On Fear, Wishes, and {Gulp} Goal-Setting

I turn 39 this month. And if you’re good at math like I am, you’ve deduced that I have only one year until the big one. 

My 40th has mocked me from the future since my 30th. I cried on my 30th birthday because the end of my 20s felt like the end of my youth. Clearly, I had no sense of perspective. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s for anything now. That girl was an anxious, people-pleasing, clueless baffoon. She had issues for sure. 

{I write as if my soon-to-be-39-year-old self has reached some sort of Nirvana-like, self-actualized state of perfection. As if.}

But as my 30s is wrapping up, I feel an inspired urgency to set some goals. I have a love / hate relationship with the beast of goal-setting. For someone who has a strong perfectionist streak, unmet goals can feel like failure, even if the goals are completely unrealistic. 

And we all know that a giant scoop of failure on top of the proverbial 40th birthday sundae could have disastrous {and gluttonous} results. I could end up eating 40 birthday sundaes in my despair. 

So I’ve got these goals {only two} and no, I’m not brave enough to share them with you. Not yet anyway. But I’ve been thinking a lot about how I need goals yet also fear them. I read somewhere that a goal without a plan is just a wish. That truth hit me like a freight train and I haven’t forgotten it. 

We all have wishes {I call them dreams} but we rarely put pen to paper to make the plan to reach the goal that fulfills the dream. Dreams aren’t inherently a virtue. Dreams can be narcissistic, indulgent, and skewed for sure. But they can also be inspiring, life-giving, and world-changing. 

My pre-40 goals aren’t world-changing in the least. They are personal and symbolic, achievements that tug at my soul hard enough for me to pull out the pen and paper.

Though fear of failure often keeps me from setting goals in the first place and that’s probably normal, it’s also ridiculous. And cowardly. 

If there’s anything I’d like to kick to the curb as I approach 40, it’s cowardice. Much of my inner life has been characterized by fear. Fear of others, fear of failure, fear of the future, fear that I’ll never measure up to my own standards. 

And so this goal-setting / dream-wishing thing is forcing me to reckon with fear, to write it down, to pray for brave, and to bathe my loosely-held dreams in grace. 


Now what about you? Are you naturally a goal-setter or do you have a love / hate relationship with them like I do? Also, have you ever made a birthday “bucket-list?” 


  1. says

    OK . . . I’m signing on to be your cheerleader, even though I don’t know exactly what I’m cheering you on to (how’s that for some inspiring grammar!).

    Looks as if cowardice is just inches from the curb! Kick it back! Kick it back! Wa-a-a-a-y back!

    All cheering aside, I just want you to know that I believe in you 100% because I’ve seen what you’ve allowed God to do in your life in your 39th year. Beautiful!


  2. says

    I am turning 40 in 6 months…so on January 21st I wrote out a leap list …as I leap into the next decade. I have five items on my list. Over the past 4 months I have had moments of both success and failure. But right now maybe becuse school is out for summer I seem to be succeeding with four of them… and working to overcome fear on the 5th. And I will admit three of the goals are completely self serving and I am fine with that!

  3. says

    Girls, girls, girls…..40s are awesome, filled with wisdom, growing toward maturity in Christ. Look forward to them. Yea, I admit I don’t look forward to 50 but hey, maybe that’s great too.
    Do I have skin that doesn’t look 20? Yes. Do I like it? No. But I think I’d swap youth for wisdom any day and I also my walk with Jesus is so much better than it once was. I follow him now instead of running ahead of him (most of the time). I wait. I watch. When I’ve overwhelmed I real myself back into today. And today alone.
    So celebrate 40s.
    You’re in for a ride!!!
    Oh and your bday gift is in the mail missy.

  4. says


    I remember when I turned 40. It seems like yesterday, but I’ll be 48 next month. 39 seems so young.

    In general, I don’t set specific goals. I realize my life is too fluid for that. My overall desire is to appreciate the time I spend with my family. That’s why we’re simplifying everything we can. Time passed quickly in my 39s and it has only picked up speed in my 40s. When life is exhausting and the kids are bugging me, I try to remind myself that “this too shall pass” very, very quickly!

    Like you, I would never want to relive my 20s. Good grief, I was a mess. I like my 40s much more than my 30s. You will, too.

    Happy 39th.


  5. Anonymous says

    Hmmm…I have a love hate relationship with goals also. Just like you wrote, it has to do with fear of failure. I will be 40 in 2 1/2 years. I would like to have a different looking body by then as well as a lot of other more spiritual, lofty list of things. BUT somehow I just don’t ever get started on that one goal of health and weight loss because I don’t trust myself to succeed and if I really do have a deadline out there I’m afraid I won’t meet it.

  6. says

    Oh, girl. I STINK at goal-setting. I think I’m intimidated at the very idea of stating the goal–afraid, of course, that I might not be able to meet it. Because, of course, not meeting a goal would be ______-producing. (What? Shame? Regret? I don’t know.)

    Mostly, of course, I let fear sit in the driver’s seat too often–even though I know that God has not given me a spirit of fear.

    Just to make you feel nice and young, I will tell you that I will NOT be 39 this year. I will 49!! Talk about facing big birthdays! I’m in a bit of denial at the fact that I’ll be 50 NEXT YEAR. How on earth did THAT happen??

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