Should we set goals?

In January, Dan and I took on the challenge to complete 52 hikes in 2020. We were already on hike #38 by April. And so we revised the goal: we would aim to log in 500 miles before year’s end.


Tam McArthur Rim across the lake — our destination this past week
From the top of Tam MacArthur with Broken Top as backdrop

Here’s a fun little discovery from an article titled, “The Science of Accomplishing Your Goals” by Ralph Ryback, MD. Apparently, breaking large goals into smaller targets and checking them off our to-do lists can produce a rush of dopamine, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter.

(This explains so much about my addiction to to-do lists.)

So, back to 500 miles in 2020—I broke down the larger goal into smaller chunks by creating a spreadsheet that tracks dates and automatically adds up distances and ascent. 

Since January, Dan and I have hiked 103 trails/paths for a total distance of 387.95 miles. Talk about dopamine being released every time we log in a new trek!

God’s handiwork

Obviously, there are more important goals in life than walking wilderness trails. Such as, planning for a career. Taking in foster kids. Participating in a medical mission trip. 

This thought written by the Apostle Paul to believers in the ancient church at Ephesus:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

This is mind-boggling to me—that a Creator God would take the time to fashion us with a specific purpose in mind. Utilizing our unique blend of gifts and abilities and interests and life experiences, we are destined to do good works and make a difference while we occupy this planet.

This insight from Bob Goff:

God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”

What if?

But what if life throws a curveball? What if we set a goal toward starting our own business, or teaching a topic we’re an expert at? What if we plan to serve in a third world country, and we move our family across the globe and learn the language and make friends and start blending into the culture? And then it’s no longer safe in that location? A young friend of mine experienced exactly this. Hopes and dreams devastated.

How do we manage goal setting through those hard places, when we thought we understood God’s leading to this career, this marriage, this volunteer?

If the vision goes sideways, can we be open to a new re-imagining of our goals?

My first husband and I had a dream of owning a rustic home on spacious land to be used as a place of teaching and encouragement for married couples, and/or respite for cancer survivors and caregivers.

That dream died when he died.

God is a Dream-Weaver. And He doesn’t make mistakes. He didn’t say, “Oops, cancer. Didn’t see that coming.”

He wrote those wilderness years into my story, and an equally hard season into Dan’s story.

And then He wrote the chapter that brought Dan and me across each other’s paths. 

Interestingly, Dan and I share a similar desire for some sort of country hospitality ministry because we both love the country, and stacks of firewood on cabin porches, and walks through the woods, and opening our home and hearts to guests who could use a place to let out a deep sigh and replenish body, soul, and spirit.

God crafted me, He crafted Dan while we were still in our respective mother’s wombs and gave us a life purpose:

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. – Psalm 139:13-14

Dan and I have embarked on a new season with different goals than the ones we shared with our first spouses. 

And even though the simple objective of hiking 500 miles in 2020 has proved to be a fun intention, you can believe this whole new set of goals is much deeper, much more meaningful than that.

Because God destined this for our partnered lives.


Can we find things to be grateful for anyway?


What if we enjoyed the journey?


  1. Beverly

    What a beautiful picture of how God remakes our goals. So restorative in nature. Love it.

    • Beverly, I love those aspects of God’s character – how He restores, and renews, and repurposes, and rebuilds, and reassigns, and remakes. Such great “re” words!

  2. Cheryl

    Thanks for this post. All very important reminders. And it love that helps with everything including reaching a goal.

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