Paul in 1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27, advises the best way to set goals and reveals the key ingredients needed to successfully achieve the goals you set.
The NIV reads as follows:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Taking actions with the result in mind
Paul starts off with the obvious, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run.” When a goal is set, it is important to take the steps needed to reach it. We often opt to delay our actions, stating one reason or the other. “all runners run” means if you choose a goal, you start moving right away.
King Solomon confirms this idea in Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning….”
Many times, starting strong is the easy part, but finishing strong is a different game altogether. Paul recommends to “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” You need to put in every bit of your effort to see the end, giving it your all every step of the way. Think every day about giving your absolute best at every moment from start to finish. Excuses and complaints are not allowed, but only the focus is needed to see the goal to the very end.
Again in Ecclesiastes 9:10, Solomon advises, “Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might.”
Any goal states the expected outcome and when you choose a goal, start working consistently, giving it your all, such as you would when you run to win the race.
In verse 26, Paul states, “I do not run aimlessly.” Any goal you set should serve a larger purpose, a vision, or a mission in your life. If not, as Paul says, it is like punching the air. How do you make sure you are not punching the air? Tracking how you spend your time will help you see how you manage your resource and what role it plays in winning the race.
What is your purpose in life? Take some time to define your purpose if you have not done so already. Your purpose will become your north star and shape your actions like an arrow directed to hit the target. My purpose is to walk with you on your journey to become the best version of yourself. Therefore, my goals will be directed towards equipping myself with the skills I will need to coach you on your journey.
The word passion is often misused and, as a result, misunderstood. It does not represent a superficial feeling neither a compulsive obsession but rather a consistency required to pursue the goal.
Paul uses “exercising self-control” in verse 25 and “I discipline my body” in verse 27 to enforce the idea of consistency. Consistency requires you to follow a specific plan, limiting your choices because of the goal you are trying to reach. For example, if exercising to lose weight is your goal, you need to employ self-discipline when you eat and consistently choose to do the exercise you have committed.
Disciplining the body represents a consistent desire to become the best that you can be. Always seeking to find what God created you to be. Your passion will drive behave in a way that demonstrates that you are here to win the race.
1 Corinthians 9:25 says, “Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things.” [AMP]
The over-arching goal is to finish strong in your race. Physical training represents the daily goals that you will achieve. The training also represents learning, reflecting, and receiving feedback to grow each day. Top athletes learn by watching tapes of their previous performance to identify areas that they can improve. They watch tapes of other top players, their competition to see what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.
Top athletes also have coaches to help them identify areas that they need to improve. Together they come up with a plan and are passionate enough to persevere to improve themselves and achieve their purpose.
Swimmers set themselves goals to improve their speed by one-tenth of a second and work up to a month to reach the goal. The amount of time that a swimmer is trying to enhance might seem insignificant, but that is all they may need to beat their competition or set a world record.
The verse we saw at the beginning of this sub-topic is translated as “striving for mastery” [BRG] or “goes into strict training” [GW] in those respective versions. These translations add more meaning to the idea of perseverance. Research has shown that about 10000 hours are needed for one to become a master of a skill. When we consider a field of knowledge, it is recommended that a person spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5 years, to gain mastery. When you are in pursuit of mastery, you must undergo regular training to develop the skill.
I will ask again, what is your over-arching goal in life? This is your top goal, and everything you do must take you closer to achieving this goal.
You have different roles to play in life. Son/daughter, father/mother, husband/wife, employee/employer, and any other roles you play in society. You are expected to do your best in each of these roles too. These form the mid-level goals, and doing well in them will move you forward in reaching your overarching goal.
Your lower-level goals represent the actions you take each day to gain mastery in your roles that are your mid-level goals.
Here is Paul advice on setting goals:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9: 24 – 27