Beyond GOALS: What Will Change My Heart in the New Year?

New Year GoalsHappy New Year! This time of year, goal-setting gurus and exercise hounds browbeat us into putting forth measurable, specific goals or resolutions.

But the far more challenging question for me is this:


If I was a yelling shrew throughout 2013, what will change my heart? Can a simple goal, that I review once a week, or speak aloud to myself in the mirror each morning, modify my soul? If last year found me nagging my husband about this, that, and the other, how will I be different this year? If I perpetually gossip about my friends under the guise of seeking information or “praying” for them, what will guide my heart to do differently this year? If I write three-to-five measurable goals on a marker board in my line of sight and look at it every day, can that change the core of who I am?

The truth is this: Behavior modification doesn’t work, long term. 

Our hearts must be what change.

And who can change my heart? Not me. I don’t even really know my own heart. Not my husband. He can’t force change on me. What about a careful use of guilt? My kids’ faces may make me feel guilty after I’ve wounded them with my shouted words, but that ultimately can’t be my motivation.

God changing my heart, molding me from the inside out, is the only thing that brings true & lasting change.

So then… I need to sidle up next to Him. Praying for Him to change my heart to desire His Word may be a more fruitful use of my time than waking up bleary-eyed, and dog-gone it, forcing my eyes through 6 chapters of Scripture a day, by hook or by crook! Yes, making a series of wise decisions matters. Yes, discipline matters. I’m not discounting that. But ultimately, while we make those choices, we must entrust ourselves to the God who changes HEARTS.

The best goal we can set for ourselves- and we know that this goal lines up with God’s will for us- is heart-level sanctification. We can entrust ourselves to God, leaning in so we can hear and respond to His voice, and ask Him to change us. He’ll change us so that we become women who listen to God’s Spirit, who love God’s Word, who love our husbands and children like Jesus, who stop yelling because He is making us holy. We do these things not because any of it earns us brownie points or even because it’s the “right thing” but because He has changed us to BE His kind of woman.

That is my goal.

No exercise resolutions for me, though I hope to lose my baby weight sensibly this year. No writing/word count goals, though I hope to get a lot of writing completed and publish some books this year. No measurable “do this thing, this many times a week” resolutions… And I’m NOT saying that those kinds of goals are wrong– in fact, I’ve done them, and may again one day, but for right now, I am most aware of the need for my heart to change. So no “specific, measurable goals” for me this year, per se.

But I am praying for the God of the universe– the GOD Who made the stars, Who called out to Abram in Mesopotamia, Who sent His Son out of His GREAT love– to change my heart so I resemble Christ more in 2014 than I did in 2013.

My prayer: “Father change my heart. Make me a more forgiving person this year. Teach me to treasure your goodness, and run to Your Word out of that overflowing desire of my heart. Help me to yield to the voice of the Spirit in my heart, so that I will obey out of love for You. Mold me to be more like Jesus– kind and gentle– so that I won’t be a yelling mama. I confess that mere behavioral modification never brings lasting change. Please, I beg You: change me from the inside out.”


Image courtesy of nuttakit/

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast ( I write and wrangle kids.

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10 Responses

  1. Sis says:

    I love that you have your own blog now, very exciting! Best of luck with your new books.

  2. Jess. Thank you for these thoughts. It is true that our inner spirit is usually reflected in our outer ways. You put to words what I have been thinking about lately. I find myself yelling at the kids because I am frustrated with them for not doing something. But then I stop and think about it and realize that I may have never really stopped to teach them how to do it and that I am expecting them to do something they haven’t learned. I too hope to correct my nagging spirit this year, and look to change my heart so that my attitude and actions will reflect more of Jesus.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Ruth, YES, I can totally identify with what you wrote: ” I stop and think about it and realize that I may have never really stopped to teach them how to do it and that I am expecting them to do something they haven’t learned.” Such a common mothering issue, I think. Expecting too much, or thinking that because I taught it to one, my job is done, and the other children should just “catch on.” No- patient repetition is such a huge part of mothering well.

  3. Elspeth says:

    That’s kind of what I was saying in my post that you tweeted. Your stuff always sounds so much more elegant and virtuous than mine.

    But I’m right there with you.

    Happy New Year and nice digs!

  4. Noele says:

    Thank you! I always appreciate your writing and your encouragement to be women who seek the Lord.

  5. Janelle says:

    Thank you so much for this, Jess, as well as your other writing. This was just what I needed to read and think on and be praying for these days!

  6. Stephanie Brown says:


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