Open-Handed Goal Setting for the Ambitious Soul in 2023

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. -Matthew 6:33 NIV

Anyone who knows me well (or honestly knows me at all) knows that I LOVE a good goal-setting session. Planning is a love language for me, and my dad did not hesitate to mention my affinity for Google Spreadsheets in his toast at our wedding. Type A to my core, I love envisioning what I want my life could look like in 1 year, 5 years, even 10 years, and crafting a daily gameplan that I think will get me there. 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”” – Psalms 139:13-14 NIV. 

To borrow a quote from beloved India Arie, “And I know my Creator didn’t make no mistakes on me” (insert my best attempt at a honeysuckle neo soul voice here). I believe that a part of my inmost being is that desire to brainstorm, organize, and plan. I know that, when utilized well, this can be a powerful tool to move mountains for the kingdom. I don’t think I need to apologize for valuing organization highly. Like all of God’s gifts, however, this gift can become a weapon if wielded incorrectly. My tunnel-vision determination can often enable my excuses for planning my life without the Lord, the giver of my life. Sometimes it can be weeks, months, or even years before I realize the goal I set and achieved was never assigned or blessed by the Lord. Regret, frustration, embarrassment, and lots of backtracking follow. 

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. “ – Matthew 18:12-14 NIV

Praise God that He meets us right where we are, every single time. Even when we actively sin against God in our own selfish pursuits (and yes, we can have selfish pursuits for God’s kingdom, y’all), He will always, always, be there for us. When I think about the mercy and grace the Lord has shown his people for centuries, I am truly stunned speechless. While I’m thankful for this gift, I ultimately want to grow to a place where I am consistently seeking the Lord BEFORE I make the big purchase or start the 9 year academic journey towards a specific career. This January, while it’s still the time I affectionately call “vision board season”, I’m reframing not just the goals I set but how I set them. Here are 3 tips for submitting your goals and resolutions to the Father this year: 

  1. Listen first. – Last year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to begin teaching dental students part-time.  Within the first 4 hours teaching, I saw myself in so many students. I was thrust backwards in time well before dental school when I, an often confused student, would shoot my hand into the air with multitudes of questions as soon as they popped into my head. Thankfully, my educators would usually be very gentle and patient as they requested, “Please listen to everything I have to say first. I will probably answer your question at some point during the lecture.”  And 90% of the time, that was the case. The same is true for our heavenly Teacher. Oftentimes I rush straight into prayer with my laundry list of requests, grievances, and goals, without taking a minute to hear what God has to say to my heart. Of the 3 tips I’ll share, this is the hardest for me to achieve because I hate  sitting still with my own silence. But friends, God is in the silence. He wants to speak to us through His word and the Holy Spirit, but He won’t yell over our noise (and though he absolutely can, we probably wouldn’t like that one bit). Right now, sitting in 2 minutes of silence before the Lord is a challenge for me, and one I frequently fail. If this is you too, please join me in committing to asking God for grace and strength to sit before him in unrushed silence, before we start the LLC, or even before we start the deep work session in the coffeeshop. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us! 

“I say to myself, the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. “- Lamentations 3:24-26 NIV. 

  1. See yourself. – In general, I find it very difficult to confront my own sin. I don’t like the idea of being more self absorbed, more hypocritical, more prideful than what I present to those around me. As my pastor loves to remind us, “You can fool your friends and family. You can even fool me. But you can’t fool God.” Proverbs 21:2 tells us “a person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” One safeguard I use to evaluate the heart behind my goals is to add a “why?” section to each one. This helps me discern if I’m doing this to be faithful to the Lord or just faithful to my own dream life. The fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is a solid litmus test to decide whether a goal will be fruitful in the eyes of the Lord versus in the eyes of this world. Hopefully this will allow us to work smarter instead of harder as we pursue what matters most. 

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalms 139: 23-24 NIV. 

  1. Process everything in prayer. – Wouldn’t it be so nice to know what the Lord thinks of our budget for the year, or where we’re planning to move next year?I have no doubt I would sleep better knowing that God has stamped a bright green “YES” onto all the goals I’ve jotted in my planner. While many of us (myself included) have not heard the audible voice of God, we can trust that He speaks to us in His word, His people, His silence, and His Holy Spirit. When we’re seeking Him, those little “gut feelings” are anything but little. We can pray over these nudges, and when confirmed with scripture and wise counsel, I expect we will experience that special inexplicable peace we know is sourced by Him. 

“And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Because I’m shamelessly one of those people, I choose a word of the year to meditate on and center my thoughts and vision for growth. This year, I chose the word “faithful”. In my ambitious goals for my career, health and fitness, marriage, and more, I am hoping to be faithful to all God has provided. For me, this looks like switching my view from seeking more and more to faithfully stewarding the body, the relationships, the work, the small platform, and the community in which I am already immersed. In January, I have already done this imperfectly, I know it. But “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22 NIV). Above all of my goals this year, my overarching resolution is to ambitiously set my goals for the Lord and with the Lord. And if I hold fast to the one who establishes my steps,  I have a feeling this year of goals will be my best yet. 

Go(al) with God, y’all, 


“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

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