I competed in a race at the Talladega Motor Speedway. The redneck deep in my DNA has my mullet blowing in the wind, while my arm is hanging out of the window of my lifted truck, and blasting “Sweet Home Alabama” at the mere mention of ‘Dega. But before you think I roared down the home stretch, I will burst your bubble; the race was a half marathon. Half marathons are no joke but 200,000 don’t show up to watch them like NASCAR. Half marathons are a race and require training, focus, mental toughness, and intentionality. Without preparation, runners will not succeed in the race.

Each year, people begin with resolutions and goals but, after a few weeks or months, they fall to the wayside. 2021 is a marathon, not a sprint. Ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon, and we must prepare if we want to succeed in 2021. This year will require focus, training, mental toughness, and intentionality.

When you have a target, focus comes more naturally. This is why programs like Couch to 5K work so well to motivate people towards the goal. What goals are you setting for 2021? How can you set short, medium, and long term goals to help you focus this year? 

Focus comes when we limit the possibilities and lean into a few areas of growth. What are you paying attention to that you need to ignore? What are you ignoring that you need to pay attention to? How can you break the big goal into smaller achievable goals?

As you set up your target and find the best way to reach it, you might find there are skills you must hone, or even acquire to reach your goals. This is where training comes into play. Knowing how you learn and who you should learn from is crucial in the training process. Books, online courses, coaching, and traditional education can all help you obtain new skills. 

The smorgasbord of leadership resources is overwhelming! It’s hard to know where to start. I’ve solved that for you by creating a well-paced journey through the resources you need to learn from. Leadership Unboxed is the busy pastor’s guide to leadership development for you and your staff. Visit www.leadershipunboxed.com for a free sample.

As you progress toward your goal you might experience The Wall. The Wall is a particular distance or time run that requires determination and mental toughness to push through. There will be a time this year when your goals will feel unattainable, the work will get hard, and you will want to quit. DON’T QUIT!!! Push through The Wall by developing and using your mental toughness. During my training for the half marathon, I got hurt and my doctors told me I would not make the injury any worse if I ran (or limped) the race. So, I ran the race and finished, in spite of my injury. In doing so, I proved to myself how much mental toughness I am able to exercise. Don’t quit! Push through The Wall!

Big goals are great but if you do not break them down to sub-goals or short-term goals you will eventually grow frustrated with chasing the unattainable. Intentionality is the key to reaching big goals. To complete a half marathon, you must first be able to run a mile, 5K, 10K, 10 miles, then 13.1 miles. Take time to celebrate as you complete the sub-goals. The celebration will help you persevere and reach for the next goal in front of you.

Leadership and running have a lot in common; each requires you to take one next right step forward. And, before long, you will be able to look back on your accomplishments and celebrate reaching your goals in 2021. Focus, train, practice mental toughness and intentionality, and you can see God do amazing things in your life and ministry.