The novelty of the “New Year” is not far away, and every youth worker who is going to be preaching at the beginning of the year is putting together their best “Here’s how you set good goals” talk. Okay, maybe not everybody—but the New Year is a natural spot for us to consider what it looks like to achieve something new this coming year. The catch is that we often get our personal and professional goals intermixed and confused, OR we prioritize professional goals as a matter of survival rather than holistically developing them through our personal goals.

A few years ago, I made a simple switch to scoping out personal goals at the beginning of the calendar year while reserving professional goals for the end of the school year. This made sense for my rhythm, and maybe it makes sense for you, too. But more important than the timing of setting  these goals is the process through which we arrive at them.

I’m not a three on the Enneagram, so I don’t eat goals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night snack, and brunch on the weekends. In fact, creating goals has always been a challenge for me, but I know they help move me forward on the path the Lord has laid before me.

It comes down to this simple truth: When you have an accurate scorecard, you have a better gauge to know if you are getting where you want to go. In anticipation of the New Year, here are three realities to help you set effective, attainable, and helpful personal and professional goals in 2020.

Reality #1: Personal goals are framed by your history, personality, and trajectory. If you want to know what to do next, it’s important to consider where you have come from, evaluate how you are equipped and impassioned, and establish where you want to go in the future.

This can take some time, but if you have never established a framing statement for your life, start with that. Create a statement that gives some direction to the values you want to embody, the characteristics that are important to you, and the vital thing you bring to the world. When you know where you want to go, you have a better idea of what is needed to get there.

Reality #2: Professional goals should build off of your personal goals. Even in youth ministry, your personal discipleship and the things that God has built you for and placed before you are more important than your vocation. Who you are and who you are becoming is foundational to what you are doing. I am convinced that when we have these things backwards, we are at grave risk of losing our identity in our doing rather than our being.

Jesus didn’t redeem job descriptions or positions; he redeemed people and gave them the purpose of reconciling the world to Him.

You will endure more trials intended to refine you (not define you), discover clearer direction that is based in truth (not your emotions), and find more fulfillment in your position (not your actions) when you build your professional goals off of your personal goals.

Reality #3: Accomplish all your goals by scheduling margin for your personal goals. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it fifty times: You don’t have to leave youth ministry and plant a church to pursue the “greater” ministry goals that the Lord is laying before you. But you can’t be irresponsible about it either.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a couple new tools that have helped me keep margin in my life. One of them was the schedule blocking method used by Doug Fields. It is a great way to navigate the different “roles” you have in your world and keep their priority in the place it is intended to be while helping you get things done. You can actually get it here for free. And if you don’t have a tool you use, I don’t know why you wouldn’t download this and give it a shot. Either way, get yourself a tool or a process that helps you keep the margin you need in your life.

Get your vision for 2020 in better focus by getting a clearer view of your personal and professional goals.

Geoff Cocanower is a husband, a son, and the Associate Pastor of Student Ministries at Hope Missionary Church in Bluffton, IN where he leads the team of adults who minister to high school students as well as young adults. In addition to contributing to the DYM blog, Geoff co-hosts a podcast focused on the issues, questions, and blessings of leaders who aren’t in the driver seat of the organization called “The Backseat Leadership Podcast.” (Coming February 2020!) Interesting fact about Geoff is that he is a high school football and volleyball referee in his spare time and is a legacy member and loves all things DYM. You can find Geoff online here!