Set Medium-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Getting from Now to Then

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land (Leviticus 25:2-5).

The Israelites had to plan for a sabbatical national year every seven years. They had to save enough money or food to get them through that seventh year, when they were not allowed to plant a crop. They could eat from trees, but not from the ground. This law was designed to force them to make medium-term plans. The time limit was six years.

This sabbatical year, in turn, was preparation for the 50th year — seven sabbatical years — when all debts except debts to repay crime victims were canceled (Leviticus 25:8-13).

This was a land law. The land laws of the Mosaic law no longer apply, because Israel is no longer a holy land owned by the families that conquered Canaan under Joshua. Still, a six-year time frame is about right. You could also select a five-year time frame. If you select a more distant end date, you will find that you have to revise it so significantly that it is not a reliable guide to get you to your long-run goals.

Because five years work well in breaking up a decade into two equal parts, I recommend that you adopt a five-year plan. The five-year limit lets you establish specific goals that are attainable.

These goals are supposed to lead to the goals for age 70. They let you see if you are making steady progress toward your long- term goals. Your success every five years tells you that you are on track. Your failures remind you that you must adjust either your goals or your timetable. Either reduce your long-term expectations (not advisable) or else increase your output per year.

Few people set lifetime goals. Fewer still produce a long-term plan to attain them. Fewer still follow these plans, reviewing them on schedule.

The most common medium-term goals are financial and occupational goals. These are easy to quantify. These goals should relate to a person’s transition from job to calling.

Most people have retirement as the long-term goal: age 65. This is unwise. That leaves you only five years, age 65 to 70, to attain your goal related to your calling.

Americans see retirement as a lifetime goal for leisure: life’s vacation. This is a huge mistake. Leisure is not a legitimate goal lifetime goal. Why not? Because of this:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:9-11).

Got this? Six days of work, every week. Not five. Not four. Clearly, not none. The Israelites had three annual festivals — leisure — that required a long walk to the tabernacle/temple. But they worked until they were no longer capable of working. Search your Bible concordance for Barzillai. He is the biblical model. So is Caleb, who was a warrior at age 85.

Leisure is for restoration and recuperation. It helps us work better. It is not a legitimate lifetime goal. There is too much kingdom work that needs doing. Retirement should mean the end of your job. It should mean a full-time calling.

Fortunately, few people will be able to afford to retire with 100% passive income. So, a better course of action is to plan for a transition. Can you make your calling pay enough to support you comfortably? If not, you must keep working at your job. This has been my approach. I still earn most of my income from one Website: It is not passive income. I must write four articles a day and answer questions on the forums. I have other sites, such as this one, that relate to my calling.

It is almost impossible to save your way to a comfortable retirement based on passive income. I knew that dream was unattainable by age 17. I always planned to keep working. Since 2008, millions of Americans have figured this out. They will not be able to retire. They must stay in the work force, serving others.

Your Transition into Your Calling

Some men think of their prime as age 50. That is because they are thinking of their occupations. This is the period of maximum productivity for most careers.

I don’t know what age women think of as their prime. It depends on their concept of service. They probably do not think of age 50 as their prime.

You should have two prime periods in life. The first relates to occupation (men) or children (women). Then you pass through it. Women go through the empty-nest syndrome. This usually comes before men go through mid-life crisis. Both crises relate to people’s realization that their lives have peaked with respect to the first half of their adult years: occupation. They have not planned for the second half: calling.

If you plan early for the second half, the transition is far less traumatic. I never experienced a mid-life crisis because I had no time for one. I was pursuing both my calling and my occupation at age 50, and both were accelerating.

I suggest that you make your personal five-year plan on the assumption that somewhere between age 50 and 55, you will make the transition to your calling. I don’t mean with 100% of your time. That is too expensive, unless you can get a salary from it.

Find a way to work on your calling from the day you get out of debt (except for your mortgage). I have worked a minimum of two hours a day, 50 weeks a year, since 1977. I have usually invested twice this figure. It can be done. Increase this time commitment to age 50.

Then move more heavily toward the calling in terms of your allocation of time after age 50. Ideally, your expenses will start to decline after age 55. You will not have to work so many hours at your occupation.

My strongly held view is that you should not spend more than 40 hours a week on the salaried portion of your job. (If you are in senior management, and you are building equity, that is different — risky, but different.) The other hours should go to starting a side business to retire into, working on your calling to retire into, and time with your family. Ideally, these are the same project: a family business related to your calling.

It is unwise to devote overtime to anything salaried. You lose your most precious resource: time. Your employer will gain the lion’s share of your time’s value. If your job requires more than 40 hours a week, look for a new job. Otherwise, you will find at age 50 that you are not ready for the transition.

Your side business should be something related to your calling. If it isn’t, then it should generate lots of passive income, or close to passive income, within a decade. It should support you by age 60. Earlier is better. The sooner you can quit your salaried job, the better.

Your calling is more important than your job. You need the job to feed your family and fund your calling. Your legacy will be your calling, not your job, unless your job is your calling. If it is, rejoice. You are unique.

Milestones on Your Path to Your Prime-Time Calling

What will it take so that you can devote your last 20 years mostly to your calling? Return to the three questions.

What do I want to achieve?
When do I want to achieve it?
What am I willing to pay?

These should guide you in identifying the required milestones. The main thing you need is capital. Capital includes the following:

1. Money
2. Education
3. Certification
4. Personal contacts (networking)
5. Reputation

When you have these, you can make the transition.

Homework Assignment

Sit down with paper and pencil and divide up your life into equal sections from now to age 50. At age 50, you must be spending at least 35% of your non-family time on your calling. This percentage should grow, year by year. A good target is 1% per year.

By age 65, you should be devoting 50% of your time to your calling. If you can accelerate this transition, all the better.

What milestones can you identify that are specific, meaning measurable? Work on these:

1. Money
2. Education
3. Certification
4. Personal contacts (networking)
5. Reputation

Get these goals on paper. Get them into a filing system. You should be able to review these medium-term goals every five years.

For guidelines, go here:

You must be able to break them down into one-year milestones. You will review them annually.


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