Task vs. Goal

Task vs. Goal

I sat down to write the annual “Read Family Goals” in my usual “be specific with a deadline and a budget” manner. But as I began to fill in the blanks of my spreadsheet for this year I heard a still small voice ask, “What’s the difference between a goal and a task?” Which was a good question because though I had made a detailed list of things I’d like to accomplish every year for the past decade, I suddenly saw my list differently. The question of, “Why?” moved to the forefront of my thinking. Why did I want to be more diligent in these areas? What did it really matter? Did accomplishing these tasks really contribute to fulfilling my real goals? Was I happier, more fulfilled, or just busier?

One area in particular stood out to me, that of weight loss. Like clockwork for most of my life I have had a annual goal to weigh less. This year my task was to get under 230. In looking back over my life I have weighed that much and far less before, but without fail each year I have always wanted to lose more. I wanted to lose more when I weighed 220 and even when I weighed 210. Back in college I was so obsessed with not being fat that I got down to 180! (something most people would call anorexia) I have also been much heavier, up to 280! (something most people would call gluttony) What struck me this year was that no matter what I have weighed in the past, there have been few times when I was content with my weight. So in light of this new revelation, if weight loss was the task, then what was the real goal? I guess ultimately it was to feel good about myself and at some level be in health. But why do I want to feel good about myself and be in health? Ultimately it’s because I want to live a long time and enjoy every part of the life I live.

But ask any planning guru and they will say, “To enjoy life” is not a good goal. It’s not measurable or specific enough. While that is partly true, “to enjoy life” still is, really and truly, the actual goal and without keeping it in the picture it’s too easy to let tasks define direction instead of direction defining the tasks. If I want to ‘enjoy life’ I can make a list of all the things I believe help me do that. Which a weight loss goal may be a part of but while I am measuring my progress on those tasks I am constantly evaluating whether or not the tasks are effective steps toward my true goal.

“I want to enjoy life, I believe that feeling good about myself will help, I also think that being in health will contribute to that, I believe that my ideal weight is between 218 lb. and 222 lb., I am purposing to reach that weight by such and such time, and will be using such and such methods.

Then as I progress and hopefully reach the conclusion of my tasks I can ask myself, “Am I enjoying life?” If the answer is no, then maybe weight loss is not the answer and more effort should be spent in other areas.

The same principle applies to every area of life, including ministry. Why are we doing this program or why are we expending resources on these items? Is it because, “that’s what we always do,” or because “it’s what everyone else seems to be doing”? The goal of worship leading is not to sound amazing, it’s not to have a high quality recording, have all of your files organized, be scheduled weeks in advance, and it’s also not to look cool while standing in front of a large group of people. So what is the real goal? If you don’t have a clear picture of what that is, you might be working really hard to move further away instead of closer. Then ultimately ask yourself, is what I am doing moving further toward my goals and would more effort move me closer or further away? The answers may surprise you.

So it’s taken me a bit longer to make my list but it’s already become a much different kind of list.