A Study Of Personal Life Management


1 Samuel 17:46


I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.


We have all heard the benefits of writing and working towards your goals. We know that well-written personal goals are challenging, realistic, measurable, they start with a verb. They should be written down for later accountability. But rarely are they structured as crisply as when David spelled out his personal life management plan to Goliath. And his thought process is more profound than easily meets the eye.


David saw two features of goal-writing that seminar hosts generally leave out: 1) they should support Objectives; and 2) they should be supported by Action Plans. I’ll go as far as to say that it is better not to have Goals at all than to have Goals that do not support Objectives. I call non-supporting Goals “Orphan Goals,” and it is actually dangerous to achieve an Orphan Goal.


David’s Goal that day was to kill Goliath today: “I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth.” It was a good Goal: it was challenging; it was measurable – an onlooker could declare at sundown if the Goal was accomplished; and it started with a verb, “give.” You could argue it wasn’t realistic, but since he achieved it, we would have to say it was – even if only in hindsight.


The Goal was supported by two Action Plans: “I will strike you down and cut off your head.” Action Plans are not the same as Goals. Goals are something you work toward; Action Plans are things you just do. The Goal is to get an A in Chemistry. Studying is an Action Plan. Never take Goal credit for achieving Action Plans. If you want the A, then study. But to study is a poor goal. That said, the Action Plans that support your Goals should lead to the Goals’ achievement. In David’s example, striking Goliath down, and cutting off his head quite reasonably resulted in killing Goliath.


The strength of a Goal is the Objective it supports. And David’s Goal supported his Objective: “All the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” A man should only have two to four Objectives – ever. They should not change much over time, and they should be generally unachievable. David did not – could not celebrate that he achieved the Objective that all the earth now knows that there is a God in Israel. It was an Objective that was advanced (not achieved) when David killed Goliath.


We’ve heard that some Goals deserve to be abandoned. I agree with the statement, but I find it often misapplied. Abandoning Goals is too often the seminar host’s way to keep a participant involved even after it becomes evident that the Goal will fail. This breaks down the whole structure of the Goal-setting process. Goals should be abandoned when they no longer support the Objective.


By contrast, Saul wrote a Goal to kill David (1 Samuel 19:1). His Objective is not stated, but there seems to be an implied Objective that Saul remain King. His Action Plan was to tell his inside staff to kill David. He seemed rather unconcerned about what Action Plans they might devise. Saul had a clear Goal. In a life management perspective, it was a good Goal – even if perverse in the eyes of God. But the Goal supported no Objective, and the Goal was supported by no Action Plan.


Saul’s Goal was suspended in 1 Samuel 19:6, and resumed in 1 Samuel 19:9. At least in verse 9, Saul had an Action Plan. But David escaped. Again in 1 Samuel 19:9, David escaped a second time.


I should note here that the lack of an Objective did not cause Saul to fail. The lack of an Objective caused Saul to lose perspective as he pursued his goal. He had no way of knowing that the Goal should have been abandoned. The lack of an Objective caused Saul to lose focus, and resulted in his spending a day and a night naked in public (1 Samuel 19:24) – he was that intent on his Goal. Now what really caused Saul to fail was that the Goal was contrary to God’s will. But either way, his Action Plans were defective.


Saul continued to pursue his Goal even though both Saul’s son and his daughter were actively working against that Goal. Saul continued to pursue his Goal even though Crowned Prince Jonathan was contributing to the disqualification of his ever being King. The Goal should have been abandoned – not because it was failing – but because it was acting in a manner counterproductive to his Objective to remain King. (Most nations don’t want their head of state to be parading in public naked for days at a time.)


And it’s interesting to see Saul’s pursuit of the Goal. By the time we get to 1 Samuel 20:30, Saul was throwing spears at Jonathan. It’s not often I endorse the faux translation of an admitted paraphrase but I do endorse The Living Bible’s presentation of 1 Samuel 20:30. The biggest problem with The Living Bible’s presentation of 1 Samuel 20:30 is that it uses a word that Christians are not supposed to use. Regardless, Saul is now taking lethal measures against Jonathan. And it appears that Saul is pursuing the Goal to kill David – even if it costs him the implied Objective of remaining King. If the Objective is to remain King, then the Goal of killing David should have been abandoned when the Goal ceased supporting the Objective – when it became an Orphan Goal.


There are plenty of modern examples of the perils of achieving an Orphan Goal. A man lands on the moon, and shortly afterwards seeks treatment for alcoholism. Olympic Gold Medal winners lapse into depressions. Back in the 70’s, I read a book A Walk Across America by Peter and Barbara Jenkins. As they walked from Long Island to the Pacific coast in Oregon, they met literally hundreds of people. As they got close to the end, they started phoning all their new friends, and most were there to witness the two of them walking chest-deep – backpacks and all – into the Ocean. The hundreds of them walked the final few miles together, until they reached the water, and Peter and Barbara walked into the water alone. And Peter was befuddled. He did not feel joy; he did not feel excitement. He felt depressed. He said so in the book.


But he should not have been surprised. It’s the natural human response to having achieved an Orphan Goal. He did what he set out to do – let him hang the trophy!! But it either supports an Objective, wherein the achieved Goal is replaced by a new Goal – or you will feel more depressed than you will feel jubilant.


In my opinion, this is how a couple can date successfully for five years – and then have a marriage that fails after three months. How silly of them to quit so soon! How foolish the breakup! How predictable it becomes when one or both of them have a Goal to get married – and there was no Objective advanced when they achieved it!


David’s Goal to kill Goliath was fairly trivial when measured against his Objective that all the world may know that there is a God in Israel. But there are always new Goals to pursue in support of that Objective. David was emotionally free to rejoice in the Goal’s achievement, and to move on jubilantly toward the next Goal.


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