A Healthy Life is a Goal-Setting Life – Part 3 of 3
Goal Setting for a Healthy Person
One only has to walk the aisles of your local bookstore (that’s a physical building – not Amazon – that sells books) to see the overwhelming number of books written for the purpose of trying to make you healthy. Mental health, physical health, emotional health. There is a large quantity of literature, podcasts, and videos on the subject; supporting the theory there is a high demand from people to know how to become successful.
It won’t blow your mind and you will not finish this post and be blown away by my incredible insight. Simply put, we should all consider the great value goal setting can have on our lives and overall health. I’ve organized three categories – physical, emotional, and spiritual.
The following post is my encouragement in the practice of setting emotional goals.
For any number of reasons, we rarely consider our emotional health something to be monitored. Much less do we think of it something that can actually be improved. However, what I hope you will consider is that it is very important to strive for emotional health and it is entirely possible to improve our emotional health. In one of my favorite stories of Jesus’s earthly ministry – the parable of The Good Samaritan – Jesus teaches us that we are to, “…love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all you mind…” But how often to we really think of loving God with our minds? It is much more common to associate our spiritual lives with our hearts or our souls. Yet it is clear, God has made us in such a wonderfully complex way, the heart, soul, and mind are all a function of our being. All fascists of our being created to worship Him (Colossians 1:16).
Perhaps the single greatest way to prevent poor emotional health is to begin with considering the location of your mind. No, I’m not talking about if your brain is between your ears! Instead, ask yourself what it is that you are fixated on or think about most often in your life. As you’ve probably heard, there is an expression in real estate, “Location! Location! Location!” My wife and I love watching House Hunters on HGTV. Without fail, nearly every couple prioritizes location on their wish list. Perhaps they want to be on farm land, quiet, and away from the city. Or some couples want a short commute and to live in the heart of downtown. Smart couples consider living near public transportation to save money on the cost of owning a vehicle. No matter where a couple decides to live, most of the time they take into strong consideration the location of the home and the direct effect it will have on their lives. Our minds are no different. Paul teaches us in Colossians 3:2, “Set you minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This lesson does not teach us to ignore or disregard the earthly experiences that require our attention. Instead, he is challenging our perspective on our priorities.
Do you have an unhealthy priority/perspective on earthly experiences? Are your emotions deeply tied to the success of your career or the money in your bank account? Are there times when your emotions more commonly reflect what you can hold in your hand than what you have in your heart?
If you find this to be true, start by setting the emotional goal of making your relationship with Christ the priority of your emotions. Set your mind on the promises recorded in the scriptures and let those promises be what fuels your perspective on life and what consumes your thoughts. Set you mind on that great things He has done for you, ways He’s provided for you, and the blessing you do have. Our emotions can easily be swayed by our circumstances but by setting the goal to of setting your minds on all the beautiful truth of God’s love you will begin to experience a much healthier emotional existence.
There is no doubt I am a “right-brained” person. I have always loved art, music, and creating. I have a Bachelor of Arts and have always struggled with the maths and sciences of the world. However, in an ironic twist, I have come to really value visual organization of abstract concepts – especially life experiences. So for example, as you strive to be more healthy emotionally, start by surveying and organizing your life experiences and the emotional effect they have on you.
A very common practice I use when privileged to lead a person in biblical counseling, is to journal their life experiences and write-out what emotions they feel as a result. In the exercise, write all the experiences you have that generate a positive emotional experience. In the next column, write all the experiences you have during the week which generate a negative emotional experience.
Once you’ve done this, it can be very helpful – and eye-opening – to realize just what kind of emotional experiences you have on a week-to-week basis. Now that you can see them in black and white, circle all the negative emotional experiences you have that you can eliminate. You may not be able to eliminate them all at once or instantly, but you can begin to made strides towards working those experiences out of your everyday life.
For example, I counseled a mom who is single and was avalanched under a pile of anxiety. It felt like every day was a massive struggle. I encouraged her to organize her emotional experiences for the purpose of becoming more aware of her mental health – her presence of lack of dependency on Christ. Then I encouraged her to consider if there are any negative emotional experiences she can eliminate. Sure enough, when she came back a week later she told me this story. In the midst of everything she was going through, she was frustrated daily by the fact her children’s father owed, in her opinion, more alimony than he was currently paying. She called the proper authorities and they did an anonymous inspection of the circumstances. Sure enough, he was found to be required to do more to care for his children. This was a huge relief for this mother of three. While this did not necessary make a life-altering change, it did improve her mental health by eliminating a daily frustration which was manifesting itself as an unhealthy negative emotion. It was a great first step in digging out from under the avalanche of anxiety.
It is true you may not be able to eliminate all negative experiences so easily.
- The Bible teaches us there are times when our suffering is for our good – 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Corinthians 4:17, James 1:12. From time to time, in God’s sovereignty, He allows suffering to strengthen our faith, deepen our dependency on Him, and fortify our bond in relationship with Him. Have heard it said recently, “If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”
- It is also true our suffering of negative emotional experiences comes from sin we are causing. The temptation is to blame someone or something else. However, James teaches us in James 4 that the source of our quarrels (sin) is the war of desires waging in our hearts. When we have surrendered to Jesus to sit on the throne of our hearts, yet we allow earthly desires to rule and motivate, we will surely invite negative emotional experiences in our daily lives as a result.
- Then of course, it is always possible our negative emotional experiences are because of sin happening to us. The world is a fallen and broken place. When Adam and Eve, representing all mankind, chose sin and self over a good and perfect relationship with God, sin and its consequences was ushered into this world. Therefore, we can expect negative emotional experiences – 2 Timothy 3:12. Without fail, many of these will be beyond our control. Therefore, we cling to scripture like Isaiah 43:2 and John 16:33.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to be proactive in navigating the emotional waters of your life. Consider some of the follow practical advice.
- Remove yourself from the situation. This may not always be possible, but if you find yourself overwhelmed by a person or an experience – and it is possible, safely – remove yourself by leaving the conversation or leaving the circumstance. As long as physically leaving will not make the situation worse, removing yourself from direct expose to the flames of negativity will go a very long way in preserving your mental health.
- Feed yourself with peace. 1 Chronicles 22:9 reads, “I will give you peace and quietness.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace and it is wonderfully encouraging to know His Spirit lives inside us. However, if you are constantly in the noisy rat-race of life, how can that peace make a difference?! Take time to go for walks by yourself. Consider starting a quiet hobby. Drive your car with the radio off. Listen to classical music or worship songs laying in bed at night. Carve out space in your daily routine where you block out the noise and pressure of life and make room for the Prince of Peace to meet with you and love on you.
- Seek truth. As previously mentioned, Colossians 3 is a great place to find guidance. Paul teaches us to “seek the things that are above.” The Bible is a never-ending source of truth about God’s love for you (things that are above). His promises are dripping off every page. In order to become healthier, set the goal of reading and memorizing biblical truth. Then, when you are squeezed by negative emotional experiences, the truth about God and about you will come oozing out in a wonderful, powerful way.
I hope you have found some encouragement to set goals for emotional health. There are many other great ways to grow in your faith and hopefully these ideas will spark fresh ideas of your own and help you establish healthy rhythms in your everyday life.