’m spending digging into people’s lives and asking them about the things that they want to accomplish or achieve.

It’s weird, because that shouldn’t be the type of conversation that leaves me frustrated. If we’re talking about someone’s passions, someone’s goals, someone’s dreams I should leave the conversation feeling inspired, right? But I don’t – at least, not very often. Why not? Because when you ask people about their dreams, the first things they want to tell you are all the reasons that their dreams aren’t happening.

I, for one, am tired of that kind of talk. I’m tired of the way we give ourselves permission to stay stagnant. Because at the end of the day, most of those reasons that we have for not chasing after our dreams are just excuses. They may sound good, they may seem legitimate, we may even believe them … but 95% of the time, they’re nothing more than thinly veiled excuses that give us permission to do nothing.

But if we’re serious about achieving a goal (whether it’s writing a book or buying a house) then the excuses have to stop. They have no place in a dream-chaser’s mindset. They can’t help us – they can only hurt and delay us. So here is a list of 9 excuses that I hear all the time – excuses that you should STOP using right now, if you ever want to make your dream become reality:

1. “I don’t have the time.” This is the biggest and most common excuse I hear. In fact, you can probably relate to it yourself. But I’m going to let you into a little secret – NO ONE has the time. Our lives and our schedules are so jam packed that most of us struggle to find enough time to sleep at night. You’ll never “have” the time to do anything until you are willing to “make” the time. And that’s about deciding that your dream is a priority in your life, and sacrificing other (even important) things in order to make it happen. I have a friend who started a side business years ago, something that she did to make extra money on nights and weekends. Her goal was to eventually shift it from her “side business” to her “actual job.” But she didn’t have the time to really invest in making it grow the way she wanted to, and so she found herself in a rut for years. Do you know what she finally did to get herself out? She cut back her hours at her regular job, and committed to working on her business a few days a week instead. It was a very real sacrifice. It cost her something.  But it was her dream, and she MADE the time to see it succeed.

2. “I don’t have the money.” Again, this comes down to a matter of priorities. I understand that you may be in tight financial circumstances, and you may not have the freedom to complete your dream at this moment. But don’t let that be an excuse. Instead, use it as a prompt to push and prepare yourself. If you don’t have the money you need right now, sit down and build some extra savings into your budget. Be willing to sacrifice your daily coffee or that new handbag, if that’s what it takes. If you need to fix your credit, put a plan together to do that, and start working on it today. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in exactly the same financial situation tomorrow, next year, and ten years from now. In other words, if money is a problem – start fixing it, but don’t let it be an excuse! And in the meantime, find something that you can do to pursue your dream that doesn’t require a financial investment. Work on that. But for heaven’s sake, do SOMETHING!

3. “I’m not inspired.” There is no greater nonsense in this world than the idea that creativity can only come as a result of inspiration. In fact, I have found that one of the best ways to stretch your creative muscle is to use it in the service of productivity. I think it was Plato who said “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and he was right! I have another friend (two friends? Really? I know … don’t be jealous!) who is an incredible artist. She works full time as an art teacher, she has three kids, and her schedule is crazy busy. But one day someone asked her if she’d be interested in showing her art at a hip new gallery in Brooklyn, and she instantly said yes, even though she had NOTHING to show. She spent the next few weeks trying to come up with a theme for her work – only to find herself completely devoid of inspiration. But eventually she ran out of time – she HAD to start, or she wouldn’t be ready in time. But as soon as she committed to putting paint on canvas every day, the ideas suddenly began to flow. Her need to produce inspired her creativity. So if you’re lacking inspiration, start getting productive. Even if you start off producing garbage, it will eventually lead you to the inspiration you’re looking for.

4. “I’ve already tried and failed.” This is one of those “reasons” that seem so legitimate, because it’s grounded in a painful truth. Maybe you have tried and failed, and I know that it sucks. But the best thing you can do in the face of failure is to learn from your mistakes, get up, and try again.  There’s a simple secret to overcoming failure – all you have to do is refuse to give up. As long as you’re still trying, as long as you’re willing to brush yourself off and take another shot, your failure doesn’t have to be permanent. It can be a stepping stone on your personal climb towards success. The only thing you have to do is keep moving forward. The world is full of success stories that start with struggles, false starts, and failures. So if you’ve tried and failed, don’t let that be the end of your tale. Be willing to get back out there, to try again, and don’t give up until you find your success!

5. “I don’t know how.” Here’s another one of those “big secrets” that I feel compelled to share with you – you’re not alone. Everyone who has ever tried to accomplish anything worthwhile had to start somewhere. When they started, they had no experience, no expertise, and maybe no idea what to do next. Ignorance is not a reason to give up, it’s an opportunity to learn. If you know nothing about the field you want to enter or the career you want to start, begin by doing your research. There are so many resources available on line for people who want to learn. Take advantage of them! When I started writing my first book I didn’t have the slightest clue how an author got published. So for the first year I spent almost as much time reading and educating myself about the publishing industry as I did writing that book. It was a huge learning curve, but it wasn’t impossible. All it took was time and dedication, and eventually I found myself with the knowledge to make educated and informed decisions about my publishing options. You can do the same thing – and you can start right now!

6. “I don’t have the right connections.” I understand how important connections can be – knowing the right people has a wonderful way of opening doors that you might struggle to open by yourself. Having good connections with mentors, teachers, industry insiders, and potential peers is certainly an advantage. But it’s silly to use your lack of connections as a reason to give up! First of all, if you’re that serious about connecting with other people, you can do it right now. We live in an age of digital community that makes it possible to listen to, learn from, and actually befriend all sorts of people whom you might never otherwise meet. Go ahead and start using your social media for it’s intended purpose – not to sell or self promote, but to socialize! Reach out and get to know people. But keep in mind that before you meet your ideal mentor or your new industry-leading bff, you should already be putting in the work to hone your skills and move towards your dream. No connections, no inside track is going to replace hard work and dedication in your ultimate climb to success!

7. “It’s too late.” Listen, unless your dream is to become a prima-ballerina or a professional athlete, I just don’t believe you. It’s not too late to go back to school, to start your business, to switch careers, or to write your book … no matter what you think. It’s not too late to get serious about your art or to hone your craft. It’s not too late to do anything, not if it’s important to you! I don’t care if you’ve damaged your chances, made bad decisions, put yourself in debt, or waited “too long.” You can still make a fresh start towards your dream today. All you have to do is decide to do it! So stop letting the time that’s already passed by stop you from using the time you have now. Don’t let your yesterday define your idea of what is possible tomorrow!

8. “This isn’t a good time” UGH. Ok, honesty moment – I hate when people talk to me about how they’re putting their dreams off until a “better” time. Who was it who gave us the idea that we would reach an ideal moment in which all distractions would disappear and our dreams would suddenly fit perfectly into the schedule of our lives? Who is it that convinced us that tomorrow will be so much better suited to our plans than today? How are we still falling for this nonsense? There is no ideal time, no perfect moment in your life for starting something new and important. The more time you spend waiting for that elusive tomorrow, the more time you’ll waste doing nothing at all. Let today be the day that you take your first step, even if it seems like the worst time to be starting anything. Don’t wait until tomorrow – trust me, it never comes.

9. “I can’t.”  Stop it. Just stop. Do you know what I want to say to people who tell me they can’t do something? I want to say “Of course you can’t. You’re so convinced that it’s impossible that you won’t even lift a finger to try. How can you ever expect to succeed if you’ve already decided that you’re doomed to fail?” Seriously though, this phrase, and the mentality it promotes, is the easiest way to ensure that you’ll never get anywhere or do anything. Don’t fall for it any longer. Stop saying “Can’t.” It’s a dirty word for every productive, successful, achievement-oriented person out there. And the sooner you take it out of your vocabulary altogether, the better!

So there we have it – my list of the 9 worst excuses you can use to put off the dreams you want to realize. What do you think? Do any of these sound familiar? Did I miss a few? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Expand Your Limits

Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something, because you were already convinced that you would fail?  I do it all the time – I mean ALL the time. When I’m faced with a task that I think will be difficult, unpleasant, or even just outside of my comfort zone, I have this tendency to psych myself out before I even get started. And if I let myself do that for more than a few minutes, I know that I won’t bother starting it at all. After all, what’s the point of trying if you don’t think you’ll succeed?

But here’s the thing – every once in a while I decide that I’m just going to go ahead and do the thing I don’t want to do. Even though I’m dreading it, even though I’m SURE it’s going to be a disaster, I will occasionally find the backbone to face my fears and do it anyway.

Do you know what happens when I do? Normally the thing that I was dreading ends up not being nearly so bad as I’d imagined. I don’t always succeed, but I certainly succeed WAY more often than I would if I didn’t try. And sometimes I surprise myself with how easily I take to the the things that I’d once imagined impossible. Sometimes, moving outside of my comfort zone, I unexpectedly thrive.

That got me thinking recently about the limitations that we put onto our dreams. I realized that there are probably a lot of dreams out there that are abandoned before they’re even attempted, because they require the dreamer to take a step or two out into the unknown – to try something risky, to venture outside of their normal experiences, or to do something that they don’t think they can do. When people are faced with those kind of obstacles, those limitations, they can be quick to run for cover, and to give up before they’ve even begun.

But what we don’t realize about these limitations, is that we’re the ones imposing them on ourselves. We’re the ones who are guaranteeing our own failure, simply by refusing to try. After all, it’s not like God’s put limits on us. He said that we can do ALL THINGS when He is our strength (Philippians 4:19).

So what does “ALL THINGS” mean to us in this context? It certainly has some restrictions – if Jesus is our source of strength, then we can’t expect to do things that are contrary to His character or against His nature. But beyond that, where is the boundary? Where is the limit in a promise like that?

I don’t think that there is a limit – or if there is, it exist much further out than most of us dare to venture. In other words – we can accomplish so much MORE than we give ourselves credit for. The reason we don’t accomplish those things is because we don’t bother to try, or if we do try, we cringe back at the first sign of failure.

For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. Proverbs 24:16

Here’s the crazy thing about our failures – the Bible says that they aren’t permanent. Presuming that we’re working in righteousness instead of wickedness (presuming that we are leaning on Jesus, listening to His voice, and doing our best to follow after His will) we can fall down all the time, and get back up like nothing happened. We can keep moving forward, keep pushing our limits, keep venturing into the unknown. We don’t have to be afraid!

So is there anything in your life that you’ve talked yourself out of doing? Is there something that you want to achieve that you’ve been unwilling to push for? Have you convinced yourself that you’re a failure just because you fell down a couple of times? Well don’t stand for that lie any longer! Pick yourself up, put aside your fear, and move out into the unknown. If you’re willing to expand the limits that you’ve put on your life, who knows how far God can take you!

You Can Have Both!

I’m going to start this post with a general observation. I’m not looking to spark a debate or touch a nerve. But I have noticed that a lot of Christians tend to feel hesitant about asking God to help them fulfill their dreams because those dreams include success, prosperity, wealth, or something else of worldly value, and they aren’t sure that God really wants them to have those things.

But here’s the thing – God doesn’t turn his nose up at blessing His people. He doesn’t mind making them successful or wealthy. He did it all through the Bible, and He’s still doing it today.

Take Isaac for example. When we think of Isaac, we tend to define him in spiritual terms. He was one of the patriarchs of Israel. He was Abraham’s son – the son of promise. He was the one that God saved from being sacrificed. He was the father of Jacob and Essau – the one who proclaimed a powerful blessing over Jacob.

But look at what else the Bible tells us about Isaac’s life:

Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him (Genesis 26:12-14).

This verse tells us that the Lord blessed Isaac with material blessings. In fact, God kept blessing him until he got so rich that the people around him started to envy him! Isaac was insanely prosperous. He had stuff. He had servants. He had a very successful life. Now that’s generally what we think of when we think of Isaac, but it was a very real part of his existence.

Why do you think that’s in the Bible? And why do you think that we don’t typically take notice of it?

Well, to answer the first question – I believe that this is in the Bible because it is a facet of the blessings of God. Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us that God is the one who gives us the power to get wealth. Why would He empower us to go out and get something that He doesn’t want us to have? That’s just silly.

But in answer to the second question I would say this – I think that part of the reason that we don’t generally notice the fact that Isaac was a wealthy, prosperous, and successful man is because that’s not what was important about his life. The important things were the ones that left an eternal spiritual difference. Those are the things that last through the centuries. They’re the things that are worth remembering and striving for.

The point that I’m trying to make is this: the fact that your dream involves a success, prosperity, or power does not make it a bad thing. God wants to give you those things. But those things are not what make your dream worthwhile. Your dream is worthwhile, because in God’s hands, it can leave a permanent spiritual impact on this world.

Don’t ever forget that. Your dream belongs to God first – and He intends to use it for His glory. If you’ll give your dream to Him, He will help you to achieve it. He’ll bless you too, with all of those material things that your dream comes with. But those are merely side-benefits of your much greater blessing – the blessing of being used to build His kingdom

Financial prosperity and spiritual success – you can have them both. God will give them to you gladly. But never forget which one is important.

Move Forward

or, What To Do When You Get Stuck

In the process of chasing after our dreams, goals, or aspirations, we will inevitably come to a point where we feel stuck. Even if we’re doing our best to follow God’s lead and to obey His voice, we may still encounter moments where things are looking grim and we don’t see a way out.

Ever feel like that? Ever feel like you’ve hit a dead end or backed yourself into a corner? Ever look for a way out and realize that all of your options look terrible?

I’ve been there – and so have countless men and women before us. So what are we supposed to do when we’re trying to get ahead only to find that we have nowhere left to go?

Well let’s look at a group of people who found themselves in this very scenario, in the most literal way ever! When the Israelites first escaped from Egypt, they left with singing and dancing and rejoicing. After 400 years of bondage, they had suddenly and miraculously been set free. The dream that had once seemed so impossible had instantly become very real. They were literally walking their way into their freedom. They had every reason to rejoice. And then just as suddenly, everything went terribly wrong. Their journey brought them to the shores of the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army was in hot pursuit behind them, chasing them down to punish them and drag them back into captivity.

Stuck between a sea and an army, the Isralites started to panic. They had nowhere to go, no way out of the problem that they’d suddenly encountered. They were stuck, and it was scary. So Moses spoke to the people in order to calm their fears:

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward (Exodus 14:13-15).

Moses told the people not to be afraid. He promised them that God was going to fight their battles for them. He explained that their enemies would be defeated. He got all of that right. But he messed up on one important detail.

You see, Moses told the people to stand still and watch what God would do on their behalf. But in the very next verse God corrected him. He said, “Why are you praying? Why are you asking for help? You need to be MOVING FORWARD!” God didn’t want the people to stand still. He wanted them to take a step of faith. Even though there was an ocean in front of them, even though the way was impassible, God told the people not to stop!

That is a frankly extraordinary commandment! I wonder what the people thought when they heard it. It’s not like they knew that the sea was going to split before them. Nothing like that had ever happened before! Nevertheless, they had the faith to march right up to the water’s edge. They obeyed God, and moved forward, despite the dangers of the situation, and God suddenly performed a miracle greater than anything the world had ever seen!

You might be facing a situation that feels a little like the one the Israelites faced all those years ago. Things might be looking helpless. There may not be any “good” options. But if you’ll keep following after God, if you’ll keep pressing forward, and if you’ll put your trust in Him, He will perform miracles that will shock and amaze you.

So don’t get stuck. Don’t stop moving. Don’t allow fear to paralyze you! God is ready to move on your behalf, but He’s waiting for you to move first!

Are Dreams God-Given?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve decided to start covering material here that prove more relevant to the people who read my books. Specifically I’m interested in covering topics that, while directly related to my book topics, was not addressed directly in the books themselves.

So with that in mind, I want to talk about dreams – not the dreams you have in your sleep, but the dreams (goals, aspirations, and desires) that you have in your heart. It’s actually the focus of my soon-to-be-released 5th book, Dream-Chasers: Living in Pursuit of a God-Sized Dream. But I realized recently that one of the assumptions that I made when my book was that most people would presume their dreams to be a good and God-given thing, something worthy of pursuit.

Of course I recognize that most people who would willingly purchase a book with a title like mine can be presumed to have some interest in successfully achieving their dreams. But since I have a little more latitude in this blog than I do in a manuscript, let’s take the time to answer the questions.

Are dreams godly? Are they God-inspired, God-given? Does God want His people to pursue their dreams?

I believe that the answer to each of these questions is YES. Now that isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions to this rule, or that it’s possible to pursue dreams that run contrary to God’s will; but I believe that Christians as a whole are far too tentative about reaching out for the things they dream of achieving, because they don’t necessarily believe that God wants them to succeed.

But here’s the deal, when God first created mankind in the garden of Eden, He pronounced a blessing over them, and that blessing came with a commandment (Genesis 1:28). He told them to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth and to subdue it. Then He gave them dominion. This is a point that I touch on in the book – that from the beginning of our existence as a species, God spoke His intent over us – that we should flourish and thrive.

That same intent is clear in the promise that He made Abraham in Genesis 12:1-2. He promised to make Abraham great. He desired to expand him, to bless him, and to help him achieve prominence in the world.

God did the same thing for Isaac, for Jacob, for Joseph, for Moses, for Joshua and Caleb, for Gideon, for Deborah, for David, for Solomon, for Jabez, for Esther, for Isaiah, for Nehemiah, and for countless kings and prophets. He took people out of obscurity, out of ordinary lives, and He pushed them to achieve greatness. Some of these people were hungry to chase after the purposes that God had placed over their lives, while others took some convincing. But each one of them was placed in their point in history for a specific purpose, to achieve something great.

In fact, if you read through the Bible you will find that the only times that God cast people down and thwarted their dreams were when they either 1) attempted to fulfill them in their own strength and for their own glory, 2) attempted to fulfill them in direct disobedience to God or His laws, or 3) attempted to fulfill them to the detriment of God’s people. The men who built the Tower of Babel, the wicked kings of Israel, and enemies of Israel all stand of examples of this truth.

But for the people of God, the ones who loved Him with all of their hearts, His pattern was (and has always been) to bless their efforts, to make their way prosperous, and to give them success. And the thing about this success that He gave to them is that it was never entirely “spiritual.” It always came with natural benefits as well. The men and women who pursued their dreams, who followed after God’s higher calling, ended up prosperous, powerful, and famous. Those weren’t their primary goals – their first desire was always to obey and honor God – but it can’t be denied that they reaped incredible natural benefits.

I believe that the truth that is so prominently displayed in the stories of the Bible is still actively in effect in our lives as Christians today. I believe that God has purposely planted us in this time and in this place so that we can be used to glorify and honor His name. Furthermore, I believe that the honor and the glory that He’s looking for from us doesn’t come from living out our lives in quiet obscurity. I believe that, just like the many men and women of the Bible, we are meant to make a violent impact on the world around us. We are meant to stand out, to be successful, to achieve impossible things. I believe it, because it is exactly what Jesus told us about our own potential:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13).

So if you have a dream in your heart, don’t dismiss it as trivial in the sight of God. Don’t assume that it is in conflict with His plan for your life. If you are willing to do things God’s way, to follow His direction, and to honor Him with your efforts, you have every reason to expect that He will make you a great success.