By setting goals for marriage, you can give your marriage new life and your life new purpose.
In my last blog, we looked at what you and your spouse need to do to prepare to set goals for your marriage. If you haven’t done those steps yet, go back and read that article before jumping into this one. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Now that you have each decided what goals for marriage you want to set, it’s time to sit down together and get busy planning.
Set the ground rules
As each partner lists the items they would like to see accomplished in your marriage, the other person should stay quiet and not interrupt. If you think of something you want to say or add, write it down and continue listening.
Present your ideas honestly, in a non-accusatory way and without hurting anyone’s feelings.
Motivation is Key
Select the goals for marriage that motivate both of you the most. Choose your top 3-5 goals, the ones with the highest sense of urgency.
If you are new at goal setting, you may want to select only one or two and set them with reasonable, yet shorter, timelines. Work on completing those goals before moving on to try and implement more.
“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” Proverbs 29:18
Write your goals down
Most people who make goals do not write them down. They think that just keeping them in their heads will be enough. Studies have shown, though, that writing your goals down increases significantly your chances of attaining those goals. There are two reasons for this. When you write things down, your brain remembers it two different ways, through external storage and encoding.
External storage is when you store your goal in an external location, like on a piece of paper that you can see and read whenever you want. It’s easy to understand that whenever we look at something every day, that visual clue helps us remember it better.
The other way your brain stored the information is through encoding. Encoding is a biological process by which everything we sense travels to our brain’s hippocampus where they are analyzed. This process is how your mind makes decisions about what gets stored in your long-term memory and what gets discarded. Writing things down improves that encoding process, so when you write things down, they have a much higher chance of being remembered.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
Because of these fantastic abilities God created our brains to have, both of you should physically write the goals you set as you are working. Even if you decide to create a more attractive copy later that you will keep in front of you, the simple process of writing it for yourself will prioritize it in your mind.
Set SMART Goals
Using a system called SMART goals can help you create a simple way to follow a path toward achieving your objectives. Each letter of the word SMART stands for a characteristic of these types of goals. S for specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for relevant, and T for time-bound. Smart goals are a popular way of defining your goals for marriage because they provide clear direction and specific milestones to make success more likely.
Let’s take a look at how to implement each step of SMART into your goal setting for your marriage.
The more specific you are as you identify each goal, the better chance you have of attaining that goal. So, don’t be vague. Think of the five Ws of newspaper reporting (who, what, where, when, why) and try to identify as many of them as possible in the goal.
Instead of saying, “We will spend more time together,” be more specific by telling what you will do. Try, “We will have a date night once every other week.”
Write your goals for marriage from a positive perspective. Don’t focus on what you are trying to stop doing, instead focus on what you WILL do to achieve the goal.
You may want to stop holding grudges against one another, but just saying that you want to stop, doesn’t say what you will do instead. Try, “I will forgive you when you apologize.”
Make sure each partner knows what is expected of them to achieve the goal. When you know exactly what is expected of you to make this goal a reality, you will be more prone to complete it.
When determining your goal, you want something that can you measure to determine when you have reached that goal. Many times this is a number or other concrete evidence that determines when your goal is complete.
So, it’s not just, “We will pray together more.” Instead, put a number on it like, “We will pray together at least once a week.”
For long term goals, set milestones with specific tasks that need to be done by a certain date.
Although you may have some great dreams for where you want to be in the future, make sure that the goals you set today are not “pie in the sky” goals that will be difficult if not impossible to reach. Goals are meant to inspire motivation, and setting a goal when you know you don’t have the time money or talent for it, will leave you feeling frustrated and miserable.
I’m not saying those goals are always impossible. If you are exceedingly motivated to achieve a difficult goal, there are ways to do it. Find out what steps it will take to get there and weigh those costs against your other obligations in your life. Find out what you need to give to get the time, money, or talent to achieve it. If the benefits of the goal outweigh what it costs you to get there, then by all means, go for it.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
Ask yourselves, “Why do you want to reach this goal?” Think about what the benefits are of achieving it. Will you be more financially secure, and therefore be less stressed? Write that down.
Human beings need deadlines, or else we don’t make it happen. We tend to keep kicking the can down the road, (sounds like government, doesn’t it?) and we never do what needs to be done.
If you want to give a particular amount of money to missions or other important cause, decide when you need to complete it. “We will give X amount to the cause by April 30,” would be one example of how to do that.
So, make realistic deadlines for your goals for marriage or goal milestones, to keep you on track, but those deadlines can be flexible. Write them down and display them. Add them to your Google Calendar. Do whatever it takes to keep that date in front of you.
Make a plan of action
Look at the final goal and think of all the steps that need to happen from now until the goal is reached and write them all down. Create a checklist of tasks and give them a date for completion.
Work the plan
Once you have this beautiful plan, you actually have to do the work to accomplish anything. I think all too often, people create these incredible goals for themselves and expect it just to happen. But, even though God gives you the dreams you have for your relationship and family, He won’t just fulfill those dreams magician style. You have to do the work to get there, and he will reward your efforts.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Another useful step is to ask someone to hold you accountable for doing the things you said you were going to do. You can do this individually by asking a friend, relative, or pastor to help you. You can also do this by asking another couple to keep you both on track.
Have goal checkup meetings
Set a specific time interval at which you want to get together and see where you are with your goals. Otherwise, it will be easy to let all the planning go to waste and revert your relationship back to where it was before.
Each time you meet a goal or a significant step on the way to that goal, celebrate! Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and treat yourself to something special. Rewarding yourself will help motivate you to continue on your journey.
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
If you are new at goal setting or have a long list of things you’d like to accomplish, one thing I recommend is not having a ton of goals going at once. Pick one or two and set them with reasonable, yet shorter, timelines. Work on completing those goals before moving on to try and implement more.
Another way to increase your chances of success in setting goals for your marriage is to make sure you go into it with the right mindset. Your mindset about marriage affects your actions, communication, and intimacy. We have seven mindsets to consider that will help you solve common problems in your relationship.
Now you have a stronger idea about where your marriage will take you this year. Maybe you even can visualize what you want in three or five years.
Take that vision to heart, and don’t just let life happen to you. To be as successful as possible, you need a plan.
Remember you can’t control chaos. God is not a God of confusion, so keep it out of your life. Goal setting is one way to avoid it.
What goals would you think would be beneficial for your marriage? Talk about them with your spouse today!