10 Ways to Refocus When Your Goals for This Year Have Failed

next step written on sticky note, what to focus on when goals are ruined

I don’t know about you, but the year of 2020 started off on a very exciting note for me. I was dating, working, performing. I had all kinds of goals set up for my life.

  1. Perform x number of times.
  2. Become a freelance writer.
  3. Meet my girlfriend’s family.
  4. Make new friends.

Little did I know what was in store.

Aside from the aforementioned four, there were plenty of goals on my list. And there was plenty that was never achieved. Relationships ended, jobs ended, and I along with everyone else was thrust into isolation.

My goals changed significantly.

  1. Overcome depression.
  2. Try to stay connected.
  3. Cope with loss.
  4. Keep praying (no matter what).

My life did not go according to my plans. And likely your life didn’t either.

As the year draws to a close, the conclusion for many has been long-awaited. We can seemingly put all the unforeseen challenges and hurts of this year behind us.

Though for me another question emerges.

What if this happens again? What if instead of a global pandemic aliens visit Earth leading believers and unbelievers alike to some serious existential questions? Maybe that’s farfetched.

When I consider the events of this year, everything together sounds outlandish, but actually happened.

The point is, we don’t know what the future holds. Not tomorrow. Not in 2021. Not in 2022. Not in 2050. But we can expect troubles. That we know.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus has made it clear that life would not be perfect. Sometimes our goals will be changed whether we want them to or not. Instead of telling us to give up, Jesus tells us to be courageous.

Whenever we again face anxiety on a personal or global scale, we have a choice where we focus our attention. Do we dwell on what is lost or have courage for what is and is to come?

As we know all too well, we can never know what a year may bring, but we can choose how we respond to whatever comes. If your expectations, hopes, and goals for this year have been thrown out the window, here are 10 things to focus on instead.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Bychykhin_Olexandr

  • woman looking up questioning

    1. Focus on God


    Whenever one plan doesn’t go my way, I try not to make a big stink about things. When multiple plans don’t go my way, and all at once, well, let’s just say, I’m not a very happy person.

    Yet, if there is one lesson to learn from this season of uncertainty it’s that God is always in control when we are not.

    “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

    God knows us so intimately that he has counted the hairs of your head. Maybe this won’t mean so much if you’re bald, but those with a lot of hair may find this verse astonishing.

    God knows me that intimately, but can I say the same?

    If I did, if I knew his Word inside and out, chances are I wouldn’t be so tempted to fear. I would instead be confident in who he is.

    When things don’t go my way, I can choose to focus on building my relationship with him. Rather than give into despair, I can read his Word to understand why he doesn’t want me to be afraid.

    2. Focus on Gratitude

    “Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

    Being pessimistic and doubtful of God when life doesn’t shape up according to our desires is downright easy. Taking note of his blessings, especially during the hard times, well, that is quite difficult.

    If we can focus on gratitude when our goals are unfulfilled, we will find a much more rewarding life, living according to God’s desire. He wants us to be thankful, and he has blessed us. We don’t always see those blessings depending on where we focus.

    When we practice gratitude, we take notice of even the smallest things God has given to us.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Eunice Lituanas

  • hand giving flower

    3. Focus on Forgiveness


    “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.” (Matthew 6:14)

    My girlfriend broke up with me. Two of my friends randomly stopped talking to me (despite me reaching out), and acquaintances also stopped communication.

    What in the world did I do to deserve all that?

    I felt abandoned and I didn’t ask for any of it. Chances are things happened to you also this year that you did not ask for either. 

    Maybe you were fired, furloughed, suffered the loss of a relationship, or another form of hardship. When we feel wronged by others, we have a choice whether we stew in our anger towards another or if we choose to forgive.

    God’s word makes clear which position he wants us to take. We ought to keep in mind that forgiving others puts us in a position to be forgiven.

    4. Focus on Loving Others

    Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

    The circumstances of this year have left a lot of people hurt in many ways. Those used to communicating with others have been deprived of a robust social life.

    People used to using the gym have been forced to change their workout habits or have gained weight.

    Children used to being in touch with their peers during lunchtime are suffering from loneliness.

    You don’t have to look far to see someone in some kind of need. Thankfully, we have an ability to support and love one another. Where you see someone in need, you can step in and try to be a blessing.

    God didn’t make us to be alone, and thus, we don’t have to bear our burdens by ourselves.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Evan Kirby

  • peaceful water

    5. Focus on Peace


    “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

    Disrupted plans have a tendency to throw us into disarray. While we are in disarray there is no peace to experience.

    Instead of trusting ourselves to fix life’s messes we can rest, relax, and know that God is in control. We can count on him to solve what we can’t control, and through that experience peace that only he offers.

    6. Focus on the Future

    “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

    The acronym for fear is commonly cited as: False Evidence Appearing Real.

    As believers we should move into the future with confidence, not fear. We can focus on the future, but not in the way that causes anxiety.

    Focusing on the future simply means setting new goals when our old ones didn’t work out. Jesus repeatedly calls us not to worry, but he has not asked us to forsake all planning.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Linus Nylund

  • names of god, elohim

    7. Focus on Learning


    “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

    Unfulfilled goals for a new job, a new hobby, a new relationship are bound to leave you with more time. Don’t get trapped inside your head. Spend time learning. If God gives us wisdom generously then there is much we can learn about life, if we choose to.

    Time spent jobless can be used to learn a new skill. Time spent single can be used to refine your personality.

    Past goals not working out could potentially set us up to make better goals for the future. We simply need the right perspective to think that way.

    8. Focus on Growing

    “Listen, sons, to a father’s discipline,

    and pay attention so that you may gain understanding,

    for I am giving you good instruction.

    Don’t abandon my teaching.” 

    (Proverbs 4:1-2)

    The past can teach us valuable lessons. Sometimes going back to what was is familiar feels like the only logical choice, but if we stay in what was, God can’t take us to what is next.

    Not everyone learns from past failings, but when we do, we become more thoughtful, more mature, more faithful. Every opportunity can be used to make us into more Christ-like people.

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  • young woman looking wistfully out a window, for those who haven't done great things for God

    9. Focus on Patience


    “Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions, than capturing a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)

    Maybe you set a goal and you know that goal is in agreement with God’s plan. For some reason though the goal remains unfulfilled.

    Life not going our way, while unpleasant, can teach us the value of patience, waiting on God without complaint. Easier said than done (trust me, I know), but so rewarding in the end.

    An incomplete goal doesn’t equate to a goal never to be completed, but now may not be the time.

    10. Focus on Your Heart

    “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

    Have you taken inventory of yourself lately?

    The measure we love others begins with how we love ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves there is no way we can truly love others.

    Life going the opposite of how we want can and should redirect our attention to the state of our hearts. This is a chance to reevaluate our desires, discerning what those desires are and why.

    The more self-awareness and self-love we practice, the more we take that into all of our other relationships, from God to strangers alike.

    In Conclusion

    With these Bible verses and this message, we can rest assured that God is in control always. Even when we feel in control, God has the ultimate authority. 

    The next moment, or day, or year where we make plans and everything that could go wrong, does, this time we can respond differently.

    We can remind ourselves that we have a choice in where we choose to focus our attention.

    Will we focus on what we don’t have or what we can do? Will we focus on what was lost or what we gained?

    The answer determines whether our trials make us into more Christ-like people or not.

    Related: Listen to How to Study the Bible: Finding Hope in Stressful Times:

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    headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.