I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my goal-setting this year, and as I’ve made some refinements, I felt so excited that I wanted to share the process with you. (You obviously want to do this in a way that is ideal for you, but hopefully this can spark some ideas!)
My criteria as I began was as follows:
- I want to end the year “soft”–not pushing myself to “get it all in” before December 31st–but prioritizing rest, replenishment, and relationships
- I want to prioritize my spiritual, mental, and physical health throughout the whole journey
- I want to focus on being a “becomer” rather than an “achiever” (see Episode 170 for more on that!)
- I don’t want to put a ton of pressure on myself or feel like I need to get out there and move beyond my strength in order for an external voice/imaginary judge/checked-off list to tell me I’m successful
- I want my goals to be specific enough to activate my brain (reticular activating system that shapes how we see the world)
- But I also want them to be flexible enough to welcome changes, as needed, because if life takes a turn, pivoting is welcome! (I believe our job is to get started, and then our Higher Power can guide our moving ship)
- I want to “wake up excited and go to bed content,” and have that be the norm each day
Here’s a bit more of the backstory:
I’ve been seriously “goal-setting” every year for 30+ years, and it’s generally served me well. However, I often found myself feeling constricted by my goals. They moved forward when I had control of my time and energy, but what if I got sick? What if my family, friends, neighbors, or others in my stewardship needed extra care? What if an unexpected challenge came up? What if I decided three months in that I didn’t even like my goals? 🙂
I also discovered that I struggled to enjoy the moments because my success depended on that last checkbox being completed before the end of the year. I needed a way to satisfy my brain’s desire for progress, but it also needed to be full of grace.
>>>As I walk through my personal process below, I’m also giving you a worksheet so you can tailor this to your needs.
If you’re already on our email list, check your email today–we’re sending it to you! Or you can click the link at the bottom of this page to sign up for the worksheet, and we’ll send it right away!
Quick Introduction of the Framework:
Today we’re starting with “Create Your Year,” which is almost like a vision board that answers a few specific questions. Then over the next three weeks, we’ll go through “Create Your Month,” “Create Your Week,” and finally, “Create Your Day.”
Each of those creations are going to focus on these areas of life:
(1) Self-care: Spirit, Mind, and Body. We like that order because there’s a trickle-down effect
(2) Relationships (Family, friends, service in the community)
(3) Tangible outcomes (work and purpose projects)
All right, let’s jump into Self-Care.
My Key Question: How do I want my spirit, mind and body to FEEL throughout (AND by the end of) the year?
In the past, I’ve set very measurable goals for these areas. Things like, “Spend 30 minutes a day connecting with God” or “Read 4 books a month” or “Exercise 5 days a week really intensely.” Then I added those things to my routines list, and I tracked myself throughout the year.
I still have those kinds of things on my flexible routines list, and we’ll talk about how to incorporate specifics into our monthly/weekly/daily plans in the next few weeks, but for the YEAR focus, I’m doing things differently. I’m essentially identifying what success looks like to me in that moment–so I can be “successful” all year, every day.
Spirit: I want to feel calm and aligned with God each day. I want to feel the growth, joy, and love that I know is available for me. I want to look at my life from God’s perspective and be sensitive to those little promptings that come to me each day. This is going to be the key measure of my “success.”
Mind: I want to wake up excited and go to bed content–with my mind feeling unburdened, nurtured, grateful, and alive. I want to feel focused, but never overwhelmed, I want to consistently be learning, but also make time to relax and replenish, and I want to refine my thoughts so I am quickly aware of any distortions, and I can maintain excellent mental health.
Body: I want to feel healthy, balanced, and energetic–so I can joyfully live my purpose in my family and community. I want to feel sufficiently rested, strong and flexible, hydrated, and well-nourished with foods that optimally fuel me. I want to breathe deeply, pay close attention to my body’s needs, and maintain a beautiful connection between my body, mind, and spirit.
Next is Relationships (Family, friends, service in the community)
My Key Question: How would I describe my optimal relationships this year–and what settings, routines, or activities would support that growth?
Since the day-to-day activities can often take over and squeeze out quality time with family and friends, this broader brainstorming can be helpful.
On the worksheet, we have a chart with the specific relationship on the left, then a column for where we can describe our optimal experience, and then a column on the right for brainstorming the activities that will support us.
Here are a couple of mine:
Spouse: We feel closer than ever, with a healthy balance of fun and work. Some things that could help? Quarterly getaways, a simpler morning schedule/routine, and an increased sense of calm.
Eric and I work from home together and often host visitors and guests, so making time for each other–away from the house–is really important. We need to get those getaways on our calendar from the start or they don’t happen…. We’ll work on the morning routine when we get into the week/day planning, but what ends up happening is we don’t always communicate super effectively, and then our days feel kind of haphazard. Some mornings we have meetings and need to be “efficient,” but sometimes it’s healthier for us to just relax and hold each other for a bit. We’re also working on being more calm around one another–spending less time talking about the things that frustrate us and more time doing things that will make a difference.
Parent: Optimally, I will feel a close connection to each of my children that respects their space and choices, but provides a solid sense of love and security. We’ll create happy memories together and help one another to live our purposes.
Settings, routines, and activities to support that:
- We Love to Be a Family Day
- A Family Vacation
- Our Daily/Weekly Facebook Messenger Group
- Pre-planned holiday and birthday celebrations
- Personal texts/check-ins
- Little surprises, thoughtful gifts
I’m also going to go through this process for my extended family, local friends, and the people with whom we serve on a local level.
Finally, we’re going to look at the Tangible Outcomes
My Key Question: What specific outcomes could I work on in my personal and professional life that feel exciting to me, but could also be adapted to my needs and circumstances?
In the past, I’ve really struggled with these. I wanted to set big goals that would demand “the best” in me, and I wanted to dream big and get out there and “make things happen.” The problem is that I often put a whole lot of pressure on myself, and then when I needed to put way more time into parenting–or when some close friends went through trauma and needed care–or when unexpected opportunities arose to make a difference in the lives of others, I found myself involved in an inner battle. Projects or people?
We each have a unique value system, so you might approach this differently than I do, but because my number one measure of success is my alignment with God, I’ve decided that it makes sense to identify tangible outcomes that will improve my personal life, our family life, our community, etc. but if an adjustment needs to be made, that is totally okay. As long as God is good with it, I’m going to be good with it.
And I don’t know why I had such an emotional response as I wrote that last line. I think I’ve burdened my heart for a lot of years–thinking that if God gave me these ideas to create, build, achieve, accomplish, etc., then I was a big failure if I didn’t complete them. And it’s really hard to feel calm and happy if you believe you’re letting God down. Ahhh, so hard to admit I ever felt that way.
But LearnDoBecome is all about LEARNING, right? So here’s what I’m changing now.
I’m still prayerfully identifying what tangible outcomes make the most sense for me to pursue over the next year, but I’m not going to be sad if the actual outcome is different than I expected.
Many goal-setting experts would tell me that I’m just setting myself up to fail. Come on, April, you either MAKE it happen or there’s no point in setting the goal. Go big or go home. But I’ve tried that for a lot of years, and I’ve learned a couple of things that are helping me find so much more joy in life:
(1) It’s way healthier to identify a range of possibilities that can satisfy our goals and desires. (Episode 166 talks about these two levels. There’s a minimum level that would satisfy our desires and then a maximum level that we don’t actually expect to attain, and we’re not particularly attached to it. It just serves as that “upper limit” to guide our work. “Happiness” lies somewhere in the middle, and by looking at project results with a whole range of possibilities, we decrease perfectionism and increase our joy.) So in the worksheet, we’re giving you two columns.
(2) Our Higher Power (however you define that) can help things turn out way better than we can even imagine.
For example, several years ago, early in the year, I had an experience that “punched me in the gut.” I spent two days in bed and literally couldn’t see how I could move forward with ANY of the goals I had set for the year. You may have had an experience like that–or there might be one coming. Every goal I’d set on January 1st was “null and void” at that moment, and I was at a loss when I even tried to think about what I would do in the coming months.
Well, then I had a powerful conversation with Eric where he suggested an alternate course. We prayed together and planned together, and I can’t share all the details here because they’re very personal, but I will say that the new course was exactly what we needed and has been a blessing to us every single day. I couldn’t have planned it. I didn’t think I was strong enough to do it. But God has the ability to take something that feels absolutely terrible and turn it into the most beautiful gift.
So as I work on my tangible outcomes for the next year, I’m going to think about the updates our backyard could use and the skills I’d like to learn, and I’m going to dream about the next phases of LearnDoBecome, STEP, and ARISE. I’m going to pray about what changes could be helpful for me and the ones I love. And I’ll create a “minimum and maximum” range I can work toward.
But then as I move forward each month, week, and day (stay tuned for the next few weeks!), I’m going to pay attention to that Guiding Hand that I believe cares even more than I do–and I’m going to trust that my efforts to do good will never be wasted. The course might change, but I don’t believe the purpose is finishing a pre-defined course. I believe the purpose is becoming who we’re meant to be along the way.
We would LOVE for you to participate in some way in this exercise to create your year. These are the best two options:
(1) Click here to sign up for the bonus templates/worksheets so you can brainstorm your own ideas for the year!
(2) Join us in the ARISE membership! We’ll be diving deep into un-failable resolutions and sharing more about this whole process. You’ll have a supportive community, live video calls, and access to the ARISE archives (including a new private podcast!). Hope to see you there!