Here we are in the midst of the colorful, festive Christmas season. Each year I get as much  enjoyment welcoming the New Year as I do in Yuletide caloric merriment, purchasing, giving, visiting, singing, and decorating. As the year nears its sunset, I begin casting some thoughts in the direction of what’s coming as I cross the inside-lafayettethreshold.

Really. No Christmas blues, no wistful sadness. I feel a shimmer of anticipation and my mind is already darting to things I want to improve or try or experience or master in the coming year. I have a whole year as a canvas to play with.

For years I have been a goal-setter. But rather than create a list of resolutions the length of the Appalachian Trail, I set quarterly objectives, based on my annual goals (which fall into a few basic areas, like health, spiritual, fiction, personal, etc.). I review these quarterly. For me, it’s just more bite-sized and I don’t get discouraged as easily. It keeps me on target, and there’s nothing to prevent my adding new goals that weren’t there at the outset. Or taking some away. Or adapting some.

The point isn’t to achieve everything on the list. The objective is to keep going back to the list to stay on track and remember what was important. I don’t want to give the idea that I achieve everything on my objective list. If I get 50%, I feel good about that. Then what happens to the others? I punt them over to the next quarter. If it’s the end of the year, I shift it over to the next year, if it’s important enough. Or delete it.

Why do I do all of this? Because I don’t want life to just happen. I want to have some say in what happens, to dream a little. There are things that we can’t control, but more things that we can influence than we know.

What if you’ve never set goals or thought about your dreams before, and you don’t have a clue what you want to put on that sheet of paper? Ask some important questions:

Question one: What do I  desire? Think about what you want. For me, I want to publish a novel in 2017. I have made many steps in this endeavor and I haven’t done it yet. What would the answer to this question be for you?

Question two: How badly do I want it? What am I willing to do? Answer this honestly. If your answer is, “Okay, I’m willing to pay the price. I want this,” then what will be the next question?

Question three: What can I do to better my opportunities to be published? (Fill in whatever your personal dream is.) The answer will involve hard work, but it will also guide my goals.

Question four: What are the steps to getting there? That will lead me to my goals and objectives. Like a ladder. Step by step.

Question five: What are my obstacles? What can I do about them? Identify these then make a plan to neutralize them.

Once you answer these five questions you’ll have an outline for your goals for 2017. Commit them to prayer and hold them loosely AND firmly. What do I mean? Loosely because God might have a modified plan for you. That is NOT a license to not try and say you don’t know if it’s God’s will. As long as you aren’t sure, go for it.

Firmly because you need to be firm, decisive, and committed, because it won’t necessarily be easy.

What dream ever was? Not easy, but so worth it.

“It costs nothing to dream….and everything not to.”