Goal Setting part 1: what worked + what didn't

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[ photo via Lara Casey ]

It's no secret that I LOVE fresh starts. I love Mondays. I love the first day of the month, the first day of the summer, the first day of the year. I love new journals and new planners and new pencils. School supply shopping is my favorite. I used to hoard blank notebooks and planners and post-its. Fresh starts are where it's at for me.

So, it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that I absolutely love the anticipation and thrill and rush and freedom of a brand-new year. I'm not one of those girls who hates winter, which feels crazy to type as I sit here in my wool socks, two sweaters, gripping a mug of hot tea as it is currently 6 degrees outside. Despite the cold, I can't hate winter. I'm beginning to understand winter as a vital and precious part of life--just as precious and sweet as the sweetest July day. Winter is a time of stillness, of quiet in the world and in our souls. Winter is a time of rest, hibernation, refreshment, where we can peel back all the layers we've accumulated throughout the year, evaluate them, then cull the excess and get ourselves ready for the seasons that are coming. Lara Casey has a line in her new book that I just love, "Winter is a time we are drawn inside. It's a time of forced stillness, allowing us to reflect on our lives and how we can live them more fully in the seasons ahead." YES! Amen, amen.

Winter for me, especially January, is a time to reflect on the year that just passed and dream for the year ahead. I love to dream. It's one of my favorite activities. And I love to pretend that those dreams will come true. Except I'm learning that there doesn't have to be any pretending involved...I get to simply believe they will come true because I believe in a God bigger than any of those dreams!

This year I decided to use a new system for goal-setting. I'm using Lara Casey's Powersheets for intentional, core-focused goal-setting and so far it's been life-changing. I feel like the last year has been a huge revival in my life, starting with trying to embrace less in my closet, culling and streamlining our stuff in our home, The Influence Conference in September and joining community with so many amazing women, a more authentic voice for myself on Instagram that has yield some true friendships, Making Things Happen in October that rocked me to my core and now this system of goal-setting. I feel more fired up and feel like I know myself better than ever. More than that, I feel like I am starting to really get a sense for how to live with intention and in line with God's will and dreams for me and my life. I can't even put into words all that's happening in my life but it's AMAZING friends. I'm so grateful for wise women like Hayley and Jess who started the Influence Network, Lara Casey and the whole Making Things Happen team and a whole slew of other incredible encouragers who are helping me embrace margin, cull the clutter, silence the striving and live with intention each and every day.

Okay, this blog post is getting rambly. Lara is doing a series on her blog outlining the process she's working through for goal-setting this year so I thought I'd follow suit! Just a little note, these goals are for me personally. Matt and I are doing a separate process for our goals as a family, and I'm doing a third process for my goals as a business. So, yeah, goals all around!

Step 1: what went well

What daily, weekly or monthly habits worked really well for me? What were some highlights from the year? What immediately comes to mind when thinking about the good parts of 2014? Here are parts of my list:

  • Giving thanks
  • Starting mornings with prayer
  • Using a prayer journal
  • Healthy eating
  • Barre class regularly
  • Getting outside every day
  • Saying no
  • The Influence Conference
  • Taking online classes that fill me up
  • Investing in myself and my business
  • Paying off my one student loan--our only debt now is our mortgage, hooray!
  • On that note, buying a home!
  • Scheduling my office hours in Google Calendar
  • Forgiving
  • Being vulnerable
  • Showing myself grace
  • Office dance parties
  • Getting rid of a ton of stuff
  • Embracing a leaner closet
  • Book club!
  • Phoneless date nights
  • Praying with Matt
  • Listening to worship music
  • And listening to instrumental/wordless music while working
  • Encouraging others

Step 2 looked at the opposite: what didn't work?

This was a hard part to work through because, let's face it, who wants to sit with all the ugly and the mess? But it's super important. How can we expect to grow if we don't really dial down on the things that were sticking points for us? So here's my "what didn't work" list:

  • Bringing up past hurts
  • FACEBOOK (all around. I use it but get mad at myself for using it, I don't use it and wonder what I'm missing, it's a mess)
  • Looking at my phone in bed, either at night or in the morning
  • Using my phone as an alarm clock (see above)
  • Comparing myself to others
  • Taking too much on at once
  • Corporate design
  • Business finances (mostly my responsibility, or lack thereof, of them)
  • Eating in a way that doesn't honor my body and my allergies
  • Netflix when I feel overwhelmed or sad (instead of something productive like prayer or exercise)
  • Overestimating weekend time, and being mad when we didn't get as much done as I wanted
  • Saying yes to things even when our budget didn't allow for it
  • Sitting in my desk chair 12 hours a day
  • Email late at night

Next, I looked at the big lessons from what worked and what didn't work.

Lessons from what worked:

  • Prayer changes everything.
  • Forgiveness heals all.
  • I work so I can live, NOT vice versa.
  • Self-care is super important so I can give my best to all.
  • LESS, LESS, LESS. Cull the excess. More margin.
  • The hard work of living with intention in all things is WORTH IT.

Lessons from what didn't work:

  • I need to get my business finances in order for me and my family. My business is something I'm proud of and I want to leave a legacy.
  • The things that set my heart on fire are the only things worth pursuing. I could work really hard to be a wedding photographer, and I might have the skill and talent, but it's not the JOY that God knit into my heart. Pursue the things that bring me joy and honor how God made me!
  • Social media is an idol in my life.
  • Sharing the real, the raw and the messy with people can be super therapeutic and important. This doesn't mean put your life story on Instagram, but it means you can drop all the pretenses of a perfectly filtered life 24/7. Showing people your mess gives them permission to feel okay about their mess. We all could use a little more grace.

From there, I dug deep into what really fires me up, the big picture of where I want to be when I'm 80, and then started breaking it down into actionable steps on how to craft the life I want then, now. But all of that will be in future posts :)

And as Lara says, there's nothing magical about January 1st. You don't need a fancy planner or notebook or set of Powersheets or fancy pen to write meaningful goals. You don't have to have it all figured out to start crafting a life that matters deeply to you, a life lived on purpose. Start here! Start now! Start anywhere! I'm cheering for you.

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