Overcoming the Spirit of Perfectionism in New Year’s Goal Setting
My stress level began steaming up like a pressure cooker as soon as we finished unwrapping our Christmas presents. My living room floor was still littered with discarded wrapping paper as my thoughts quickly turned from gifts and stockings to the fact that 2019 was mere days away. The planner and perfectionist in me began to panic a little. While I tried to act jolly, I felt anxiety mounting to formulate an action plan for tackling the New Year. (I realize I lost some of you the minute I said “action plan,” but there are others of you who get me. You too are driven. You know the pressure to be your own version of wonder-woman. This post is for those of us who fear failure and fight perfectionism.)
Because this is my bent, I thought about 10-15 changes I wanted to implement in my life as I fried bacon for our Christmas brunch. (Bacon? Yes, because living Keto was already at the top of my list!) My mind raced with ideas and how I could orchestrate my time better to manufacture this “new life action plan.” As the bacon sizzled, I thought, “Geez, Marian! Enjoy the holiday for a hot second!” Despite my best efforts to focus on the wonder of Christmas Day, my thoughts kept returning to a mental “to do list” instead of enjoying the beauty of the moment with my family.
So that afternoon when I put my daughter down for her nap, I went into my study and began hastily writing down some goals and an action items for 2019. About 30 minutes into the process, I became overwhelmed with the enormity of deciding in the short window of a toddler’s nap time what my life should look like over the next year. In desperation, I turned to the internet and watched some expert videos on goal setting, I perused blogs on how to make S.M.A.R.T goals, and I walked through some helpful exercises to help me think through what worked in 2018 and what I’d like to change in 2019. This process only mounted the anxiety in my soul. As I compared my life to the experts, I thought, “These people have it all together!” They homeschool large families, grow gardens, read countless books, cultivate perfect marriages, and even baked fresh bread!! Now I really felt like a failure!
Let me be clear, I find nothing wrong with goal setting and strategic planning, but something was very wrong in my heart. My heart was striving. I was not at rest. I was not experiencing the peace of God, nor was I hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit in my planning. The problem wasn’t with the process, but with me.
As I sat with the scraps of paper filled with ideas, dreams, goals, and vision boards, I felt overwhelmed. I felt defeated before I even started. I was trying in vain to craft goals based upon expectations garnered from comparison to others on social media. Instead of listening to the voice of Jesus, my Good Shepherd, who leads me in paths of righteousness for His name sake, I was listening to the voice of the enemy, who said I was a failure and needed to get my life together if I was ever going to measure up.
Jesus said we can know who or what something is by the fruit it produces. The fruit I experienced was shame, condemnation, anxiety, and stress. These are not the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit. These thoughts and feelings had one source—the voice of the enemy who specializes in fear.
I quickly recognized I was operating from a place of fear. Fear that I was failing at being a ministry leader, mother, wife, friend, daughter, and child of God. My heart was striving, and I believed an old lie that said, “I need to do (fill in the blank) in order to be valued and loved.” This lie fueled my goal setting process and was the source of my striving.
Instead of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit to know God’s will, I compared my life to others and writing down ways I should improve in order to gain acceptance. Friends, a thick cloud of failure mixed with perfectionism hovered over me that afternoon.
Frustrated and discouraged, I finally fell on my knees before the Lord and said, “Help.” I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to focus on in this next year?” Waiting and listening, I fully expected to hear the same voice of condemnation that told me I didn’t measure up.
Instead, I heard the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit who said, “Walk with Me.”
Friends, God’s voice is easy to recognize. First, it is consistent with Scripture and second, it brings peace. Unlike the other voice that brought confusion and chaos to my mind, God’s Voice brought rest to my soul.
I didn’t need an action-plan –I need the power of God.
I didn’t need strategies—I need His strength, every day.
I didn’t need to strive for perfection—I need to walk with Jesus.
As I prayed, I knew this was the Lord speaking and correcting me. He exposed the lie in my heart. The lie that said that my performance + people’s opinions = my worth. Jesus, the voice of truth, revealed this lie in my heart so I would return to a place of rest in Him.
Let me repeat, there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, but there was a big problem with “why” I was setting mine. I was operating from a place of fear, not faith. Jesus loved me too much to let me believe this lie and to live in that kind of bondage.
I truly believe God wants us to live for His glory and that means using our gifts and talents to their fullest. But the key to true, eternal success, is found in walking with Him. Apart from Jesus, all of our planning can become striving and stress. But when I walk with God, I can live each day with His Spirit empowering me to do His will.
So what does it mean to walk with God?
- Remember God is Present. Jesus is alive and He is with me. His Spirit lives with me and is my Helper, Counselor, Comforter, and Friend. I am not alone in this world to strive and try to do God’s Will—He is beside me and empowering me every step of the way. Now as I look to the future and establish God-size goals for the New Year, I do so knowing that it is His Power, not mine, that will bring about true success.
- Read His Word Daily. I know this sounds cliché, but we can’t know God’s will without knowing His word. Just as our bodies require water to live each day, we require God’s word to thrive and to experience life to the fullest. When we consistently show up and meet with God every day in His Word, He fills our minds with truth, faith, wisdom, and guidance. His Word equips us for the life we are called to lead.
One thing that helps me consistently read God’s Word is following a Bible reading plan. There are various ones available online, find one that interests you and stick with it. The Redeemed Girl App has a great one that is literally at your fingers everywhere you go. If you follow this plan (which takes about 20 minutes a day) you can read through the entire Bible in a year.
- Listen to the Spirit’s Promptings. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us in the way we should go. As children of God, we have the indwelling Spirit to direct our steps. Walking with God means we listen for His voice. We listen for ourselves and for others. The Holy Spirit will prompt us to call a friend, to pray for a stranger, to share an encouraging word, to write a blog, to step out in faith. As we listen and obey, we will discover the glorious adventure of walking with God.
If this concept is new to you, I want to recommend the book, Walking with God by John Eldridge. Seriously, this book was a game-changer for me!! It is one I’ve read numerous times over the past few years and It has profoundly impacted the way I hear God and know His voice. (Be sure to follow Redeemed Girl on Instagram and like this photo. We are giving away a free copy of “Walking with God” this week.)
Friends, let’s walk with God in 2019. Should we establish goals? Absolutely! But let us do so with a heart at rest in our identity as beloved children of God and not striving and performing to find love or to please man. I pray as step boldly into 2019 we rely on His Spirit and experience the power of God to accomplish exceedingly more than we could ask or imagine.
For His Glory,