(More) Thoughtful Living: Setting Goals and Intentions
I’m starting off a series I call ”(more) Thoughtful Living”. Over the next few months I'll be sharing all the changes we’ve made to our life with this goal in mind: to start living a little more thoughtfully, naturally, and intentionally.
It feels right to start off this series with a little discussion about goals and intentions. It’s so hard to make changes to our life if we just simply think about them. To produce action, we need to write down what we want to change, and attach a simple and attainable goal to it.
It doesn’t help us when we say “I want to read more.” It helps us to say (and write down) “I will read 12 books this year.” This is when action begins. We have to know what we want to change before we can start changing it.
Let me tell you a little about my goal setting journey and how it has changed my life.
Why I love setting goals + intentions
I don’t want to live life in constant reaction, hoping that I’ll be happy and fulfilled while life pushes me along. I want to create a life that has purpose and meaning and direction, and the only way I can make sure that happens is to start making it happen for myself. Figuring out what you want is the first step to making it happen.
Setting goals and intentions has helped me do just that: figure out what I want, and figure out what I can do to make it happen. Whether it’s a business goal, a hobby goal, a habit goal, or a personal growth goal, it helps me figure out the direction I want to go and start moving there with intention.
How do I differentiate between a goal and an intention? To me, a goal is a specific thing you want to do with a number and a timeframe attached to it. On the flip side, an intention is a little looser like an attitude or step of growth you’d like to cultivate (like seeking to build stronger friendships would be an intention, and not necessarily a goal). Both are so valuable!
I want to acknowledge too that not every season of life is a season fit for setting goals or intentions. Sometimes, the only goal we need is to survive. Survive heartbreak, loss, grief, tragedy, pain, depression, anxiety. Get through whatever way you can. If that’s a season you’re in, skip the rest of the post. You don’t need to feel “guilty” about not “doing more”. You don’t need to do more. You need to focus on healing. That is important and hard and precious work.
My Goal Setting Journey
2017: The Start of Goal-Setting
My “one word” for the year of 2017 was intention. And 2017 was the year I wanted to reallyelevate my calligraphy business. In 2016 it had still basically been a hobby, and in 2017 I had dreams of making it a viable full-time business for me.
To make that happen, I knew from all that I’d been reading and listening to in business books and podcasts, I needed to start setting some goals and creating steps to work toward them.
So, at the end of 2016 I sat down and wrote down everything I wanted to do: how much money I wanted to make, how many wedding clients I wanted to have, how many Instagram followers I wanted, etc.
And since I was there setting business goals, I knew I also wanted to create intentional goals personally. I was tired of just floating along my life and seeing what happened. I wanted to take control and feel proud of the life I was living and cultivating.
At the same time, I started tracking daily habits I wanted to build: like drinking 8 cups of water, exercising, reading, doing devotions, etc.
And then in June of 2017, I started making monthly goals each month to get me closer to reaching my yearly goals and to encourage me to develop my daily habits. (Like read 3 books, exercise this often, make this much money, etc.)
2018: The Refining of Goal-Setting
I don’t know about you but that was an unhealthy amount of goal-setting for me. Yearly goals, daily habit tracking, and monthly goals based on my yearly goals and daily habits. Yikes.
My personality type (Enneagram 3) can become easily ruled by our professional and personal goals. They can be all we think about, all we strive for, and we feel like failures when we don’t accomplish them. (And let me tell you, I sucked at a lot of my personal goals in 2017.)
So, in 2018 I’ve taken a new and different approach. Set simple goals at the beginning of the year and try and live my best life from there. Set a trajectory and try and live in that direction through the year. (I treat my professional goals differently, as I’ve broken down my yearly goals into what I’d like to accomplish every quarter, but that’s as far as I go.)
However, as someone who also can spend every spare minute she has #doingallthethings, I recently began using an app called Done to start tracking daily habits again, and I love it. This time, the daily habits I’m tracking don’t have goals attached to them (although seeing the amount of days I’ve done it in a row is satisfying). They’re mostly things I want to do daily to take care of myself. Read for at least 30 minutes, meditate, do my Duolingo Spanish lessons, drink water, quit working at 5pm, wash my face daily (yes I need a reminder), and write. So, it feels more like a way to make sure I’m taking care of myself every day than another way to set more goals.
So, basically, I’ve chilled out a bit.
How to get started with goals
It’s simple. Not a complicated process. Write down what you want to do and include a number and a timeframe.
Formula: Thing you want to do + how many times + due date = Goal.
Without a number and a timeframe, it won’t get you very far.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
- Don’t write down, “I will exercise more.”
- Write, “I will practice yoga 3 times a week over the next month.”
For additional motivation, really consider the “why” behind your goal.
Keep it Simple and Take it Slow
No need to set every goal you’ve ever had and start working on them all right away. Take it easy!
Try one new thing for a month or two.
Maybe you’ve been wanting to read more, start exercising again, and practice journalling. Starting to do all three, every day, can feel like (and be) a big task, so don’t be scared to take it slow and develop one habit or work on one goal at a time. Then, once you feel like you have one under control, add another! It’s not a race.
Start setting aside reflection + goal setting times
As I run my own business, this naturally occurs for me every three months (quarterly) and every year. And usually my birthday sets off these vibes as well. I like developing my overall picture for the year in January: like what I’d like to see happen, how I’d like to grow personally, and changes I’d like to make. Then, I go in quarterly and make the big picture a little smaller.
It’s up to you to decide what kind of schedule works best for you! Maybe you just want take it month by month, or maybe you want a big picture view like I do every year!
If you’ve set any “intentions” that aren’t measurable, set aside regular time to check-in and see if it still aligns with your desires and if you’ve taken any steps of growth in the area!
Lastly, remember goals can change.
I like to re-evaluate my goals regularly because they can change. That’s why I sit down and check-in quarterly - to see if my goals still align with where I want to go. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t.
For example, I made a bunch of goals at the beginning of April, and by the time the end of June rolled around I noticed that I no longer cared about any of them. They no longer fit with my desires and vision. And that’s okay!
Goals change. Life changes. Paths change. That’s fine. It’s best to let them go instead of holding on too tightly to something that no longer fits.
Some of my (personal) goals this year
- Read 52 books.
- Finish all the Duolingo Spanish lessons.
- Learn to embrace myself and discover my truth.
- Start regularly practicing yoga again.
- Develop a daily meditation practice.
- Blog weekly.
- Write daily: morning and evening.