Friday, December 31, 2021

The Problem with Goal Setting and Resolutions

 This is an update of a process I started in 2014 and it has benefitted my life. I want to share with some of the upgrades I have incorporated.

As a Christian, I am always impressed with God's gift and allotment of time. It is so interesting.... we live in a linear world at this day we will be non-linear and I am convinced that we don't understand either one.
Why are resolutions and goal setting processes so unsatisfying? Because we live under a curse and time is running out; our mortal lives are in a steady rate of natural decay. 
As soon as we make some progress in one area, we look around and find so many other areas that have suffered.
This does not mean that we don't set goals or put in plan a process for improvement.... to do nothing is WORSE. But I have a system that I follow that has helped me find a good pace and perspective of these actions.
Daniel Harkavy is a pro. He and his ‘coaches’ make a lot of money going into companies and helping them improve in areas of business and profitability.But Harkavy and his group ( ) WILL NOT move into business planning UNTIL the client writes a ‘Life Plan’.
 Harkavy writes: “Most people initially discount the ‘life planning’ part of our coaching process…they say to us ‘We don’t want any of that fluffy (life planning) stuff’… but since ‘life planning is non-negotiable with us (they have to do it). Most of the time they end up telling us how glad they are that they went through the process. Immediately after completing their LIFE PLAN, they consistently tell us that they have already received their money’s worth… (pg. 58).
So why is the big plan so important, and why do groups like Harkavy’s choose this approach over ‘goal-setting’?
Because goal setting is endless. It creates frustration when we fall short. It creates momentary exhilaration when we achieve them- but always has a ‘let down’ afterward. And it can create a life where we set goals for simply ‘achieving a goal’ but the goal may not be a wise course of action for our time or priorities.
I find this in almost every instance. When we won the football state championship in 1998, the quest began for the next one. We did it again in ‘99, but it seemed less enjoyable and then we did not do it again until 2003. Were all of those other teams unsuccessful?
Hal Higdon has an entire section in his book, “Marathon- The Ultimate Training Guide” devoted to ‘Post-marathon Blues”.“We focus our lives on this one event for 5 months- and then its done” reflects a Melbourne Beach, Florida runner “Now what?”
NOTHING WRONG WITH GOALS- But instead...think about “Achievement” and “Success”
As a football coach, around 2005 or so, I began to try and differentiate the difference between ‘success’ and ‘achievement’. This was spurred on by a conversation I had with Coach David Cutcliffe.To me ‘Success’ is when you live and conduct your affairs in line with your ultimate call or mission. ‘Achievement’ is the accomplishment of achieving short and long term goals. 
Example: For a football team, I define achievement as : 7 win regular season- playoff qualification- region championship- perfect regular season- advancement in the playoffs- making the championship game- winning the state title- ALL NOBLE AND FUN ACHIEVEMENTS. And you may or may not hit some or all of those.
But SUCCESS were things like: Did we become a team? Did we learn to fight? Did we learn to love our brothers? Did we learn to sacrifice? Did we play with class and character? Did we learn to persevere? Did we learn how to finish? Did we learn how to improve every week? Did our leaders lead? Did our team follow coaching and leadership? These provide a way to be successful EVERY SEASON.
If these are true: You can have achievement WITHOUT SUCCESS and you can SUCCEED without achievement. And if I had to choose… I choose ‘success’ but usually, they go hand in hand.
This is why goals WITHIN the context of a life plan makes more sense. If the ‘Mission’ is in clear view- the goals serve to be a tool of support and the exhilaration comes in the stream of walking in your ultimate purpose!
In ‘Ages of Faith’, Alex de Tocqueville wrote, “the final aim of life is placed beyond life”.
For a Christian believer, the life plan HAS to have the finish line past the mortal end.
The PLAN or MISSION keeps you on task…. without an ULTIMATE AIM, you are likely to be living reactive…less proactive… frequently distracted… doubling back… or in Bible language – children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.(Ephesians 4:14 ESV)
I love the definition Harkavy uses about a LIFE PLAN:
‘In essence, Life Planning is nothing but a process of accumulating net worth in THE MOST IMPORTANT ACCOUNTS OF YOUR LIFE!”
Harkavy Life Plan Process:
  • Identifying IMPORTANT accounts (spouse, family, spiritual life, health, service, career, fun, vacation, charity, dreams, community, finance, development, etc)
  • Writing Action Steps to fulfill a ‘vision’ for these accounts
  • Prioritizing time/goals/decisions in light of ALL the important accounts
  • Write/ Review/ Adjust/ Share/ Teach your plan
 in 2014, I developed an entire devotional series around developing a mission statement and learning about the call of God on our lives. There are still four devotional books on Amazon that have devotions for the first quarter of the year. You can find the first book here: Devotions for a New Year
All of this has caused be to change how I do resolutions....
Instead of making a new year's resolution, I take a year to do monthly 'house keeping' around my life mission statement.
My calendar is based primarily around the energy I need for a successful school year....
My year always goes something like this:
In January - I take some time to pray through my year- evaluating the year before and thinking about future desires. I usually take a THEME for me as a point of emphasis. 
February is a FAST of some kind= 28 days to do without. One year it was social media- last year it was caffeine- what am I addicted to? What types of things are idols in my life.
March is either Momentum march or mediocre March and I have to get in the first few weeks to see how I am doing...... it basically is 'hang on until Spring Break'!
April is very important- It is the real beginning of my year. It is 'the cruelest month'- it is a tough eating and exercise plan and very regimented- but it is a good time to do it because of the nicer weather... nature helps here.
May is 'mission statement'- this is where I re-visit- God's primary calling, His secondary calling, changes in my life purpose statement...
JUNE/JULY- Energy and joy- I love summers- the longer days- key planing
September/October- Priorities/Prayer- execution. A commitment to quality.
November- ‘No Gain November’… this is when I usually do the worst on eating. My main goal is to weigh the same or less on Nov 1 and Dec. 1. This year I did awesome- but December was a bust.....
December- Reflection, Rest (Christmas Break), and Evaluation. The most critical part of evaluation is going back over the goals in specific areas- spiritual, financial, family, home improvement, physical, and professional.
Here is the bottom line- God builds in re-starting points all the time because we slip and fall all the time.
New months, new weeks, new days, and here we are...New Year!
Do you feel distant from Him? It is never a mistake to come home!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021 2021 Summary and 2022 Plans


It was another interesting year for my blog writing.

A quick run down of 2021:

Total all-time page views as of 12/29/21 403,588

Most read post of 2021: The Rewards of Real Risk in High School Fishing  922 page views

2nd most read post of 2021The Rock Cross Club 492 page views

It wasn't a great year for writing.... any year that I write less than 40 posts... that is a down year.

Part of the issue is that I have put a lot of time into the development of "Winning Edges" and that will show growth in 2022.

As I begin to plan 2022, I would appreciate prayer. The last 2 years have been really tough mentally, physically, financially, emotionally.... some of it Covid related and some of it is just big life changes (weddings, the loss of my dad, etc).

The word I seem to be considering in January is "Recovery".... but time will tell.

Something Bigger Than the Moment to Handle The Moment


It was an outstanding season for the 2021 Briarwood football team. The team finished 10-2 with the 2 losses coming from the two north semi-finalists and the 6A State Champion.   

Very few people remember that BCS went 9-14 the last time the Lions played 6A competition. 

Coach Matthew Forester and this group of Lions have fared better in this latest move up and is currently 18-5 in class 6A the last two seasons. The reasons for the difference are complex and not fully attributed to coaching. 

These factors need to be considered to evaluate the success despite the fact that BCS is the smallest school in Class 6A (considering the 1.35 multiplier). And the road continues to be tough in finding teams to play for the next two years in 6A. The 2022 schedule is still unfinished and we are finding it hard to get teams to play.

Over the last few weeks, the following thoughts have been too dominant in my mind to not flesh out in words.

This post is also a reference to an often untouched on category in coaching.... the mental health of players and coaches. It isn't easy navigating expectations and the work required to compete.

Everyone in our small 'Briarworld" will understand the references and moments, but I always hope these posts apply to a grander scope and scheme of life and opportunity.

An Example:

On Friday, Sept. 3 our varsity football team pulled out that type of win that becomes memorable and special.

Our rival, the Chelsea Hornets came out and played an amazing football game against us. They sustained an energy and fire that seized early momentum and knocked us back on our heels as a team. Their coaches devised an excellent game plan and their players executed that plan to such a high level that we found ourselves down 14 points through much of the game. I have coached in enough of these types of games over the years to know that the regular outcome is a loss. And had we had any turnovers or missed opportunities in the 4th quarter of that game, we would have sustained a very hurtful loss.

Football is also strange that in the chaos and storm of physical competition, any number of things could have gone differently and the outcome would be impacted. These are the types of games where, if both teams played ten times, you would have 10 drastically different scores. Add heat, humidity, injuries, illness, penalties called or uncalled, tackles made, passes dropped... and you begin to see why sports have the drama and draw that keeps us showing up and being entertained.

But there are TWO factors I want to point to as an illustration from this contest that is important to giving yourself the best opportunity to win in those moments. There are SO MANY MORE than these two... we won't take time to discuss prior work and preparation, team culture, personal discipline, leadership, playing intense regardless of the score..... all of these things are well documented.

These two factors are 'dispositions' .... or to drill down a bit, possible even  presuppositional attitudes that can enhance winning at those moments where doubt, drama, and the opponent are at full hurricane force. And I'm not saying that one team had them and the other one did not. Having a disposition doesn't guarantee success... but it adds to the likelihood of it happening.

FACTOR 1- Something Bigger Than the Moment to Handle The Moment.

This is one I point to quite often as I work with quarterbacks. A QB is in a high profile, spotlight position that carries quite a bit of stress and expectations.

I tell my Qb's all the time, "there has to be something bigger than football in your life to be able to keep football in the proper place". For us, that bigger thing is faith... We point to a relationship to God through the good news message of Christ. When Christ is preeminent in life and everything is made subject to Him, then everything is kept in their  proper place. If Christ isn't at the top, then even good things can be mis-placed to god things and they all fail as idols. Football is a great game but it is a terrible god.

If we keep that perspective, we learn to handle both the victories and defeats as they should be. They still feel good and they still hurt ( I HATE to lose).. but we learn to accept the events under the sovereign hand of God... a good of great intentions (Romans 8:28 and many others).

The illustration I use to support this is from other sports.... I usually ask them, "Do you want to know why Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson  make putts to win majors, why Michael Jordan hits buzzer beaters, why Tom Brady drives the team in two minute comebacks and others choke?" And we all think things like talent, hard work, competitive fire (all true). But I think a huge factor is "they don't HAVE to" they are free to play a game, free to make the play, they are not validated by the moment... they already are secure in their position... they have done it before... they already believe in themselves.. and others believe in them. It is HARD to get there... you do have to do it the first time... but once you break through, it is easier to do it again.

One poor guy needs to make that putt to keep his tour card and Tiger just wants to add to his dump truck of previous wins and prize money- that isn't a fair competition!

This is a delicate balance... you can care so little that in the end you don't really want no- no...IT HAS TO MATTER! At the same time, if I can convince a competitor that he is already validated as a man.. he is already a winner.. he is accepted win or lose... then he is in a much better disposition to make those plays under pressure.

I also have to admit that competitors who tout 'faith' are open to ridicule and skepticism that can be justified. There are some who extol a faith, but it is only a slogan. I have always said a fake Jesus, a 'tag-on' Jesus always falls off during times of stress of failure. It needs to the authentic or it is a fraud.

Isn't it interesting how the media covered the BCS/Chelsea game was covered that night? (It is important to say that this post has nothing to do with the opponents that night- they played so well and likely have these same qualities... again, to have this disposition  doesn't guarantee a win...)

Alec Etheredge, Shelby County Reporter: "Trailing by 14 entering the final quarter, the Lions didn’t panic. Instead, they went to work."

After a false start, however, they eventually faced third-and-goal from the 7, which quickly became fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line with 38 seconds left.

Another penalty pushed it back to be fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, but the Lions looked as calm as possible in the biggest moment of the season thus far."

And though there are a lot of factors that lead to us making plays under pressure... the fact that it really isn't life and death contributes to a better disposition to make the play.

This is hard to teach by the way and thankfully has been a part of our program for many decades though we fail at this many times.

Here is another way to put it- IF YOU ARE FREE TO FAIL (i.e. your life will still be OK if this doesn't work out) YOU ARE FREE TO SUCCEED. IF YOU ARE FREE TO MISS, YOU ARE FREE TO MAKE!

So, maybe I'm really describing a type of FREEDOM, not chained to the idol of validation.

And that is a part of the second factor....


This is a little more difficult to explain... possibly controversial... but true.

In that game a few weeks ago, our coaches and players were free to just coach and play because for right now our football coaches are supported... i.e. not on the hot seat. There isn't a large group of parents or players standing in judgment of every decision and move. And because of that, people are generally trusting that when decisions are made, they are given the benefit of the doubt, and the calls aren't life and death moments as well.

When you feel like you are coaching for your job... I often wonder if you are really free to coach?

I experienced that personally as a previous head coach. At some point, I knew that there were significant people who had decided I wasn't a good head football coach and my tenure was in jeopardy.

And it impacted decisions... because I was anxious and thought way too much about how a decision might impact my job approval rating.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and get positivity to all coaches at all schools. I know that isn't a reality.. but a high school coach should never have to wade through the mess that college coaches are subject to.

When fans, parents, and even players begin to doubt a coach... then the opportunity to win in those pressure moment sis greatly diminished. And it saddens me because it is a self defeating disposition.

Let me take the Chelsea game as an example and show how that could have worked against us...

Let's pretend we have the opposite atmosphere and our coaches are making pressure packed decisions but the fans, parents, and players think the coaches are stupid.

When we got behind early? "I expected this.. out coached already"

When we throw a halfback pass? "That was a dumb call... what are they thinking!"

When we lined up offsides on that play? "see there... our coaches are idiots!"

And then we line up for the next play... does the negativity make us think we are going to make the play or does it already lend itself to the likelihood of failure?

Does the coach feel free to make a gutsy risky call?

Do the players trust the coach or do they hear so many bad things all the time that they actually doubt them?

See how it works? 

I talk to AD's all around the country and they will ALL just about say the same thing- positive parents/fans almost always lend to a better than expected season.

Negative parents/fans who whine and complain almost always are sabotaging their season before it even begins.

One AD told me on a zoom that his ______ program would never be successful until they graduate the professional critics and complainers. But the fear is that it pollutes the water for the next group coming... so it is never easy.

Again, it doesn't mean that coaches don't need evaluation and pressure from administrators to improve.

What it does mean is that coaches need to coach, parents need to parent, players need to play, and administrators need to administrate. If you get beyond your role, it leads to dysfunction.

I have many examples of that over the years...  some positive and some negative.

Don't misunderstand me here... there will ALWAYS be critics and distractors, I am not THAT naive. But championship programs have less of that and the MAJORITY of the support has to be positive to better enable success.

To the parents, I think it is the same solution- there has to be something MORE than the athletics experience to keep it all in perspective. I struggled with that as well. 

3 John "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth". (ESV)

Allow God to use the experience both good and tough to prepare your sons and daughters for their life. He is trustworthy and the Scriptures declare it so.

And it has to be more than words. 

After all, "Christian IS as Christian DOES"........