It’s Time to Stop Setting Goals

They are too alive to die, and too dead to live.

This haunting observation of most people in the Western world was made by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chu Han.

We all have our own stories of trying to stay sane in the day and age of mobile phones, connected watches, a twenty-four-hour news cycle blaring from our devices, unceasing demands from family, church members, and our team, and …

Do you feel weary?

Do you feel burdened?

You’re not alone.

The most common answer to the question, “How are you?” is, “I’m good – just busy.”

That answer comes from everywhere, bridging gaps of gender, age, ethnicity, and class. Empty-nesters working from home are busy, even with their kids and grandkids spread across the country. New parents are busy, with a new mom headed back to work while the new dad begins the first week of parental leave. Even middle-schoolers are busy trying to juggle three different platforms of distance learning while helping around the home while trying to stay connected with their best friend in the neighborhood two streets over.

You feel over-worked, over-booked, and over-connected – how can you reclaim your health and wellness again?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – To Hell With the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World by Jefferson Bethke

Our culture makes constant demands of us: Do more. Accomplish more. Buy more. Post more. Be more.

In following these demands, we have indeed become more: More anxious. More tired. More hurt. More depressed. More frantic.

What we are doing isn’t working!

In a society where hustle is the expectation, busyness is the norm and information is king, we have forgotten the fundamentals that make us human, anchor our lives, and provide meaning.

Jefferson Bethke, New York Times bestselling author and popular YouTuber, has lived the hustle and knows we need to stop doing and start becoming.   

After reading this book, you will discover:

  • How to proactively set boundaries in your life
  • How to get comfortable with obscurity
  • The best way to push back against the demands of contemporary life
  • The importance of embracing silence and solitude
  • How to handle the stressors that life throws at us

Join Bethke as he discovers that the very things the world teaches us to avoid at all costs–silence, obscurity, solitude, and vulnerability–are the very things that can give us the meaning, and the richness we are truly looking for.


According to author Jefferson Bethke, after only a decade or two of living up to the unrealistic cultural expectations of our times, many of us turn around and realize we can’t find the meaning we thought we were striving for.

We’ve been hustling, but hustling toward an empty grave.

It’s as if millions of us are on a treadmill, believing we’re going somewhere when we’re actually going nowhere. All that work, energy, and effort – yet we’re running for nothing.

Only those who are anchored in a richer and deeper and more meaningful experience than the one our culture is currently offering won’t get sucked away.

I’ve began to understand that we are created for formation, not goal-setting.

Jefferson Bethke

In general, goals are usually about a finish line. Something you can reach for and then be done once you accomplish it. It’s about doing something.

Formations, on the other hand, aren’t about doing something but about being someone. One is usually about activity, while the other is about identity. 

Goals are linear and resemble a straight line. Formations look more like a circle, where you are constantly coming back to the same place to seek renewal and refreshment in a particular practice. One is about a result, the other is about a process.

Why does this distinction matter so much? I think because Scripture doesn’t talk much about goals. But it is deeply focused on our identity. On who we are becoming.

Are we becoming more like Jesus by the practices and formations we are doing?

Here’s a quick way to think about it. Traditional goals are like an arrow aiming for a bull’s-eye. Formations, through are less like a bull’s-eye and more like an arrow bent in a circle.

One is linear and final. Once is circular and forever.

One doesn’t really change you. One can transform your life.

Jefferson Bethke, To Hell With the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World


Author Jefferson Bethke says that we are becoming someone and something. We are being formed. We are an image that is reflecting.

Reflecting what?

Our society has long had a pattern of considering something new as invigorating and exciting, adopting it at full scale and with full embrace without questioning the consequences. Then, thirty or fifty years later, the negative impact begins to show, and regulations begin to pop up.

Consider your current use of social media platforms. Where do you find yourself in the following list?

  1. This is cool and exciting.
  2. The is actually the best thing ever created. How did people even live without it before?
  3. The is still the best thing ever, and I can’t imagine my life without it, but it seems to be hurting me also.
  4. It’s definitely hurting me and I probably need to live without it in some way.

If we are honest, many people would answer somewhere between “2” and “3” – and heading quickly toward “4.”

While this is not a diatribe or condemnation of social media, it is an accurate observation of how dangerous something like social media usage is to becoming more like Jesus.

Here’s a strategy suggested by Deep Work author Cal Newport to reducing some of the complexity in deciding whether a social media tool is useful to you in “being formed.”

The first step of this strategy is to identify the main high-level areas in your personal and professional life. When you’re done you should have a small number of areas for both the professional and personal areas of your life.

Once you’ve identified these areas, list for each the two or three most important activities that help you achieve that area of your life.

The final step in this strategy is to consider the social media tools you currently use. For each such tool, go through the key activities you identified and ask whether the use of the tool has a substantially positive impact, a substantially negative impact, or little impact on your regular and successful participation in the activity.

Now comes the important decision: Keep using this tool only if you concluded that it has substantial positive impacts and that these outweigh the negative impacts.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.


SMART or SAFE? Setting Goals and the Leadership Brain

Goal setting is vital to the success of every team – and the process also increases brain performance. According to neuroscience consultant Marilee Sprenger in ” The Leadership Brain for Dummies,” the brain sees goal-setting as an extension of itself – it takes ownership of the goal and the accomplishment.

But what do you do when your team has different kinds of “brains” trying to set goals? Could it be that you need to consider two kinds of goals?

The SMART approach to goal-setting is linear, logical, and very left-brain oriented. Those teams that think in a left-brained format appreciate this type of goal setting because it is easy to track and measure. SMART goals are:

  • Specific – each goal specifies your target exactly.
  • Measurable – each goal must be measurable so you know when you’ve reached it – or not.
  • Achievable – a goal that is within reach increases motivation and those brain chemicals that keep you motivate.
  • Realistic – a realistic goal is one your team has the resources to realize.
  • Time – specific time frames provide clear deadlines for action.

But what about teams that aren’t as left-brained? How do they set goals? Consider SAFE goals. Approaching goals in a nonlinear manner appeals more to the right hemisphere of the brain. If your team members are creative, visual, and right-brain dominant, consider SAFE goals:

  • See it – see yourself working toward the goal; then picture it already achieved.
  • Accept it – accept that you can achieve the goal, and picture what that looks like.
  • Feel it – adding emotion to your visualization is very powerful: feel good about your accomplishment; enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • Express it – visualize yourself telling others about the accomplishment of the goal; make presentations at team meetings about your contribution to the success.

The SAFE method is especially good for those brains that need to have the big picture in order to accept the fact that they can in fact accomplish their goals.

So, does your team need SMART or SAFE goals? Or a combination of both?

As leader, it’s your job to know the difference and lead accordingly!

Next: Bridging the Digital Divide


inspired by The Leadership Brain for Dummies, by Marilee Sprenger

Leadership Brain for Dummies

The Basic Four of Leadership: # 1 – Goal Setting

A 200,000-person study by the Jackson Organization confirmed that managers who achieve enhanced business results are significantly more likely to be seen by their employees as strong in the Basic Four areas of leadership:

  • Goal Setting

  • Communication

  • Trust

  • Accountability

Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton used that study as a foundation in their book The Carrot Principle, adding on the accelerator of frequent and effective recognition to illustrate that the relationship between recognition and improved business results is both highly predictable and proven to work.

As in all good things, you must start with the basics.

Setting Clear Goals

The work life of many employees today is seen as a meaningless task with no end in sight. Too many organizations are operating in a vacuum where team members and even their leaders have no idea what is valued. Deprived of direction, team members coast along, getting nowhere fast.

Whoa – did those words just describe the organization that you are a part of? GASP – even your church?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

While leaders cannot often change the tasks in their organizations, they can change team members’ attitudes toward those tasks by setting clear team goals. Be defining the purpose of a task and tying it to a desirable end result, effective leaders infuse work with meaning and purpose. The task remains the same, but its significance in team members’ minds skyrockets.

Great leaders infuse their team with a clear sense of purpose. They not only explain the mission to the organization in terms of serving others, acting with integrity, being the best in their category, and so on, but how that grand, overarching mission applies to specific goals for their team and each individual’s daily work.

Teams need clarity from their leaders: clarity of goals, clarity of progress, and clarity of success. Leaders who provide clarity set an optimistic tone for the future.

A leader has to focus every day on gaining alignment with what matters most to the organization. Achieving goals should be noticed and rewarded while variances from the mission and values should necessitate quick action.

Goal setting may seem to be a basic management skill, but it is rare to find a manager who does this effectively. If you were to think back to an effective manager or leader you’ve had in the past, chances are they not only helped you understand the direction of the team, but how you as an individual contribute to that direction.

The power of a clearly communicated goal is amazing. Cultures around the world from all time periods have created epic myths about journeys through danger, despair, and ultimately, triumph. What makes the journey and its trials worthwhile is the hero’s noble purpose – his goal. Those stories live on today…

Isn’t it time for you to create an amazing legend of your purpose (goal) that permeates deeply within and through every member of your team?

Next: The Basic Four – Communication

Adapted from The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Part 2 of a series

Part 1