I think we’re inherently wired to think about goals as a new year starts, as if with the turning of a calendar year, we’re automatically required to be better, just like that. The ring of “New Years Resolutions” has a glossy shine as we jump at the chance to imagine a better us when a new year hits, but it often wears to a lackluster grey when January ends and our motivation fizzles out. Then we’re disappointed in ourselves. Surely there’s a better way to go about making and reaching goals?
I think so. Despite all the inherent and cyclical frustrations surrounding the practice, I believe in goal setting. One of my favorite quotes is:
I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the technique of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When you learn to master the principle of setting a goal, you will then be able to make a great difference in the results you attain in this life.M Russel Ballard
For me, making goals is an important act of faith in becoming better, in trusting in the divine help offered me to become the best version of myself. It’s about showing that I want to change, and am putting forth the effort to do things differently. After all, as Elder Jeffrey R Holland, “Nothing that I know of that’s very worthwhile just happens.” Similarly, John Stott, an English Anglican priest, once said, “No one ever drifted into holiness.” We have to act.
Because I desire that we all to have a healthy and successful new year (and because it’s a critical life skill), I wanted to reach out to Rebecca Peterson, a designer and expert in goal setting to share some of her insight into making (and keeping) meaningful goals in 2020 — in a way that works for YOU. She shares her expert tips, can’t-fail resources, and plenty of examples to help you be your best self. This is a must-read. Thanks, Rebecca!
What’s the hardest part about setting and reaching your personal goals?
This was the question I asked on Facebook a few weeks ago. Here are some of the answers I received.
“I waste a lot of time just coming up with goals and then I never follow through on them.” -Caroline
“I’m trying to do too many things at once.” -Lisa
“I need a way to focus in on my goals without getting overwhelmed.” -Jocelyn
“I have a hard time taking abstract ideas I want to accomplish and making them measurable. I want to enjoy life more and keep in touch with friends better. But what does that actually mean when I’m trying to write a daily goal?” -Abby
“I honestly just kind of forget about my goals after a while. I have one busy week, and I get derailed and I don’t think about them.” -Cob
“I really like flexibility and it takes so much mental effort for me to have to operate in a seemingly restrictive environment. If I goal set I have to keep them broad and flexible.” -Anna
“I often fizz out and lose my motivation.” -Kristen
Do these answers sound familiar? I noticed that my friends’ responses highlighted some of the common obstacles I often have with setting and reaching goals.
Goal-setting is a very personal process and I think finding the approach that works for you can help you overcome some of these challenges and help you feel more inspired. With that in mind, I want to share 5 different goal-setting strategies for success. I hope that among these 5 strategies to goal-setting is (at least) one method that resonates with you.
1. The Big Vision
Sit down and create one big vision for your life, and then identify individual goals based on that vision. You’ll start with a vision statement, create some big yearly goals, break it down to monthly and weekly goals, and eventually come out with something you can do TODAY to make progress on your goal.
Here’s an example.
- Vision: Buy a beautiful beach home in California by the year 2025. Make a $50,000 down payment.
- Yearly Goal: Save 30% of my paycheck this year.
- Monthly Goal: Review my spending each month with my husband. Identify one way we can save money in the upcoming month and put leftover money in our savings account.
- Weekly Goal: Bring lunch from home 3x a week instead of eating out while I’m at work.
- Daily Goal: Set up direct deposit so 15% of my paycheck goes directly to my home savings account.
The “Big Vision” strategy works well when you have a very concrete goal that can be broken down into small, measurable steps. But what about goals involving your thoughts or feelings or character? How can you break down “Enjoy life more” into monthly, weekly, and daily goals?
2. The 12-Week Year
One of my favorite goal-setting books is The 12-Week Year by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington. The 12-Week Year is based on the idea that we really can’t look more than about 90 days into the future. (That’s why it’s so hard to set New Year’s resolutions. Who can really set goals for an entire year all at once?) Instead, you set 2-3 short-term goals and identify certain “tactics” that will help you move forward toward those goals. A big part of The 12-Week Year is the Weekly Scoring, which is a designated time and place to review your goals and tactics, and score your progress.
Here’s an example.
- Goal: Become a more grateful person.
- Tactics: (1) Write in a gratitude journal every morning for 5 minutes (2) Say “thank you” to my husband every night before going to sleep (3) Write one thank you note each week.
- Weekly Review: Give myself a score (out of 7) for each of my tactics.
- Repeat this for each goal.
If you’re the type of person who feels overwhelmed when you read about the structured system of The 12-Week Year, I would encourage you to try a more abstract form of setting goals.
3. My One Thing/Word of the Year
Choosing ONE THING or a specific word to focus on can help you feel inspired but not trapped in your goals. Start by reviewing the last year or season of your life. What went well? What could be improved? Then, ask yourself what you want to do/learn/become in the next season of your life. You’ll start to see themes and patterns emerge as you think about your future. Maybe a word or phrase will come to mind. Write it down and meditate on it for a few days. See if it feels right.
This year, I wrote down some of the things I knew were going to happen, some of the things I’d been feeling, and some of the habits I wanted to develop. While I was studying this, I came across a quote that said, “Your life is a garden. Your actions are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.” For some reason, that quote really resonated with me, and I decided I wanted to focus on the word “grow” for my year.
Once you have a word, you’ve got to make it your JAM. Make it your wallpaper on your phone, put a sticky note on your mirror, write it at the top of every page of notes, get a tattoo for crying out loud! Let this word become your mantra. You can set smaller goals from this word or leave it as it is. Allow yourself to just explore the word without getting caught up in the nitty-gritty.
Here’s an example.
- Word of the Year: Grow
- Goals: Launch my “Start Today” blog, grow my family (maybe), move to Texas, find a more flexible job, develop my motherhood skills
Choosing a word of the year can be done in tandem with any of the other goal-setting methods. The idea is just to establish a clear vision/feeling for your life. But, if this seems to loosey-goosey for you, let’s look at two more specific systems for setting goals.
4. Level 10 Life
Level 10 Life is a popular idea with bullet journal-ers and scrapbookers, but it was originally developed by Hal Elrod in his book, The Miracle Morning. I have been using Level 10 Life for the past few years to find clarity in my goals and achieve more holistic success.
The idea is that there are 10 general categories of your life:
- Personal Growth & Development
- Career & Business
- Health & Fitness
- Fun & Recreation
- Financial Health
- Love & Marriage
- Family & Friends
- Service & Giving
- Physical Environment
For each category, you envision where you are between 1 and 10 right now. “Level 10” isn’t necessarily perfection, but it’s reaching your ultimate potential. It’s the biggest vision of what that area of your life could be. The idea is to think BIG.
“In order to achieve Level 10 success in our lives, we must first develop ourselves to be a Level 10 person who is capable of attracting, creating, and sustaining the levels of success that we want, in every area of our life.” — Hal Elrod
After identifying your current score in each category and imagining what “Level 10” would look like, you create goals for each category. They can be big or small, the idea is to help you fill the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
5. 6 x 6 x 6
There is a (somewhat) general rule of time management that says you should give yourself no more than 6 things to do each day AND that you should only work on 1 thing at a time, in order to really maximize your focus and efficiency.
This goal-setting method follows that same idea. You start with 6 big things you want to accomplish over 6 months. You pick the most interesting or urgent goal and work on it exclusively for 1 month, and when that month is up, you identify and document 6 things you learned. It’s crucial that you document your insights before you move onto to the next goal. The idea behind this strategy is to work in bursts. You go fast and hard on one thing, and then you pause, reflect, and move onto something else. With a shortened timeline, you may be more motivated to get things done, or just to do what you can, without agonizing over the planning of it.
Here’s an example.
6 Goals: (1) January: Redo my master bedroom (2) February: Learn how to use Photoshop (3) March: Establish a regular meditation practice (4) April: Run a 10k (5) May: Earn $1500 from Etsy (6) June: Take a food styling course
Are you feeling overwhelmed after reading through all those strategies? Don’t be. There are a few things that all of these methods have in common.
They all involve the same 3 principles:
PLAN. DO. REVIEW.
Regardless of what strategy (if any) you choose to practice, success comes when you make a conscious effort to plan, do, and review. The reason each of these strategies is helpful is because they provide a structure for each of these key principles. Planning helps you know what you want and why you want it, doing helps you actually accomplish your goal, and reviewing helps you understand why you were (or were not) successful and what you can do better next time. If you’re the type of person who likes flexibility, don’t get caught up in these intense systems. Just plan, do, review.
When it comes to goal-setting, I really believe that there is no “One Size Fits All” solution. Find what works for you and run with it! You can use one (or all) of the goal-setting strategies I mentioned above, or you can develop your own method. Setting goals will help you find direction, purpose, and beauty in your life. Pinky promise.
How do you like to set goals? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below. And if you feel inspired, encouraged, or motivated by something I said, please share it on social media.
Thanks for reading! You can find more insights on my goal-setting process at rebeccapetersonstudio.com.